The importance of a comment card

Sunday, November 19th, 2017

The London, Sugar & Slavery gallery opened in 2007, to mark the 200th anniversary of the end of the British trade in enslaved African people. London, Sugar & Slavery: 10 Years uses some of the thousands of visitor comment cards we’ve received over the past decade to reflect on the gallery and its contents. You can read a wide range of viewpoints, written by visitors from 6 to 93 years old, including school children, grandparents with their grandchildren, and visitors from Europe, the Caribbean, North America and, of course, London. London, Sugar & Slavery is the only permanent display in London to solely focus on the history of the slave trade and slavery. Since 2007 the gallery has been visited by around 2 million people, including 250,000 school pupils.

After knocking off my list most of the central London major museums, including the main Museum of London, I headed down the DLR to Museum of London Docklands last week. While I LOVE (obviously) the Suffragette related section of the Museum of London, apart from that I’ve never been massively struck (apart from the amazing Fire of London exhibition). So, I had pretty low expectations – of which were very quickly surpassed.

Before I went, I read the page quoted above about the visitor cards put on display, which perhaps unusually was what first intrigued me to visit. After visiting the Slavery Museum in Liverpool a couple of years ago, I knew that representations of the heritage of Slavery can be difficult, inevitably. I was intrigued to see how this translated into visitor opinion.

Fascinatingly, not all of the comments were wholly positive. Most of them were, it’s a good exhibition, but not all. For example: “Thank you, but you cannot just close it off in the 1800s just cos it was ‘abolished’ – aftermath? What about the numerous people from Asia? But thank you.” But, what struck most was the importance the display places on visitor comments. There could be the impression that comment cards are a fairly futile activity, compared to the grandness of curation, but the display and labels depicting its importance certainly counter that.

The centre stage given to the visitor comments on display spotlights their fundamental importance to a discussion of a difficult history. Counter to the impression that the museum’s narrative is the only interpretation, the inclusion of negative visitor comments (of course only the constructive criticism) shows that understanding of history develops over time – there isn’t one ‘accurate’ way to share the heritage of slavery.

London, Sugar & Slavery on the whole is open about the complexity of displaying such a contentious topic. At the start of the exhibition, an infographic opens the narrative by confronting terminology. For example, the interpretation intentionally uses the term ‘enslaved Africans’ instead of ‘slaves’. While on the surface, the difference between these terms might appear slight, but of course linguistically the difference is enormous – enslaved Africans represents the people as human, highlighting the victims humanity and African identity that would’ve been taken away when slaves. Consideration of complexities such as this has clearly opened public discussion in a way that may not have been otherwise, which is apparent by the sheer variety of visitor comments.

Curated by Kirsty Warren, a post-doctoral fellow in the Centre for Research in Race and Rights at the University of Nottingham, the integral necessity of collaboration is highlighted. London, Sugar & Slavery is considerate, compelling, and while contentious makes positive steps to be inclusive and not shy away from the complexities of a difficult history.


The Museum of Ordinary Animals

Sunday, October 8th, 2017

This exhibition tells the story of the boring beasts that have changed the world: the mundane creatures in our everyday lives including dogs, pigeons, cats, cows, chickens and mice. These animals are rarely represented in natural history museum displays. They are not special enough. People would rather see dinosaurs, dodos and giant whales. The Museum of Ordinary Animals gives these commonplace creatures a chance to tell their stories. It begins by asking where ordinary animals came from, followed by the exploration of the themes of Ordinary Animals in culture, in science and in the environment.

I visited the The Museum of Ordinary Animals on the same day as heading to the Can Graphic Design Save Your Life exhibition at Wellcome Collection. A stones throw away from each other, both newly opened, and both small enough to not be entirely museumed out, it made sense to see the two. Both concerning entirely different topics, it was fascinating to see both in the space of a couple of hours.

The Museum of Ordinary Animals, curated by Grant Museum Manager Jack Ashby, opens up the collection to a wholly different narrative that natural history collections are presented. Since the renaissance curiosity cabinet era, natural history collections have existed to exhibit the most curious of animals and the most exciting of species. Collections such as the one held by the Grant Museum in University College London are perceived as a space for awe, wonder and amazement. The Museum of Ordinary Animals appears to be the opposite of that, yet it isn’t.

Focussing on ‘ordinary’ animals doesn’t sound like it would be the most fascinating of topics, of course the animals that are on display are the types of animals you see on a regular basis in farms and even in your own homes. But, key to the exhibitions success is the thematic discussion of the importance of these animals, the threads that tie them to our society makes them anything but ordinary.

One particular theme that interested me was the exhibition’s section on recognising controversy, and how we have impacted the natural world around us – often to it’s demise. This section covered eugenics, animal cruelty, and selective breeding. While our worlds would be an entirely different place without domesticated animals, and while it is uncomfortable to recognise the damage we have done to the animal world, The Museum of Ordinary Animals doesn’t shy away from that. The display stems domestication back to its roots, when wolves were first introduced to nomadic societies in a symbiotic relationship, eventually looking at the sheer damage that selective breeding has caused to species such as Pugs. Linking to the devastating results Darwinian thinking has caused to both the animal world, and the human world when adopted by the Nazi party in the 1930’s, the exhibition highlights the chaotic connection that humans and animals hold.

However, aside from that rather difficult section, the rest of the exhibition maintains a sense of humour throughout, acknowledging the rather bizarre relationship that humans and animals have, as well as the curious world of seemingly ordinary animals.

Overall, The Museum of Ordinary Animals certainly encapsulates the “boring beasts that changed the world” in a human way. In putting the spotlight on the animals that are so often ignored by both natural history museum curators, and the visitors themselves, the exhibition recognises the enormous impact that these species have to our planet. As well as being humorous, enlightening and absorbing, The Museum of Ordinary Animal offers a new way to see the animal kingdom and questions our place at the top of it.

21st September to 22nd December 2017. Free admission.
Grant Museum of Zoology. University College London, Gower Street, London, WC1E 6BT.

Can graphic design change your life

Saturday, September 30th, 2017

Explore the relationship between graphic design and health in our current exhibition. Comprising over 200 objects including hard-hitting posters, illuminated pharmacy signs and digital teaching aids, ‘Can Graphic Design Save Your Life?’ will consider the role of graphic design in constructing and communicating healthcare messages around the world, and will show how graphic design has been used to persuade, to inform and to empower. This exhibition will highlight the widespread and often subliminal nature of graphic design in shaping our environment, our health and our sense of self. Drawn from public and private collections around the world, it will feature work from influential figures in graphic design from the 20th century, as well as from studios and individual designers working today. ‘Can Graphic Design Save Your Life?’ is curated by graphic designer Lucienne Roberts and design educator Rebecca Wright, founders of publishing house GraphicDesign&, with Shamita Sharmacharja at Wellcome Collection.

I took photographs in an exhibition that has a no photography rule, please don’t have me museum overlords! I made sure to not get any artworks in shot, so no copyright will be infringed. (That makes it totally fine, right?!) But, Can Graphic Design Change Your Life, the newest temporary exhibition from the Wellcome Collection was far too beautiful to not get a quick instagram. The colour palette was to die for, gorgeous pastels to envy a Wes Anderson film demand to be photographed.

Can Graphic Design Change Your Life explores the interweaving connection between graphic design and medicine and health, questioning if our lives would be the same without graphic design.

It would be quite easy to miss the beauty of health products. After all, we tend to only use them when we need to, i.e when we’re ill or injured – perhaps not the time when we are most absorbed in the material culture around us. However, what Can Graphic Design Change Your Life highlights is the beauty in the everyday.

I presumed, entirely wrongly, that the exhibition would explore the ways that graphic design can change your life for the better – when walking in you are confronted with the opposite, showing the glamorous and powerful cigarette adverts from the pre-illegalised era. Juxtaposed, fascinatingly, next to the equally powerful design-fuelled advertisements that highlight the health implications and encourage quitting. As a precursor to the centre of the exhibition, the cigarette section indicates the complexity of where the rest is going to take you – quite different to the simplistic ‘graphic design helps pharmaceutical companies save lives’ that I was naively expecting.

Now, as a long-term Wellcome Collection fan girl (as may be apparent from all the other temporary exhibition reviews featured on this blog) it is no surprise that I loved this exhibition, I’m yet to visit one I didn’t. However, I don’t know much about graphic design, and I certainly don’t know much/anything about the world of medicine and pharmaceuticals. So, from an outsider, what struck me most was the importance graphic design holds in the field of health to transcend language barriers.

Can Graphic Design Change Your Life opens up a dialogue about the importance of visuals in healthcare and how design is intrinsic to the success of medicine, and nestled in the Wellcome Collection’s often either social or scientific exploration of medicine, it was a fascinating addition.


Bethlem museum of the mind

Thursday, September 21st, 2017

Situated within the hospital grounds, in a stunning Art Deco building shared with the Bethlem Gallery, Bethlem Museum of the Mind was formally opened by artist Grayson Perry in March 2015. The museum cares for an internationally renowned collection of archives, art and historic objects, which together offer an unparalleled resource to support the history of mental healthcare and treatment.

Open on the first and last Saturday of the month, at the start of this month I headed over to Bethlem Museum of the Mind. Shortlisted for the 2016 Museum of the Year award, the Bethlem Museum of the Mind tackles a difficult history in a reflective, ethically minded, and accessible exhibitions.

The first thing that is wholly needed in a museum that reflects a difficult history is  friendly staff and volunteers. Although the building, situated in the midst of a seemingly intimidating hospital complex, the staff when arriving build a welcoming and accessible atmosphere for it’s visitors. Considering that the museum is likely to have visitors with an personally emotional connection to the heritage on display, as well as the contemporary interpretations, the need for friendly and welcoming staff is not to be underestimated.

I willing tried to not read too much about the Bethlem Museum of the Mind before I visited, wanting to let the building speak for itself. So, perhaps naively, I was surprised by the extent of Grayson Perry’s involvement. The housing of the museum in the Bethlem Royal Hospital is fitting, as the hospital – founded in 1247 – was the first UK institution focussed on caring for the mentally ill.

The space is split into three major spaces, two temporary and one permanent exhibition. The first of which, The Art of Recovery, showcases works created to reflect their experience of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Statues Melancholy and Raving Madness by Caius Gabriel Cibber then lead you up the stairs to the permanent exhibition.

While I shouldn’t be surprised by a museum that opened in 2015, the permanent gallery is modern and bright. Bethlem Museum of the Mind has perfected the fine tuned balance of having digital interactives without being flashy. Although the museum is clearly new in it’s design, I don’t feel that it will age anytime soon.

Most importantly, the permanent exhibition has no shortage of spaces for reflection. As the museum represents the huge topic of mental health in a physically small site, this decision is clearly intentional. One specific break space that is bright and airy with floor to ceiling windows (not photographed but visible in the video) is situated next to an instillation of solitary confinement padded walls. The juxtaposition of these two polar opposites is striking.

Bethlem Museum of the Mind is engaging, while leaving space for much needed contemplation. Awareness and understanding of mental health is slowly growing, perhaps not fast enough but the museum is leading the way – as well as being an fascinating visit.

p.s, charmingly and delightedly, the man in the first photograph asked if he could pose in my photograph of the building. How could I possibly say no?




What i’ve learnt writing a dissertation

Monday, May 1st, 2017

It’s taken me a while to write this post, it got to the point where anything slightly dissertation related went straight out of my head, out of my laptop, never to be thought about again. I went to Leicester at the start of April to hand in what felt like years worth of work, and I suppose to an extent it was a culmination of everything I’d learnt so far doing the Masters in Museum Studies course with the University of Leicester. I researched how museums use social media to engage with activist and social justice themes, concluding that museums don’t use social media in this field to the extent that they could, but when they do they do it well. Basically, the whole experience has taught me that:

  1. I’m never doing a PHD.
  2. I need a bit of a break from thinking about museum social media, or museum activism, but that is oh so definitely where my heart is.
  3. Coffee fuels all.

I wrote a summary of the themes of my dissertation for the London Museums Group blog, which is available to read here, but here’s a few quotes from the blog.

“Museums and social media have much in common. Both have potential to emit knowledge, both arguably exist for the audience they speak to, and both have unprecedented influence upon their communities. Social media has the capacity to construct dialogue and social values, as do museums. Inspired by Richard Sandell, my Masters dissertation was always going to be in the social justice remit. But, equally fascinated by the fine-tuned practice of museums engaging with social media and the unprecedented changes social media use has brought to the sector, I thought, why not combine the two? Why not see what happens when both the museum sector, and the unique character of social media platforms unite to democratize knowledge, engage communities in equality and tolerance, deconstruct grand narratives, and develop a practice of social justice and activism awareness.” “As social media shifts museums use of the Internet from information to personal, including grass-root audience experiences and opinions diversifies debate and opens the collection to social justice agendas. It is the work of the future museum to effectively balance the intricacies of both social media and activism. Ultimately, the reciprocity, accountability, collaboration, and shared authority that social media can incite with its audiences makes our museums more engaging to the communities they are there to serve.”

I visited the brilliant New Walk museum in Leicester just after I’d been to hand in, I planned for this post to include a little review and some photographs while I was there. But, I was far too distracted after such a big day, so here’s just a photo of me holding my pride and joy like a proud mum.


Tuesday, April 18th, 2017

Readers of this blog will know i know nothing about art, and luckily I’ve never set up a precedent of pretending to. So, this ‘review’ of the Guggenheim will, I guess, be a from a visitors perspective, not altered by any underlying biases of museum study.

Basically, I loved it.

Designed by American architect Frank Gehry, The Guggenheim is obviously stunning. The building is on three levels, centred around the Atrium, connected with curved walkways. Surrounded by the river, and the red and orange old buildings of Bilbao, the stone, glass and titanium building is an unmissable contrast. You know you’re in Bilbao if you can see the Guggenheim.

My favourite work, and probably most visitors favourite work, was Richard Serra’s installation The Matter of Time. It was fun, which is what art galleries often have the stereotype of not being. I sort of understood the meaning, it definitely was a unforgettable, dizzying feeling. More than that, it’s unusual finding a maze in an art gallery, people were enjoying it, whether they understood the context or not.

“The Matter of Time allows the viewer to perceive the evolution of the artist’s sculptural forms, from the relative simplicity of a double ellipse to the complexity of a spiral. The last two pieces of this sculpture are created from sections of toruses and spheres that produce different effects on the movement and perception of the viewer. These are unexpectedly transformed as the visitor walks through and around them, creating an unforgettable, dizzying feeling of space in motion. The entire room is part of the sculptural field.”

The Guggenheim is a tourists dream, myself included. The building, Louise Bourgeois’ giant spider sculpture, Maman, is an impressive photo opportunity. Almost 9 meters tall, Maman is a reflection of Bourgeois’ relationship with her mother, as a symbol of both strength and fragility in maternity. But, of course, it’s prime selfie background. Likewise Jeff Koons’ Puppy, the West Highland terrier carpeted in bedding plants sits outside guarding the entrance. The Tulips, also by Jeff Koons, the bouquet of balloon flowers, that are 2 meters tall and 5 meters across, lay on a balcony overlooking the river.

Bilbao is a beautiful city, and one I’d recommend to anyone for a city break. The Guggenheim is an accessible, fun, and exciting gallery. And has taught me that I’m drawn to large scale art..


Can Museums challenge Youtube?

Monday, March 27th, 2017

“Curated by members of the local LGBT+ community, this unique exhibition marks the 50th anniversary of the 1967 Sexual Offences Act, exploring and celebrating those who campaigned and continue to campaign for equality for LGBT+ people.  The exhibition details the development of an LGBT+ movement, showing the internal and external struggles, the different party political approaches to equality, and the social and historical context of the last sixty years of activism.  This is the complex and compelling story of a long and often bumpy journey.”

Perhaps you’re not that into Youtube, fair enough, who really needs to know what lipstick Zoella likes recently. But, what is important, important enough to write a blog post about, is Youtube’s blocking of LGBTQ+ videos, while on their ‘restricted mode.’ (Read more about it on Buzzfeed here, where it’s much more eloquently described.)

Youtube’s blocking of LGBTQ+ content was met with mixed response. Some on the side of the fence of “it protects children from sexually explicit content” and others on the side of “HOW CAN THIS BE, blocking LGBTQ+ content is homophobic and dangerous.” Me? I think I’m still on the fence, with my leg dangling on the side of HOW CAN THIS BE. Although sitting on the fence is painful, uncomfortable, and only a temporary place to sit, literally or metaphorically.

So, this is a museum blog after all, back to museums. I visited the Never Going Underground exhibition at the Peoples History Museum this month, not long before finding out about the Youtube news. When the Youtube news came out, it got me thinking about the similarities between social media and museums, in terms of what they are to society. Now, perhaps I’m too millennial, but both, to me, are integral parts of society. My entire masters dissertation was about social media, so I definitely am too millennial. Social media, to those who use it, is a way to communicate, both individual stories and community narratives. Sound familiar? So are museums.

Peoples History Museum is always forward thinking, it’s the main reason it’s one of my favourite museums in the country. Never Going Underground is (unfortunately) brave. It is complex, enlightening, sad, joyful, humorous, dark, and curated expertly in perhaps a way no other museum could. I’m fascinated by how it was curated by volunteers from the local LGBT+ community, but definitely not surprised, who else could it be curated by? Never Going Underground presents the LGBTQ+ community, in my subjectively cis-het perspective, perfectly. People’s History Museum does what it does best, a timeline, a cracking timeline. Seeing the development from homosexuality being a crime, to it’s (ish) acceptance today, you can see how far we’ve come as a society, and how far we have left to go. It also portrays perfectly the complex vastness of the LGBTQ+ community, and doesn’t shy away from the racism and transphobia that exists within organisations such as Pride. But ultimately, Never Going Underground shows the resilience, strength, and vibrancy of the LGBTQ+ communities past, present and future. Also, how incredible are the family friendly bags, and when will they be available at all museums? Soon, I hope.

If museums, and social media broadly, but looking at Youtube in particular, blocks or hides these stories, what happens next? While I understand* the right to conservative beliefs, and the desire of those beliefs to ‘protect’ children from sexuality they are not mature enough to process until adulthood, blocking those stories is more than just ‘protecting children.’ If the excuse is there that it is protecting children, it inherently implies that it is a bad thing to need that protection from. If our museums don’t have LGBTQ+ displays, there is the implication that those stories are hidden for a reason, that they are bad stories, that should be hidden.

I wholeheartedly recommend following Queering Museums, particularly their brilliant podcast that has come out recently, on the matter. One day London will have a museum dedicated to LGBTQ+ stories, and I will be there on the opening weekend, with pride.


*by understand, I mean I can empathise with having views different to my own.

Show off

Tuesday, March 21st, 2017

“It’s an open mic night featuring curators, conservators, librarians, collectors, trustees, security people, retail folk, educators, funders, explainers, visitors, academics, archivists and everyone else associated with museums, libraries, archives and collections.” –

I’ve finished my dissertation today! All that’s left is finding a London printing and binding place that doesn’t cost more than the actual tuition fee. But I can see the finish line. 2 years of studying in the making, the end is nigh. So, as half treat half inspiration, I put my laptop away in my bag for a couple of hours, and headed to Museums ShowOff. Museums ShowOff is an open mic for museum professionals to talk about their museum, their role and their love for all things Museum.

This is my third Museums ShowOff night. I’d been once in Manchester and saw Dave Haslam (amazing) and a bunch of museum professionals based in Manchester. I also went this January in London, and saw people like Sascha Coward, Claire Madge, and the ever brilliant The Queer Cabinet Brigade perfect what Museums ShowOff is all about. They brought a humour, lightness and accessibility to their slots. In January, life and dissertation got in the way of writing a review, but this time I’m making the time.
First up, Eleanor Margolies spent her 9 minutes explaining how it takes so much longer than 9 minutes to describe what we see when we look at an object, and how they makes interpretation for blind visitors so tricky. Followed by Prachi Joshi talked about his MA project with the British Museum, a roleplaying event to shift our Prachi Joshi talked about her MA project with the British Museum, a roleplaying event to shift our perspectives of what a museum is. Next up was Catherine Freeman talking about… teddy bears. I’ll admit BM (before museums) I used to work at Build A Bear Workshop as my weekend job *shudders*, so I was ready to hate this slot, but there’s much more to bears than I first thought, and I ended up actually enjoying it.

Harriet Braine and Korantema Anyimadu spent their slots doing what Museums ShowOff is all about. Sharing their love of museums in the most creative, fun, and humorous way. Harriet Braine, from the National Maritime Museum,wrote, and sung a song specially for Museums Showoff and Korantema performed an incredible spoken word piece about shameful museum thoughts.

Rosie Lampard, who talked about the bizarre questions visitors ask. Hearing from a front of ouse perspective was brilliantly unexpected, and she completely nailed it. Slightly darker, well much darker was Sheldon Goodman, discussing cemeteries. From, Sheldon’s slot made cemeteries seem.. cool? Ever so slightly more of what you’d expect from a Museum event, Miranda Stearn spoke about the social mobility in Cambridge, or the lack thereof, and what University of Cambridge Museums are doing to change this.

I’d recommend Museums ShowOff to anyone. Whether you’re a director of a national museum, or a visitor, there will be something at Museums ShowOff for you. It’s basically a nerdy stand up show. The humour, creativity and excitement of Museums ShowOff makes you forget your learning stuff, and somehow manages to make hearing about museums an actual break from writing 15,000 words about museums…


A Temple in London

Monday, March 6th, 2017

Ever since reading The Museum, a Temple or the Forum by Duncan F. Cameron, most museum visits for me have a background noise of thinking which they are, a forum or a temple.

I visited the British Museum this week, for a lecture on the upcoming The American Dream exhibition. Opening on the 9th of March for three months, the exhibition will explore American culture, centred around American printmaking from the 1960s to the present. Curator Stephen Coppel discussed the pieces in their relation to gender and race issues that have been addressed in the prints, and have existed as social issues in America. As the lecture was delivered in the grand lecture theatre, above the Great Court space, the Temple or Forum debate sat in the back of my mind.

British Museum is perhaps the pinnacle of the ‘Temple’ stereotype. Often didactic interpretation, grand architecture, it literally looks like a Temple. It’s so easy to get lost in the British Museum, both psychically and intellectually. The globally and chronologically broad collection tells so many stories it’s easy to lose sight of individual objects and individual narratives.

I’ll admit my bias from the get-go, I prefer a smaller museum. Big crowds, tourists, and screaming children do little for me, no matter how great the collection is. So while I’m thinking about museums elitism, perhaps I should consider my own personal elitism as a visitor. The age old argument that interactives are ruining the experience of museums for some, like the one linked here, is never going away, and it’s one I struggle to balance while visiting a major museum. Intellectually, of course I know the value of interactives, and family engagement. Personally however? That’s perhaps a little different.

But, back to the Temple or the Forum debate, which ones museums are, and which they should be. There is something quintessential and nostalgic about the Temple template museum. Grandiose marble staircases and peering through glass to see a cabinet of labels and objects evokes that sense of what a stereotypical museum visit should be. Perhaps this should be enough. Surely the collection at the Science Museum is enough to engage, is Wonderlab necessary to maintain our depleting attention spans? Maybe it is.

Without delving too much into that controversial extreme caricature of what I don’t completely believe, to  next consider the Forum template museum. The forum ideal is ultimately where my heart is. Yes, as an adult visitor, with a considerable interest in museums before walking in the door, and without children, perhaps the piece and quiet of the interactive museum would fit me best. But, unfortunately, the world doesn’t yet revolve around me. Ultimately, museums work best when they work for all. Without believing that it’s possible for museums to be perfect for the multitude of subjective opinions that walk in the door, there should of course at least be an attempt to address every visitors needs, and attempt the tricky balance to facilitate accordingly.

This slightly controversial, mainly satirical, blog post is written with the intention of weaving through my own complicated opinions on the matter. What do I want museums to be (as one day I might rule the museum world, of course), and what works best for both the current audience, and to engage audiences currently excluded. Ultimately, museums can never be wholly a Temple, or wholly a Forum. Even if they could, neither would quite work.

Fear and Love 

Monday, February 27th, 2017

“The exhibition asserts that design is deeply connected not just to commerce and culture but to urgent underlying issues – issues that inspire fear and love. This is a bold, multidisciplinary and global exhibition that aims to capture the mood of the present and establish the Design Museum as the home of design debate”

I couldn’t read the description of the Design Museum’s newest temporary exhibition quote without thinking of THE Donnie Darko scene, “there are other things that need to be taken into account. Like the whole spectrum of human emotion. You can’t just lump everything into these two categories and then just deny everything else.” Maybe it’s an intentional tie, maybe it’s not, but the quote felt oh so relevant. The exhibition explores love, it explores fear, and it explored the whole spectrum of human emotion.

Fear And Love makes the future, and the present, feel dystopian. Fitting perfectly into the desperation most half of the UK, and half of the US, felt in 2016, the exhibition plays into the essence of dystopian despair 2016 brought to many. Fear and Love perfectly tapped into the parallel fears Charlie Brooker’s Black Mirror brought to all that watched it, of how far truly can social media take us.

Andres Jaque’s Intimate Strangers focused on dating apps, and the impact they have upon our ‘real’ relationships, blurring the line between real and networked. The Pan-European Living Room, designed with interior style from all 28 EU member states questions the British decision to leave the EU, and the motivations to do so. Minus by Madeline Gannon received the most attention from visitors, myself included. Minus is a 1200kg industrial robot, and through developed software mimics human behaviour. As the robot appeared to follow visitors around the room, and take a closer look at visitors it ‘chose’ to, the robot was humanised, and taps into the social fear in a postmodern climate of robots and what it means to be human. Fibre Market by Christien Meindertsma is, after running away from Minus, the most visually striking exhibit in the room. Exploring disposable fashion and the ethical implications, Fibre Market subtly but explicitly calls into question the social impacts of technology and globalisation. And finally, Room Tone by Hussein Chalayan explored, through devices that visually display the wearers emotions, summarising the exhibition that postmodernity is terrifying and exciting in equal measure, that we all fear it but ultimately love it. 

Fear and Love is the perfect blockbuster exhibition for Design Museum, what the permanent collections display does so well is bring in the social and human interaction with design and technology, Fear and Love is both a continuation and addition of this. Even those ‘inartistic’, and ‘not interested in design’ visitors (myself included) will engage with this exhibition, as is it intertwined with all of our personal lives, our personal anxieties, and our personal obsession with globalisation and postmodernity. 

p.s, I forgot my GoPro, so not arty video, no joyous playing on iMovie, sigh. Low quality iPhone photos will have to do this time. (Is it ironic to care so much about the technology used to discuss this exhibition?)