neil cummings

V&A bicentenary

I made a presentation as part of: Artists Work in Museums: Histories, Interventions and Subjectivities Friday 12th and Saturday 13th October 2012 at the V&A Museum, London

V&A Bicentenary

This two-day conference brought together artists, curators, historians and museum professionals to explore the history and impact of artists working in/with or against museums.

The conference explored the diverse, often hidden ways museums function as environments of cultural and identity production.

Speakers include: Charles Saumarez Smith, Susanna Avery-Quash, Calum Storrie, James Putnam, Martha Flemming, Zandra Ahl, Beatrice Von Bismarck, Teresa Gleadowe, Sally Tallant and Neil Cummings.

See the programme (pdf), to book please visit or call 0207 942 2211

Prices £25, £20(Conc) £10 Students (per day)

A subsequent iteration as part of Utopography, is available as a moving image document.


Extracts follow...[....]

Well its great to be here with you, really great to be here with you, as part of your bicentenary celebrations. I’ve really enjoyed the day so-far......

Thanks so much for Linda and Matilda for inviting me. I’m sure Henry Cole and Richard Redgrave, could never have imagined the institution they initiated would still be alive in 2057. Or maybe they would.

Linda suggested, given my age and enhancements that I perform a local live-thread recall for you today……I’m a little out of practice,……..but I’ll do my best. So, I’m going to disconnect from………

OK I’m present.

And, in keeping with the ‘old-school’ nostalgia of this face-2-face conference, I’d like to invite you to do the same too. Could you all just, also disconnect…………


Well, you’ll appreciate as with all live-thread recalls, this will be partial, processual and flawed. The thread I’ll be re-running, is something like institutional subjectivity, or, how the V&A became conscious of itself……[.....]

By 2035, trust, circulating through logistical systems of attention; systems of  capture, accumulation, and distribution were producing new ecologies of value.

Attention is both a power and a communicative medium, and nothing moved outside of its sphere of influence; everything is permeated by attention. By the same token, no exchange of attention, no matter how small, bodily and intimate, or vast in volume and scale is possible without trust.

The V&A commands and redistributes trust and attention, it’s a super-institution, a super-node in the contemporary ecologies of value.…[.....]


I remember it well,  it’s a landmark event. On the 6th February 2037, at the Ferguson Research cluster at the Manchester Open University, an organic-synthetic assembly participated in the legendary Turing Test.

In an examination that lasted more than three and a half hours a panel of human judges were unable to agree on which of the participants was a human subject, an organic-synthetic assembly is credited with human-like intelligence. An evolutionary firewall is breached.…[.....]


In January, the V&A inhabits the first in a series of affinity buildings, commissioned from Sapience Habitat Ecologies, its located in downtown Fortaleza, in the Ceará region of Brazil.

As well as nestling sensitively in the local permaculture (it used a lot of upcycled materials) the building exhibits biotic responsiveness. It senses emotional communications within visitors,…….or emotional excess, and is able to environmentally respond.…[.....]


In economies of attention, to attend is to invest. Its to invest in values not yet known; fugitive, constituent values.

Time, trust, generosity, prestige, love and respect are the currencies in these economies of attention. Although there are aspects of private interests, and residual retail culture that strive to capture attention. They thrive on minimum, short-term, quantified, calculated investment; attention to be bought and sold.

Any long-term investment of attention, of creativity, of love and generosity are always at risk. Skirmishes break out, often escalating into local conflicts for the social currencies at play. There is a diffused sense of permanent emergency, a low-grade war…[.....]
Britain Can Make It  - an uncanny echo of The Great Exhibition of 1851 - was a legendary, vast, temporary exhibition of product design and manufacturing at the V&A in 1946, intended to kick-start consumerism after the disaster of WWII.
The Centenary exhibition was no task of mourning, although some of the exhibitionary architecture of the first iteration was reinstalled……..

It was an opportunity to explore the legacy of resource profligacy, and the ethics of belonging….[..]
The V&A Bicentenary was inspired by Self Portrait Arnolfini and Industrialtownfuturism


A subsequent iteration as part of Utopography, is available as a moving image document. And the research  laid the foundation for the architecture of More things can happen...........


51.4966, -0.1722

Victoria and Albert Museum
Cromwell Road
United Kingdom

Submitted by neil on