Review: Is this the Most Revolutionary V&A Exhibition Yet?
This season saw a conflict on the catwalk, as two opposing movements – Disco and Punk – battled it out once and for all. The result? Well, a truce actually. Which, you could argue, is the most rebellious result of all (though you’d probably be clutching a fist full of straws at the time). Blurring dancefloor glam with the spirit of the rebel, the result is a revolution in itself. And so, when the V&A recently opened its latest in a line of sell-out exhibitions – one that honoured rebels and radicals of the past – well, how could we resist?
Retro-fans among you will instantly recognise where the expo takes its name from (Revolution by the Beatles… FYI), and it couldn’t be a more apt fit. Exploring the era-defining significance of the late 60s, through the mediums of fashion, film and music, it’s a humbling experience to come face-to-face with relics and heirlooms so celebrated for their cultural significance. And yes, while artefacts are a given when it comes to that annual let’s-do-something-cultural trip to the museum, often such objects from the past – be it the crumbling murder weapon of a Byzantium king, or the time-faded battle plans of a tyrannical dictator – are often so removed from the now, that they can be difficult to relate with. This isn’t the case here…
Every nook, cranny and corner is crammed with pop-culture-curios; including the costume Jane Fonda wore as Barbarella; pirate-radio DJ, John Peel’s personal record collection; a lump of rock from the moon; and the chair Christine Keeler straddled in that infamous photoshoot (even if you don’t know it, you know it!). These relics have been hand-selected for the radical impact they each had in their respective field, and while you might question how a lump of moon rock is revolutionary, well, what could be more rebellious than defying the laws of gravity itself (is that a straw, I spy?).
In 1969, John Lennon and Yoko Ono staged the ultimate lie-in; a mammoth two-week stint in bed (though no doubt some of you are looking forward to something similar, as we approach the Christmas holidays… ). Theirs, however, was staged as a non-violent protest against the wars of the day, and the couples’ handwritten banners – one declaring ‘hair peace’, the other ‘bed peace’ – are two of the more moving exhibits on show. And talking of moving, or rather, moving like Jagger, the Rolling Stones frontman’s skin-tight, jewel-bedazzled lycra catsuit is a pretty astonishing site, too… but mainly because it’s a wonder how the hell he ever fitted into it?!
So, while we’ll almost certainly never get another decade like the sixties (no matter how hard fashion might try!), the V&A’s exhibition is about as close as any of us are going to get to it for now. From the psychedelic soundtrack to the kaleidoscopic wall projections, it’s a mind-opening descent into the revolutionary decade, and a must for punks, rebels and radicals alike. Viva La Revolucion!
All GIFs sourced from Giphy