29 April 2010

The Concise Dictionary of Dress

Last night I went to The Concise Dictionary of Dress, an Art Angel commission at Blythe House, the V&A's archive. The building also houses collections belonging to the British Museum and the Science Museum, so just getting past security was an experience in itself. We (that's my friend Helen in the picture) had to leave our bags after this gate and there were no photos permitted so I can't show you any more. But I wouldn't want to give too much away anyway, as being taken around the building makes you feel like you have privileged access (tours are limited to groups of seven) to a secret treasure trove, and there are various surprises along the way.

What I can tell you is that it's a collaboration between a fashion curator, Judith Clark, and a psychotherapist, Adam Phillips, and that the work takes you on a meandering journey around the corridors, store rooms, courtyard and roof of the building, pausing at a number of installations which muse on the concept of fashion and turn the notion of a "fashion exhibition" on its head. 

What was more exciting to me, though, was the experience of getting up close and personal with the stuff around the installations, centuries old objects - fabrics, shoes, ornamental boxes, tiles, swords... - that hadn't been curated for public display but were peeping out enticingly from storage shelves, crates, cabinets and bubble wrap. We visited after hours when the silence was tangible and the atmosphere ghostly. I'm tempted to revisit during the day when the curators are working around the pieces, as I imagine the experience is totally different.

This was the first of what will be four V&A events in five days (if my sore throat doesn't get the better of me) - watch this space for more culture reports!

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