This week I decided to explore another theme on which I’m completely ignorant: science. I recently visited the Natural History Museum’s exhibition on Colour and Vision which is in its last few days and nicely crowd free.
However, before I’d even made it to South Kensington I realised something was terribly, terribly wrong. There was a cacophony of screaming and yelling, a number of untraceable, foul smells, and a pervasive sense of horror emanating from the swathes of people leaving the station. Apparently I’d chosen to visit the Natural History Museum during half term.
So the museum during school holidays is basically a glorified, dinosaur-ridden crèche. But actually I did think it rather wonderful that all these nippers were running around a museum, potentially learning something about the world, rather than cooped up in their houses playing video games or talking to creepy strangers online or whatever it is kids do these days. I attributed this to London’s wonderful policy of free museums. This theory was proven by the fact that the Colour and Vision exhibition, which costs a measly £10.80, was relatively deserted.
I’ve always had mixed feelings about the Natural History Museum; when I was a kid the endless cabinets of dead animals grossed me out and as I got older I decided it was an ethical matter. It feels a little bit like a shrine to man’s glory over nature. Actually, on my latest visit I was reminded of the Kunstkamera museum in St Petersburg which was initiated by Russia’s modernising despot of a 17th Century monarch, Peter the Great (my original blog post on the subject can be found here). However, this new exhibition utilised the materials at the museum’s disposal (stuffed animals) to explain and glorify the wonders of creation.
The exhibition takes you through a journey of evolution, from the dull browns and greys of the pre-Cambrian, to the gaudy colours of the modern-day. It charts the development of the eye and of colour itself, explaining how one became necessary only because the other developed. This slightly dry scientific information was complimented by the exhibited fossils, stuffed animals and gruesome eyes in pickle jars (no doubt creating a pleasing ‘ewww’ factor for the little monsters among us). It made me question my perception of the world and how it might change if I saw through different eyes. Although actually I have a prescription of -5.3 so I already see the world from the perspective of mole or a bat or some other small, blind creature 😦
I’ve often thought that if Evolution is our new religion, then the Natural History Museum is its Cathedral. If it wasn’t for the big ole dinosaur in the central hall, it even looks like one. Well, this exhibition converted me good and I was lovin it.
It made the most of what I consider to be an inherently old fashioned museum. By roping in some artsy types to pepper the halls with video installations and light sculptures, they provided something for everyone, without losing the point of the museum. It still educated me on scientific theories and natural procceses but it also made me go ‘ooh’ and ‘aah’ and ‘mm thats pretty’. And to combine these two factors is no mean feat. The museum website describes it as a more immersive and intense experience than your usual visit to the Natural History Museum and I think this is a fair assesment. It’s a little more engaging than the endless corridors of cabinets of creatures that I remember from my youth.
Basically, I suggest y’all get on down there because it’s closing v soon as I was glad I went, if only to discover that the animal with vision closest to ours is the Octopus !!! 🐙🐙🐙🐙
Maybe I’m just too enthusiatic about this reviewing lark but I think it has to be another Artsy from me.
Colour and Vision runs until 6th of November
Tickets are £10.80 for adults, £5.40 for concessions