I once took a curator on an inexpert tour around the V&SA, for whom they curated, expertly. With Steve Chapman and Sophie Pumphrey, linked by a) their improvising work and b) knowing me, as questioning co-strollers, we asked our curator to give us an entirely false tour.  Not one word of what they said should be true.

This was initially hard for our curator.  On the one hand, they were the most knowledgeable person in the quartet. And the reason for the wander was they had asked for some coaching regarding their perceived inability to speak up in meetings – fear of saying the wrong thing, fear of others stealing their limelight.  (Fear of being seen as Mad, Bad or Wrong as Keith Johnstone might say).

Steve, Sophie and I encouraged both saying the wrong thing and taking plenty of limelight

We came upon, as visitors often do, an empty display case.

“What’s that?”

“It is one of our large collection of cases.  We are a museum of cases and we attempt to display them as they are but overnight curators sneak in and fill them with objects.  We have to keep clearing them out every morning.”

 

On a recent walk, I saw this empty case.

Empty display case. V&A Museum

With reflection, I could see that it was actually filled with two fire extinguishers, an emergency exit sign, a red metal box and a label possibly giving directions. Apparently, only Harrods and the V&A have silver fire extinguishers.

This seems significant but I can’t tell you why.

I think the nature of emptiness is that it is really quite full – of potential, of ghosts, of memories and perhaps some firefighting equipment.