Thursday, 15 October 2009

Telling tales

This exhibition at the V&A showcases design objects that are evocative and symbolic of fairy tales rather than being utilitarian. The exhibition is divided into three areas: the forest glade, the enchanted castle and heaven and hell. The exhibition begins in a forest glade, divided into areas by hangings of printed tree branches. Like the Garden of Eden, it is a place of innocence and enchantment with birdsong and soft lighting but the threat of menace lurks reflecting the woods of many fairy tales. Nestling among the trees are Tord Boontje’s chairs and wardrobe and Jurgen Bey’s Linen cupboard house, a romanticised fairy tale home that links sanctuary and defilement.

The second scene is the interior of the enchanted castle. One half of the room is papered with a large design of eighteenth century wallpaper, the other is mirrored, glittery, brash and luxurious. The innocence of the forest glad has been replaced with worldliness and decadence. The high status goods on show here are subverted through the use of inappropriate scale or materials. It includes Joris Laarman’s heatwave lace radiator and Jeroen Verhoeven’s Cinderella table.

The final area returns us to judgement, the afterlife and memento mori. The walls are plain and most of the objects are viewed through open holes into a room beyond, suggesting that we haven’t yet reached this state but giving us glimpses into it. The exhibits include Wieki Somers’ high tea pot made from a pig’s skull with its water-rat fur tea cosy and the lovers rug by Fredrikson Stallard made up of two conjoined pools of ‘blood’.

This exhibition was cleverly staged and presented, showing how modern designers are producing design-art pieces for the commercial market that have a narrative based on fantasy and the spirit of story telling.

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