Before I begin, Notes on the Underground, who pretty much do what they say on the tin, are releasing a literary freesheet in the city. While this is good news in itself, the London Underground have been complaining of a trpiling in litter in carriages due to the surgence of evening freesheets such as the London Lite, resulting in a loss of “ambience“. Surely this will just aggravate the problem?
Anyway, on to the main feature.
After my meeting at the British Library today, I wandered down to its gallery to view the Breaking The Rules: The Printed Face of the European Avant Garde 1900 – 1937 exhibition
Explore Europe’s creative revolution of the early 20th century – one that ripped up the rule books of visual art, design, photography, literature, theatre, music and architecture, and whose effects are still felt, heard and seen today.
And that I did. I’m a huge fan of the avant-garde movement, and everything that went with it – Brechtian theatre, German Expressionism, Surrealism, Frankfurt School Theory; my expectations were high. I dealt with many of those themes at universty, so it was a pleasure to hear first-hand the Futurist manifesto, interviews with Andre Breton and original recordings from the Threepenny Opera (a play on my list of things to see urgently – I can’t get enough of that Verfremdungseffekt).
Like the movement itself, the exhibition “ripped apart the rulebook” of convention in a sense. It was refreshing to see a curation that posits the reader in the theoretical location and mindset of the project, rather than have it dictated. It far surpassed the V&A’s Surrealism exhibit that took place earlier in the year. A visual history of European (r)evolution at this time is mapped around the room, encompassing key texts and contexts. There is even an example of Malcolm McClaren’s* bastardisation of the notification process in there.
Unfortunately, I missed seeing the Man Ray screening, and I wasn’t prepared to sit through 14 minutes of hypno-screen to wait for it. I’ll catch it later in the week, when I take my mother to see the Early Manuscripts in the permanent collection, and perhaps make a return visit when the Harold Pinter exhibit opens next month.
Breaking the Rules is open until 30 March 2008 in the Pearson Gallery. Events will be running throughout.
* who, incidentally is running a talk at the library next year on Impresarios of the Avant-Garde. The topic is fairly interesting, so I may restrain myself and go.