|One of the "stations" at the exhibition|
Folks at the Wellcome Collection brought together objects from rich collection of Henry Wellcome, businessman, collector and philanthropist who owned a pharmaceutical company, to show us complexity of human nature. The effect is a mosaic which gives the visitors a sneak peek into human kind... means our kind, though it’s good to distance yourselve. It is a diverse picture, not necessarily the one we see every day. The exhibition took me on a philosophical journey through life and history.
“An Idiosyncratic A to Z of the Human Condition” has been designed around letters of alphabet – an alphabet rather for grown-ups. Each one of them is a reason to talk about something related to human life. So, P stands for Philosophy, V for Voice, B for Birthdays, U for Urban living, K for Keeping up appearance, J for Journey and I for Individuality. I could list all of them but I don’t want to spoil the surprise if you get to visit the exhibition. You would be mistaken though if you thought that all, that exhibition has to offer is the list of words which anyone can come up with. There are objects matched to each subject such as voice of Florence Nightingale, a model of floating research laboratory used by Henry Wellcome on the Nile River (pictured), sculptures, corset, shoes for bound feet and many more. As much as all those things may sound ordinary on their own when put together they compose an interesting picture showing us humans like we don’t see on a daily basis. I like such games in which we merge something what has a structure (the alphabet) with such a wide subject as humanity. Of course it covers only a small part of what you can say about the human race but it gives an insight into things we wouldn’t usually think about or helps us see them from another angle.
The exhibition consists of two parts – one presents the objects from the collection and the other one gives space for the visitors to express themselves. You can take a picture of yourself (to be posted on Twitter), eat a fortune telling cookie (P for Philosophy), record your own voice, write down the acts of kindness you do from time to time or you did in the past (e.g. buying a favourite chocolate for a husband), you can mark the country you come from on the map as well as pin a place you come from in the UK to visit the Wellcome Collection and finish a story other visitors have started. It gives you a chance to participate and express yourselves. For me it also has another meaning – it shows that we’re all linked to each other in one way or another, we all come with different experience that is melting in a pot of life. The discussion continues on Twitter @ExploreWellcome and you can share your experience of urban living specifically at #HumanSardines.
For me the exhibition is only a hint, it’s not a finished thing but something I can continue on my own coming up with new words and definitions describing the human nature (which I will definitely do, so watch this space in next month or so). Great asset of the Wellcome Collection is that it crosses barriers. An exhibition about dance takes you on a journey beyond your senses and convention you’ve been used to. If you eat it from one of the plates in Wellcome Collection’s cafe you’re closer to the nature. Wellcome Collection doesn’t allow itself to be put in any box and in any mindset. Every time you get in you expect something and the exhibition takes you even further. Each of their projects open mind, eyes and encourages people not to stop (or get stacked) where they are at the moment. If definitely stands up to its claim which says that it is a place for incurably curious. I am proud to count myself in such company.