The 52 Focus: Exhibitions

For this 52 Focus, we wanted to talk about some of the exhibitions that we’ve seen over the last year or so. Recent blockbuster sell-out exhibitions not only showcase art and other curated items but also include audiovisual elements with video and film, sound installations, virtual reality etc. Whilst most of our team are lucky enough to live in London to make the most of these exhibitions, the wealth of AV material means that the exhibitions can live on after the physical exhibition has closed (via microsites and apps) and also ensures that those who can’t access the venue (for whatever reason) can still ‘see’ or ‘experience’ them in some form.

The trend towards exhibitions becoming more visual, with the creation of elaborate sets and props for visitors to engage with and use in their own photos, is clearly a mechanism for people to share content on social media to create lasting memories as well as help market the exhibitions.

So here’s our round-up of the most inspiring and thought-provoking exhibitions we’ve seen over the last 18 months:

Stanley Kubrick: The Exhibition at the Design Museum currently at the Design Museum, London: There’s a rolodex on display at the Design Museum. It’s not particularly special at first glance – a familiar wooden frame, cards with uniform lines of coloured ink, structured with days and numbers. But upon closer inspection you realise exactly what it is: Stanley Kubrick, after years of research and reading every book about the man he could find, had plotted out each day of Napoleon’s life (for an unrealised project, Kubrick had it planned for his next film before his death in 1999). Down to the most minute detail: where he was, what he ate, who he met. It’s this commitment to detail that most staggers the mind, and it permeates across his entire body of work. Considering that he shot his later films in London to stand in for other places, including Manhattan and Saigon, it’s a rather humbling experience. Highlights include the lenses he borrowed from NASA to shoot in candlelight for Barry Lyndon (a super-fast Zeiss f0.7 55mm designed to shoot earth from space), the miniatures of set designs from Dr. Strangelove, Columbia Road in Hackney presented as a vast panorama of photographs, and his rather glorious storyboards from Paths of Glory and A Clockwork Orange. It’s a staggeringly inspiring experience for anybody involved in creating images.

Their Mortal Remains at the V&A, London: an incredible interactive Pink Floyd retrospective. The V&A are masters at the location-based audio guided exhibition which takes the viewer through a back catalogue of music and stories. Highlights from this exhibition included an interactive music room where sample tracks could be mixed and a concert space at the end where everyone could sit and listen to famous ‘live’ performances. The whole experience was set up in a way that encouraged every visitor to take photos and share on social media, enhancing the user experience.

From Life at the Royal Academy, London: A collection of past and present Academy works looking at the artistic process of life drawing with the final rooms exploring the use of virtual reality (HTC Vive and Tilt Brush, both technologies which 52 Films own and use regularly) as a tool for observing + representing bodies, pushing back on physical limitations.

Monochrome: Painting in Black and White at the National Gallery, London: A look at paintings in black, white and all shades of grey in between. This sounds as if it could have been dull (no colour?!) but it was fascinating to see just how many artists through the ages (from the late 14th century onwards) have consciously painted in black and white. The final room – Olafur Eliasson’s Room for One Colour – was particularly striking, an empty white room fitted with monofrequency lamps emitting yellow light which meant the viewer could see in yellow + black only, the feeling of being able to see colour again upon leaving the room was overwhelming.

David Bowie is is at the Brooklyn Museum, New York: Another curation from the V&A but one that we actually experienced at the Brooklyn Museum (having missed the original exhibition five years ago, we were delighted to find we could catch the final leg of the exhibition’s epic journey around the world when we happened to be in New York last year on a client shoot). We hotfooted it down to the Brooklyn Museum after we wrapped on a fine April day and spent an incredible couple of hours in this fully immersive groundbreaking experience which has paved the way for how exhibitions of this genre are curated. According to the NME, the exhibition is due to live on through an AR app (and a VR app at a later date).

Pierre Huyghe: UUmwelt at the Serpentine, Galleries London: A provocative (and slightly stressful) experience which lay somewhere between installation and performance. Large 1×1 LED panels with colourised MRI scans of a human brain displayed a range of different emotions, alongside 50,000 bluebottle flies, which were imprisoned for the duration of the exhibition’s run (indeed they were born in the gallery); some alive, some dead; topped off with the very strong smell of manufactured chemicals. This was art created through AI, one man’s brain activity captured on MRI as he imagined certain elements and then fed through AI into a deep neural network. The combination of the incessant buzzing with chaotic, fast moving, hard-to-decipher images whilst walking amongst very small corpses was certainly thought-provoking.

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