Post-Modernism at the V&A


Image from Nick Sherwood

I went to this exhibition without looking up what it was about beforehand. I knew the format to expect: it would be in the gallery near the smaller shop, and there would be a lot of vinyl lettering on the wall, probably lots of black shiny panels with white plinths and glass casing. That’s the way the V&A rolls.

Unfortunately photography was not allowed. Unfortunately I don’t understand why. So I did it anyway, sneakily. Copyright issues or something – but if I credit them I don’t see why I shouldn’t. Still, out of respect I’m not going to put what I took online. If anyone can tell me a good reason why I shouldn’t put them online, please let me know.


I took a not-so-good sneaky version of this. Copyright of the V&A from Art Face.

We don’t talk about what era/movement we’re in right now, so this exhibition is attempting to call 1970-1990 the post-modernism movement. It doesn’t have a very clear description, in keeping with the ambiguity of the movement.

It was talked of as subverting modernism – taking its clean lines and shaking it up. Modernist furniture would be combined with baroque. Beautiful vases would be remodelled in a distorted way. Post-modernism was rejecting modernism as violently as possible.


Image from Fashion For Lunch

Briocolage was a big part of the movement. This means combining juxtaposing objects together to make an odd hybrid. The Memphis movement did this. I think it mostly came out with really ugly results. Truly some of the most ugly objects I have seen at the V&A have been in this show. Post-modernism was rebelling against beauty.


Image from Quintin Lake

Music videos were a big part of the show – well not that big, it was a massive show, it took about 3hours to go around. You could hear the music videos for about half the show. There was some really weird stuff – a woman sang ‘take me into your arms, take me into your electronic arms’ in a treated voice so there were two pitches at once. Freaky. And there was a man in a plastic suit that sang about settling down. I can’t imagine him doing that in a plastic suit. That’s post-modernism.

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