‘Power of Making’ and ‘Timber Wave’ @ the V&A

“Making is the most powerful way that we solve problems, express ideas and shape our world”. This is the first sentence in the leaflet that accompanies the ‘Power of Making’ exhibition at the V&A organised in collaboration with the Crafts Council (and curated by Daniel Charny), which is in harmony with the London Festival Week and the imposing installation ‘Timber Wave’ (by award-winning architects AL_A and engineering firm Arup), a 3D 12 meter high spiral structure at the museum’s entrance.

‘Power of Making’ consists of some 100 inspiring objects demonstrating to what degree many different skills and techniques can be employed to play a vital role in modern life. The visitor has the great opportunity to see items that have been created by amateur or highly professional individuals and explore how materials can be used in order to achieve imaginative and spectacular results.

The monumental ‘King-Silver’ gorilla sculpture by David Mach made of twisted wire from coat hangers welcomes the visitor followed by the gigantic ‘Prosthetic Suit For Stephan Hawking With Japanese Steel’ by Michael T Rea, both works representing an alternative reality overtaken by the physical presence of a such powerful animal and Stephan Hawking’s powerful mind.

The exhibition highlights not only contemporary ideas and techniques but also focuses on traditions and ancient skill. A great example is the ‘Ghanaian Lion Coffin’ by Joseph Tetteh Ashong, a masterfully carved coffin painted with an airbrushing technique. The coffin reflects the profession or the talent of an individual (in this case the talent of a hunter). This different and –in a way- humorous approach to life and death meets other aspects of everyday life that appear in the show such as the prosthetic limbs for disabled people. Other exhibits include greatly inspirational furniture items such as Ron Arad’s chair, innovative fashion objects such as Alexander McQueen’s ‘Armadillo Shoes’, the head peace ‘Blond Lips’ by Charlie Le Mindu (worn by Lady Gaga), Susie MacMurray’s unwearable ball gown ‘Widow’ made out of 100,000 pins, the custom-made low rider bicycle with 110,000 Swarovski crystals by Ben Wilson and the hyper-realistic “Baby Cake” by Michelle Wibowo.

‘Power of Making’ is a celebration of craftsmanship that explores personal skill expressed via old and new techniques, modern technology, imagination and innovative spirit. The accompanying video projections, workshops, talks and open studios emphasise the entire process of making and creating. This, undoubtedly, encourages the visitor to appreciate not only the result but the whole process and entity of an object. Despite the significant lack of space this exhibition offers a better understanding of how traditional skill can be threatened by the modern commercial industry but it also provides the potential basis for a strong dialogue between the two.
|Kostas Prapoglou