Enchanted Palace – Kensington Palace

I decided to strike while I was still painless and enthusiastic, making a snap decision to visit London the morning after musing how much I loved installations. Fortunately, while the weather made being outside a misery it made being inside Kensington Palace brilliantly quiet. They were very camera friendly under the conditions of no flash, which was both a plus and bonus. I was getting to grips with my new camera which meant I had to fiddle with settings frequently and I expected limited success in the dim settings, as is often the trade-off in these places. Still, 113 decent images out of 279 says that conditions can’t have been that bad!

The concept behind the displays was an illustration and re-imagining of the lives of 7 princesses that have lived at Kensington Palace. Where the standard displays of artefacts and plinths of information can be rather stale in some historical attractions, here the producers successfully manage to transform an already impressive setting into a surreal, fairytale and sometimes weird stage upon which tales from many different ages are seamlessly acted out.

By no means childish and often sad, the tales of these princesses has been told through poetry and visually modern and abstract interpretations of what might be another boring history lesson. The past and present, sweet and sinister, happy and sad, all collide in what I found was a immersive atmosphere of history that embraced the changing building conditions to its benefit! It would be a truly boring and mammoth task to describe every room in the display. I’m loathed to start doing it! Hopefully, the photographs give a taster pf most of the rooms:

Photo slideshow: here (fullscreen mixed) Prompt: princess

For me, they flitted between playful and curiously melancholy. Some where awe-inspiring in scale and others completely detracted from their surroundings. Touchy-feely and each with their own clear message and mood to convey as their tale dictated. In hindsight it is difficult to distinguish what I was looking at most- the rooms themselves or their temporary contents. Chances are I missed seeing something rare and unique to . But perhaps it was the stories that I was meant to take away with me? Testament to my remembering them inspite of my disinterest up-until this point, I can now see the Palace as much more of a stage for the feelings, childhoods, arguments, births, and deaths that make up the history of the Palace. I toured the exhibitions feeling more emotional than I have done in any other Royal Palace or historic building I have done this year. Perhaps it was the element of human interaction that was buzzing under the surface, courtesy of the WildWorks staff/actors that discreetly played the role of Detectors. There to interact with guests and disclose secrets about the rooms and their past, it was not uncommon to walk in and find a cluster of 3 around a fireplace, headlamps on, muttering and pointing up a chimney. Unfortunately, their efforts were lost on me- I’m the child that was always and still is afraid of the people in costumes/handing out balloons/audience participation!

And least I forget the tour book, with map to help visitors find each of the princesses. I spy the influence of a hand printed, drawn and typed inspiration in this booklet, which fits beautifully with the delicate, handle-with-care nature of the displays. Not overloaded with information, neat and insightful with a spartan colour palette that compliments the dainty scratchy images.

The idea of soaking up enough of a place, story or identity to be able to create something that sits so seamlessly within it, is something I’m going to try and retain for my ideas on the coming projects of 2012. Until then, I hope the feeling will rattle around and settle in. If you’re in the Kensington neck of the woods, I’d recommend a look around. Granted, I was grateful for my student ID at this end of the year, but if its any consequence, it disappears forever on 3rd January.

WildWorks information on Enchanted Palace: here

Kensington Historic Royal Palaces information: here

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