V&A set for the successful Pink Floyd exhibition


Roger Waters and Nick Mason of Pink Floyd were reunited with the designers who helped define the group’s visual language ahead of a V&A show, which is expected to be on the same scale as the museum’s David Bowie exhibit.

Update May 9, 2017: Pink Floyd: Their Mortal Remains is slated to open this weekend on May 13, and images from the exhibit have been revealed. See the latest exhibition plans at the bottom of the room.

“We’re going to build a wall and Pink Floyd is going to pay for it,” says drummer and Pink Floyd founding member Nick Mason, delivering a lovely punchline.

He discusses the role of pop music and politics with his founding colleague of Pink Floyd, Roger Waters. The couple have gathered to talk about the Pink Floyd: Their Mortal Remains exhibit, which arrives at the Victoria and Albert (V&A) Museum on May 13.

Waters conceived the album The Wall (1980) as a metaphor for childhood alienation, WWII, and the loss of his father, but it has been interpreted widely in all kinds of ways over the years. year.

A physical wall that could collapse during a live performance was also designed by architect and set designer Mark Fisher for what was one of the most ambitious stadium tours ever – an act that created a benchmark and blueprint for other great rock and pop shows. because.

Exclusive sketch showing what a section of the exhibit will look like

The band’s visual identity has always been rich, visceral and deeply linked to the themes and concepts of the records and shows, joining the music to the two-dimensional album cover and three-dimensional fabrications of flying pigs, puppets. giant towers and falling brick walls.

To ensure the authenticity of the exhibit, there has been a very deliberate effort to look to the same designers who have worked with Pink Floyd on these same things.

The show’s creative director is Aubrey “Po” Powell, who has worked with Pink Floyd event collaborator Paula Web Stainton and a V&A team led by senior curator Victoria Broackes. Stufish, which was founded by the late Mark Fisher in 1994, directed the design of the exhibit.

By Hipgnosis

Powell, along with Storm Thorgerson – who died in 2013 – created album covers for Dark Side of The Moon, Delicate Sound of Thunder and many other Pink Floyd records, through the Hipgnoisis studio they founded together.

Powell says the development of Hipgnosis ran alongside Pink Floyd’s burgeoning career. The studio’s formative years were largely aided by the group.

Hipgnosis’s work is on display throughout the exhibition alongside works by other collaborators such as designer and illustrator Gerald Scarfe.

Powell and Thorgerson got their first gig pretty early on, designing Pink Floyd’s second album A Saucerful of Secrets (1968), and set a precedent for what was to come by being consciously abstract and not presenting the band on the blanket.

The reason Pink Floyd’s Piper at the Gates of Dawn (1967) featured the band on the cover art was due to the record label’s instructions.

Pink Floyd quickly had more creative control, with Roger Waters in particular having a say in who the group worked with, according to Powell. He says, “The best thing about our relationship with them is that they always trusted us to keep going.”

However, this long-standing collaboration may have been cemented many years ago. Like Mason and Waters, Powell and Thorgerson were originally from Cambridge and part of the same circle of friends.

“I worked as a roadie and drove a minivan for the band before doing their graphics,” says Powell, who drove the late Syd Barratt to concerts.

Painting by Syd Barrett © Family Syd Barrett

Powell struggles to watch a video of a Barratt performance played behind him as it brings back memories of his vulnerability. “It makes me pretty emotional,” says Powell. “He was doing a lot of LSD back then. Sometimes he was lucid, sometimes not.

The fact that Powell has such a long history with the group has placed him in a good position to advise Stufish. Before Fisher created Stufish in 1994, he worked on the set design for several major Pink Floyd tours. Fisher passed away in 2013 and the group has largely been inactive since 1995, so current Stufish chief executive Ray Winkler said the forensic and anecdotal details provided by Powell were invaluable.

Pink Floyd rotating mirror ball with petals 1973 -1977 © Copyright Paula Webb Stainton

Winkler says, “There is so much visual language to draw on, and one of our challenges was to transform two-dimensional objects into three-dimensional objects. It’s a question of scale and of reinventing the album cover as part of an exhibition ”.

This will include reinventing the bulb costume worn by a model on the cover of the live album Delicate Sound of Thunder (1988) and the giant head sculptures designed by Thorgerson for the cover of The Division Bell (1994). .

Overall, the exhibition aims to bring together music, art and design while presenting recorded and live performances for an audience, which will take a journey from the underground club scene from the 1960s to the present day – although the band technically disbanded in 2014 at the end of a final album, The Endless River, having been largely inactive for some time.

Some 350 objects were collected for the show. Waters says he gave curators access to a box where he kept artifacts. Casually, he says: “I have never been there myself”, and considers Mason as the archivist of the group.

One of Powell’s main jobs has been to dig through the archives and into any pieces the band members might have kept.

Handwritten lyrics, musical instruments, letters, stage props and original artwork have all been obtained and some of these are placed in context by being on display alongside items from the own collection. from the V&A, such as psychedelic posters from the mid-1960s.

Nick Mason loads the Bedford van

The entrance door to the exhibit is a replica of the Bedford pickup truck used as the group’s tour vehicle in the mid-1960s, which visitors will pass through on entering.

This gives way to an introductory section on the psychedelic London scene and the UFO club where Pink Floyd was once the unofficial house band in 1967.

Light projector – original projector Rank Aldis Tutor

The club atmosphere will be recreated with oil and water splashes, such as those performed by Pink Floyd lighting designer Peter Wynne Wilson, and will be accompanied by a soundtrack to ensure a fully immersive experience.

Winkler says there will be interactive elements, but in a spirit of surprise, won’t reveal what they are.

His team recreated some of Fisher’s oversized inflatables and stage props, which once again presented him with a challenge on a large scale – although this time around, presumably, on a smaller scale.

the azimuth coordinator; quadraphonic sound box, designed by Richard Wright and custom built by Bernard Speight for Pink Floyd in 1967

One of the main stories in the exhibit will be exploring the pioneering spirit of Pink Floyd and demystifying the equipment and instruments they manipulated and hacked into to produce their sound.

One of the items you can see is a device custom designed by Pink Floyd keyboardist Richard Wright to scroll the band’s live sound through the rooms via a joystick.

As well as being a vital piece of equipment for performances at the Royal Festival Hall and Royal Albert Hall in the late 1960s, it was used in the recording of the clock montage of the song Time on Dark Side of the Moon.

Other artifacts include original paintings by Syd Barrett – also an avid artist – and the cane, with which Roger Waters, Syd Barrett, and Storm Thorgerson were beaten up in school. The significance is that he was the inspiration for the professor’s giant puppet cane on The Wall tour, and it’s something that has clearly stuck with Waters for a long time.

This is another of the many artifacts Powell and his team managed to find. Waters – who says he didn’t have much to do with the show, and at one point jokes “I can’t wait to be in” – is particularly intrigued by the idea of ​​getting the stick back. .

Visitors will also be able to see why each of the boys was beaten in an accompanying punishment book.

The Professor, illustration by Roger Waters

The exhibition’s journey is largely chronological and revolves around key punctuation points in the band’s career, such as Barratt leaving the band in 1968, just as Pink Floyd shunned singles in favor of albums and dances. more experimental endeavors, including the soundtrack of arthouse films. and wrote the music for a Pink Floyd Ballet in 1972.

It was in the 1970s that the group’s experiments with studio technology really took off, especially at Abbey Road studios where Meddle (1971), The Dark Side of The Moon (1973) and Wish You Were Here ( 1975).

Many instruments were acquired for the show including Dave Gilmour’s Stratocaster guitar, known simply as the “black strat,” which has been in use since the 1970s.

David Gilmour’s black Strat

It was in the 1970s that Pink Floyd became much more political, a movement that echoed in the group’s visual and theatrical expressions.

The Animals (1977) album cover featured an inflatable pig soaring above the Battersea power station, while Waters’ lyrics on the album addressed social inequalities and challenged capitalist structures.

Oddly, visitors to the show will be able to find a letter from a helicopter pilot who was hired to chase the pig, which broke free from its tethers and flew to Kent.

John Lydon © Ray Stevenson

While progressive music – great music – arguably reached its peak in the early 1970s, Pink Floyd continued, as prolific and popular as ever. Meanwhile, in the late 1970s, punk was on the rise and this cultural shift is captured in the exhibit, which even documents the I Hate Pink Floyd t-shirt worn by Jonny Rotten of the Sex Pistol.

Powell recalls, “I saw him wearing that and I thought, well, that’s the end of it, but of course it wasn’t.” A measure of this could be that today there are still 10,000 sales of Dark Side of the Moon every week.

Pink Floyd continued to perform and tour through the 1980s and 1990s with world tours of A Momentary Lapse of Reason and The Division Bell and the exhibition follows that journey to the end.

There will be a series of lectures, events and spinoff activities at the opening of the exhibit, as well as a book to accompany the exhibit, which was designed by longtime collaborator David Bowie , Jonathan Barnbrook.

Pictures of the exhibition


Comments are closed.