In our egotistical times, an exhibition about ourselves called The Museum of Me should be a surefire winner. Just such an exhibition is currently running at The Bargehouse at Oxo Tower Wharf on London’s South Bank and entry is free. It is the second in a series of Museum of… initiatives.
The Museum of Me is, in a sense, a self-created exhibition. Visitors are given an empty baked bean can (mind the sharp edges) and a selection of blank stickers and paper. These are filled in as you progress through the exhibition, and either added to the displays or kept, in your can, to form your own Museum of Me to take home. Comments left at the exhibition will apparently be buried in a time capsule.
There is a minimalist approach to design in most areas of the exhibition, with the interiors of the former warehouse left bare. But a grotto-like feeling is established in some sections, with the use of drapes and curtains. At one point visitors walk, like characters in The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe, through a cupboard to find a display of theatrical costumes. The show’s artistic director Clare Patey is a St Martin’s graduate, while exhibition designer Cathy Wren has previously worked on projects in locations as diverse as the Royal National Theatre and a car park beneath the Hammersmith flyover.
After collecting your can you can sign a wall with a marker pen, and stick a pin in a map to highlight your home town. You can then add to a number of other exhibits: enter a confessional and write down your darkest secret or write down what you dream of and put it on a piece of string attached to a balloon.
The problem with this kind of exhibition is that it demands interesting visitors if the resulting exhibits are to be worth looking at. As an early visitor, I couldn’t find much to see. Previous visitors dreamt of chocolate and John Travolta, but it’s hard to get very excited about that unless you share their enthusiasm.
There are more “formal” exhibits, too. There is a selection of photographs, taken at exactly 11.30am every day, for a year. The photographer, Ed Suter, seems to travel around a bit. We see his home, the interior of some planes, and some south London streets.
There are diaries, filled out since 1979 by Rhiannon Price. On show in a glass case, and blown up as giant photocopies, these seem to be about everything from teen angst to adult angst. The egotism of the exhibition’s title is certainly reflected in its exhibits.
Luke Oxley has put his book collection on display. This wouldn’t be so personal if his reading tastes were a little wider. Unfortunately, for Oxley, a significant proportion of his books appear to be about male impotence. Psychologists may be able to tell a lot about you by your library, but I could only make the obvious connections. Oxley’s collection seemed a bit on the small side, to be honest.
It is difficult to know exactly who The Museum of Me is aimed at. Children present at the opening seemed to be enjoying it a lot, but that leaves little for the adults.
In fact, for a Museum of Me, the exhibition stands to become the hell that is other people.
The Museum of Me runs until 3 October at The Bargehouse, Oxo Tower Wharf, London SE1