Tuesday, 29 November 2011


Today I spent a very pleasant day at the V&A with first year UCS graphic design students looking around the Postmodernism exhibition. A little overwhelming at first, it is an intense visual overload that thrusts itself into your eyeballs. But despite this, there is much to like.

Divided into three main rooms, each split into different sections, you get a glimpse of where you are heading as you walk around. A hole in a wall, to lead the eye to what is around the corner; the sound of a video filtering into a neighbouring section; brightly coloured semi-transparent plastic strip curtains hiding corridors; and neon arrows directing you between rooms—regardless of the work on display, it is a well laid out show that visually, and aurally pulls you through it.

The students clearly responded well to an area dedicated purely to graphic design, which is rare outside of specialist galleries and the Design Museum. This was far braver than the V&A Modernism exhibition circa 2006 where graphic design was sidelined. All the expected works were there. Saville, Bubbles, Griemann, Brody, Scher etc. It was a little like walking through the postmodern chapter in a graphic design history book, but good to see in the flesh, none-the-less. I thought the graphic design section seemed the most sober and serious of the whole exhibition, as if the printed page that work appears on contained and controlled the work, unlike the frankly bizarre range of teapots and pop celebrity clothing on display.

I have a bit of a love/hate relationship with Postmodernism, outside of graphic design, but I thoroughly enjoyed the exhibition. It'll be interesting to hear what the students made of it when I'm next with them on Friday, especially as I don't usually teach Postmodernism until next semester, so they went only knowing what contexts I could deliver to them in a hastily put together 45 minute lecture, and what the exhibition text told them.

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