Saturday, 9 February 2013

Death: a review

Okay, so I'm not really reviewing Death, but I couldn't resist the title. If I were to review Death, then I think I would give it ten out of ten. I mean, after all, people die, there aren't zombies roaming the streets in the real world and neither, so far as I know, are there any immortals sitting about getting bored while they wait for the Grim Reaper to finally do his job.

What I actually reviewing is the exhibition that is currently on at the Wellcome Collection called Death: A self-portrait. The exhibition is made up of the collection of Richard Harris, a former antique print dealer from Chicago who has cobbled together the most fabulous collection of photos, paintings and general thingummy-bobs all to do with my favourite subject. There are sculptures and paintings and puppets and books. The very array of them made me feel like a child in a toy shop. I love the fact that Harris hadn't limited himself to any particular type of item related to death. It was just the collection of someone with a fascination, and the money to indulge it.

In a way it's sort of what I want to be doing here. I once had a short lived zombie blog, but really there's so much more to my interest than that. There's festivals of the dead, memento mori, art and ritual, not to mention vampires, ghosts, and other things that go bump on the night. Although Death didn't include much of the latter, it had everything from the former. I especially liked a sculpture put together by an art project in South America (sorry, big continent, but I can't remember right now exactly what country it was from). It was a massive skull, but made up of smaller sculptures of books and movies from American and European culture, all on top of a slum town. And the background was a Pac-man maze, complete with ghosts. I could have stared at it for hours, had I not been completely over excited by all the skulls around me and been unable to stand still for more than a couple of minutes.

I also enjoyed the collection of photos placed on the wall in the final room. They seemed to contain all the randomness of the exhibition has a whole. I was particularly fond of the photo of two Nineteenth century gentlemen in Texas, with most wonderful moustaches, staring solemnly at the camera, a human skull sitting on the table next to them for no particular reason.

So, I would highly recommend this exhibition. There's so much in it that you're bound to find something you like. I defy anyone to not be in awe of the bone chandelier, even if they're not real bones.
If you enjoy the exhibition, I also recommend the book, Death: A Picture Album. It's a fine bit of design and gives you the chance to find out more about some of the smaller items in the exhibition. I'm not one for reading all the stuff they put up on the walls at exhibitions, I just want to look at the stuff, so getting the book has given the actual exhibition more depth for me and made me even more desperate to go again.

It's on until February 24th, and definitely worth checking out.

It has occurred to me that I ought to come up with some kind of ratings system, because I certainly plan on reviewing quite a few things. Are skulls too obvious? Is there anything wrong with that? Nah...

So, I give Death: A self-portrait nine skulls out of ten. The only thing that was missing was things for me to pick up and play with. Those signs telling me not to touch things are always incredibly frustrating!

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