Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Stanley Kubrick: The Exhibition at Amsterdam’s Eye Film

           The Stanley Kubrick Exhibition presented an informative though abridged look into the works of American film director, Stanley Kubrick (1928 – 1999). Renowned for works such as Lolita2001: A Space Odyssey, and A Clockwork Orange, Kubrick was a well-known perfectionist and meticulous planner. However, the exhibition dedicated to him left a lot to be desired in terms of the usage of the exhibit space, and the limited information regarding the director outside of his major productions.
            The entrance to the Kubrick Exhibition was located on the first floor of the building. Perhaps due to space constraints, the exhibit lacked a grand entrance. Moreover, the entrance space left a lot to be desired in terms of sensory stimulation. Photographs and captions lined the way towards the first viewing room, and conveyed a sense of solemnity even though the exhibit was a cause for celebration, and not mourning. Moreover, the lights were not conducive to reading (the numerous documents on display); they were dim and sleep-inducing throughout the entire exhibit
            Kubrick’s works were displayed in makeshift rooms. These rooms were not arranged sequentially, but were interconnected such that the viewer was able to move around freely. Instead of presenting a cohesive look at Kubrick’s works, I walked from room to room as if I were in a maze, and left the exhibit with a scattered understanding of his works. The exhibit failed to track the evolution of Kubrick’s works, something that seemed like a logical tool necessary in order to contextualize his many films. While many of the costumes, gadgets, and sculptures from the films were on display, again, the lack of chronological clarity ruined an opportunity to further satisfactorily.
            The individual viewing rooms were poorly designed and often too small to accommodate the traffic. Each room was accessible from two adjacent rooms. Picture a square: the doors were located at adjacent corners of the square. Everything from manuscripts to design sketches, signed cards, and privately exchanged letters between Kubrick and his friends were lined along the wall. On the wall farthest from the entrances was the screen on which clips from each movie were displayed. As the rooms filled up, the audience began to cluster near the wall opposite the movie screen. I did not browse through all the display cases in The Shining viewing room because the crowd watching the film completely overwhelmed the space. As such, the experience was uncomfortable at times. One redeeming quality of the viewing rooms was the strategic placement of an information board right in front of the bench. This allowed the viewer to watch the clips, read the blurb (if he/she does not want to spoil the film), or do both at the same time. This information board also displayed documentary footage from the shooting of the film which provided additional information for enthusiasts. With this wealth of information, one only wished that the lone bench in each room was longer, and not so square.       
          While the design of the exhibit space was far from perfect, the materials for each film were informative and thought-provoking. Kubrick’s meticulous notes on scenes sketches, set designs, logos, and filming schedules were framed and placed all along the back wall. Kubrick’s obsession with clarity and perfection was evident, if only from the series of similar but slightly modified sketches of the logo for The Shining, on which Kubrick had obsessively written detailed notes about shade, color, and density of ink amongst other typographical and visual features. In some viewing rooms, large sculptures and props created more traffic problems—although I suspect that most viewers would agree that they were nevertheless welcome. In the A Clockwork Orange viewing room, two female mannequin sculptures seen in the movie were installed on opposite ends of the room. This placement was reminiscent of the film’s opening scene, in which the camera slowly zoomed toward the back of a room with mannequins lined up on each side. In contrast, in the 2001 viewing room, additional displays (e.g. a colored panel of planets and stars) were dissonant with the grandiose and rather solemn mood of the film.The lack of consistency in the relationship between the space and the exhibited works conveyed nothing but carelessness on the part of the curators.
            Located off on the side was a viewing room that showcased a montage of Kubrick’s works, and another room that displayed materials relating to two of Kubrick’s unfinished works. Ironically, these two rooms were tucked away between viewing rooms and were quite secluded; to access the room displaying unfinished works, one had to walk through a very dark viewing room. This montage of all of Kubrick’s works would have attracted a much larger audience had it been placed at either the entrance or the exit of the exhibit.
            In aggregate, the Stanley Kubrick Exhibition failed to effectively convey its informative richness to its viewers due to its suboptimal floor-plan and usage of space. Emphasis was not placed on a generalized understanding of Kubrick’s work. While I left with more knowledge regarding Kubrick’s stylistic quirks in each major film, I remained puzzled about the man himself because the exhibit comprised a mere assemblage of facts, images, tables, and figures about his films. Hopefully, future exhibitions will better synthesize Kubrick’s works with his biography, and provide a space in which the ethereal qualities of films like 2001 and Spartacus are given the focus they deserve. 

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