Pink Floyd: Their Mortal Remains Exhibition

Pink Floyd: Their Mortal Remains Exhibition

2013's David Bowie Is exhibition at the V&A was a spellbinding window in the psyche of a genius that transcended music, performance, and image. The administrative board that then decided to follow that up with another audio-visual sojourn into the archive of music's most decorated figureheads, Pink Floyd, deserve plaudits.

 Replica metal sculptures from  The Division Bell  (1994)

Replica metal sculptures from The Division Bell (1994)

I wasn't all too familiar with the entire discography of Pink Floyd prior to my visit - having only really listened to a handful of albums - and so I came away from the exhibition with an extreme sense of guilt for not having given them the attention they merited. I think the exhibition was an incredibly useful opportunity to do just that, and I don't think I could have appreciated them in the way I do now without having purchased tickets.

Despite my lack of substantial knowledge of the band, I was nonetheless tense with excitement. Taking those first steps inside the band's black Bedford van, which led like a gateway into the unknown; a spiralling walkway leading into a corridor of vivid colour tour posters from the band's inaugural period and an abundance of Alice In Wonderland imagery - a homage to former founder Syd Barrett, who cited Lewis Carrol's classic as one of many literary influences responsible for the initial art direction of the band.

Each corner turned is a chronological glimpse into how the band evolved both visually and sonically; from the poppier beginnings of 1967's The Piper at the Gates of Dawn, right through to the Dave Gilmour-fronted, art-rock theatrics of The Dark Side of the Moon (1973) and Wish You Were Here (1975). None more so than The Wall (1979), which is widely considered as one of the most famous examples of the 'concept album'. A large section of the exhibition was dedicated to the stagecraft of the 1979 classic, lending generous wall-space to the gigantic inflatable props that visualised a lot of imagery from the running narrative of the album designed by caricaturist Gerald Scarfe; from Pink, the main protagonist based on former frontman Barrett, to the terrifying teacher figure and worm-infested refrigerator. All of these stood adjacent to a scaled-down replica of the Battersea Power Station, with the famous inflatable pig, that graced the cover of the preceding record Animals (1977), suspended between its chimneys.

 Dave Gilmour's "Black Strat" Fender Stratocasters

Dave Gilmour's "Black Strat" Fender Stratocasters

Every little item housed behind glass has its own unique history, transforming it from a worthless throwaway to a priceless relic complete with its own unique backstory; test shot photo reels of legendary album covers and scribbled liner notes given pride of place for their sentimental value; instruments, responsible for the band's most majestic soundscapes, presented like ancient artefacts; stage props and costumes exhibited like remnants of a bygone age.

Their Mortal Remains is an inspiring pilgrimage into the decade-spanning sights and sounds of the world's most artistic musicians - only a band like Pink Floyd could give you an experience like this. Fan or not, this exhibition is well worth a visit.

 

Header art: Thomas Hedger


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