CTS Glastonbury Exhibit @ V&A Museum

For this week we were asked to visit the Victoria and Albert Museum in London and to see the Glastonbury Exhibit there. We had to talk about how it was designed (how we interpreted the design) to convey the purpose of the exhibit.

I have uploaded all the photos I took and will talk about them in the order they are presented. However first I will talk about the entrance to the exhibit, which on reflection I realize I did not photograph.

I found it quite confusing to find the entrance to the exhibit as from the entrance to the V&A there didn’t seem to be any immediate signposts (then again it was quite busy and my eyesight is comparatively poor) and although I eventually found the way to it, this was frustrating. However it is worth noting that eventually the exhibit is signposted by florally painted oil drums, empty (I presume), with arrows pointing in the direction you need to go.

I thought this was quite interesting as from what I know of Glastonbury it is sometimes associated  with what you could call liberal or “hippy” moods so the bright and colorful displays made me think that sort of way of thinking (I’m not sure how to articulate it properly) is part of the spirit of the festival. The actual entrance to the exhibit was quite small and nondescript, a few doors to open and then black walls with pictures, information or projection-enabled exhibits.

Photo #1 & 2: I wasn’t sure what the copper models were meant to represent as I couldn’t see a little stand with information on it and part of this display was cordoned off. However I think it is probably symbolic of Glastonbury Festival’s site, being based on a farm, with animal figures and trees and the triangular shapes possibly representing tents. As for the metal crab I have absolutely no idea.

Photo #3: You can see the (blurry) photo of a map of the Glastonbury site which shows various facts and figures about the festival each year. Some of these include the length of it (5 days), how many people visit, how much it costs, the size of the site and various other facts and figures.

Photo #4: This wall gave a bit more information about the purpose of the exhibit, to inform about “the sights, sounds and stories of the Glastonbury Festival” and take you on a journey through it.

Photo #6: The environmentally friendly messages give you an insight into the ethos of the organizers behind the festival, but I also noticed that the exhibit isn’t just plastered onto the actual walls of the V&A but instead on walls of black (cloth?) material and metal pipes, much like scaffolding and displays at the actual festival. I thought this was a nice touch and a surprisingly subtle way of giving you an idea of what it is like to be at the festival as its not something you will necessarily notice straight away, if at all.

Photo #7: A makeshift tent had projections of people at the festival on it. I noticed later on that when it displayed a scene of a rainy vista at the festival the sound system in the V&A mimicked this with raindrops. It wasn’t too loud but I thought it was a nice touch.

Photo #8: The walls were covered with newspapers scrappings, posters and more that served as a collage of how the festival and coverage of it has evolved over the years. I find exhibits like this quite hard to read so I assume that the purpose is less about the detail and more about showing off that Glastonbury Festival is a cultural event that has endured for decades.

Photo #9 & 12: You can see a wall where people had been asked to take post-it paper notes and write their DOB, what year they visited and who performed, to show what Glastonbury means as an event but also has meant on a personal level to individuals over the years. It reminded me of when I visited Japan years ago in 2008 and saw a temple where people took little wooden blocks and inscribed things on it, my Japanese friend told me that it was the equivalent of offering prayers or saying “Take care of my loved one”. It was a little overwhelming and although you can’t tell from the photo each stack of notes was quite deep so even from the limited people who have been able to go the exhibit it obviously has memories for people.

Photo #10: This photo shows another board of information explaining some of the thinking behind why “Pyramid” is such a symbol associated with Glastonbury (the main stage is called the Pyramid Stage, unless i’m completely mistaken).

Photo #11: This gives you a view inside the aforementioned tent, and people lay inside on beanbag/sleeping bag seats to recreate the tent and festival feeling. It was quite interesting to see and I imagine it holds more relevance to people who have actually been to the festival.

Overall I thought the Exhibit was actually a little confusing and maybe disappointing. As someone who only really knows about Glastonbury Festival anecdotally (from friends, family and accounts on the internet) I was surprised at how small the exhibit was. I also felt like there wasn’t a natural flow to the exhibit as the way I would have designed it, or the way I would have preferred, is to be slightly more “Glastonbury over the years”. For instance last year for CTS we had to visit the Science Museum and visit the Information Age exhibit. It was much larger than this but also confusing as there wasn’t a “Follow this path to see the evolution of technology over the years” and instead was a bit more patchwork.

Even though this exhibit was very small it felt confusing as well, however visually I got a strong sense of what Glastonbury was about and recognized iconography from it (the scaffolding/tent/pyramids) and I thought the use of projection and sound was very effective in making me subtly immersed in it. I would be interested to see what people who are more intimately familiar with Glastonbury would think of the exhibition.

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