18th October 2020: Kimonos and responses

Finally got to go to a museum! It has been far too long. Managed to get in to see the Kimono exhibition at the V&A. I had been anticipating this show for months and was afraid I wouldn’t get to see it before it closes. I have a deep love of kimono, the simplicity of the form allows the surface decoration to take centre stage – they are moving canvas that display the beauty of the textiles.

I have a large collection of books, drawings and photographs of kimono but there is something about being in front of one in real life. This is a thought I keep returning to – what is about a things physical presence? I don’t even necessarily think it’s about some vague idea of ‘authenticity’ – I experienced the same kind of feeling at the Tudor reconstruction sites I visited last year. I think what it might be, and this is the conclusion I was edging towards after those research trips, is the PHYSICALITY of a material object. You cannot get the same sense of a thing from a photo, it’s too detached. It’s about being in front of a physical, material object, being able to step back, get in close, walk around it, let your eyes wander….

Interestingly, I stumbled on an artists installation in the temporary exhibition space at the V&A. ‘Filthy Lucre: Whistler’s Peacock Room Reimagined’ is a response by artist Darren Waterson to Whistler’s Peacock Room. A full scale reconstruction of the space, but one in which the room has become decayed; smashed pots, broken shelves almost falling down, surfaces bloating and mottled like they are rotting, the golden peacocks painted on the walls fighting each other. It is intended to reflect the toxic relationship between Whistler and Wayland (who commissioned the room), and the decadence of the Aesthetic movement. What I found most powerful was the sheer physicality of the space. Again, the question about physical presence keeps reoccurring and I was left ponding a question – how can a digital object have a physical presence?

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