automobility past and future

Project: Future of Mobility. [Link]

Cars – Accelerating the Modern World

An exhibition at The Victoria and Albert Museum in London

Running into February 2020.

The exhibition is one of the very first in a major international museum to acknowledge the extraordinary significance of the automobile, as its design, engineering, and significance evolve.

There’s a very neat story told in three parts: Going Fast; Making More; and Shaping Space. Exhibits illustrate these aspects of the twentieth century history of the automobile. Then there’s a look at a future car. This is something of an anticlimax that misses the point about the story of the automobile. It’s not just cars that are changing, as robotics and new fuel systems come into play. Our experiences of mobility in every aspect, physical and immaterial, real and imagined, are radically changing.

An extraordinarily successful design

The story might be a little unremarkable, and a missed opportunity to reflect upon contemporary change. But what is quite astonishingly good is the design of the exhibition itself. The visitor is captivated by a space saturated with a collage, an assemblage of multiform imagery, texts, artifacts, a few cars too, that conveys the extraordinary valency of this everyday artifact. High ceilings make for an immersive experience where one is looking around, and up and down, taking an appropriately convoluted walk through a wonderland, one’s eye caught here and there by hopes, achievements, ingenious solutions, global ambitions, and everyday stories.

And the concept. This is not a museum exhibition about automotive heritage, about the remains of a type of artifact as it has evolved through time and in relation to society and culture, and as it becomes worthy of preservation. The exhibition, in mobilizing the dynamic and changing presence of the past-in-the-present, is about the actuality of the past as it offers orientation on possible futures.

The actuality of the past

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