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Flipside (26 April-20 May 2018) is a new exhibition just off London’s famous Oxford Street. Located in the former Selfridges hotel (which had previously doubled as an indoor skatepark, Multiplex, the Makegood Festival plus an off-site exhibition venue for the ICA entitled A Journey Through London Subculture: 1980s to Now) the exhibition is said to be a multi-sensory experience.
From a visual point of view it was indeed a radical luxury, whatever that meant! I wasn’t sure whether that referred to the fact one could actually enter this hotel despite not even being normally able to set foot in this sort of place, or whether it referred to the exhibition itself! Selfridge’s blurb says: “Explore altered states of luxury by Google Pixel 2, Loewe, Louis Vuitton, Thom Browne, Gareth Pugh, Byredo and Mr Lyan in an incredible one-of a kind space… Entrance is free and open to all.”
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The exhibition is spread across part of the ground floor area and across a substantial part of the first floor area. It consists of interconnecting elevated walkways across what looks like water, its actually a shiny surface of some sorts but from some perspectives it does look like a sheet of water. Its a huge contrast to the other nearest venue that has exhibits, namely Manchester House. The Wallace Collection is just round the corner yet the difference between the two is vast. One is quite old worldly (apart from the occasional modernist slant such as Damien Hirst’s diamond skulls) the other a building in a state of major change whose available space is being used for modern creativity.
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Entrance is by what is described as an acoustic tunnel, leading to the first part of the exhibition, which is some sort of mirror at the end of this tunnel. A right turn leads into another part of the ground floor area which is given over to Google Pixel (@madebygoogle) and there’s a photo booth which is for anyone not just Google groups.
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One can have their picture taken for free (and either or both printed and emailed – and there’s another option which is to have it shared on social media via #selfridgeslondon.) There’s a reception area for the Google Pixel groups which will be only at the weekends so if you want your photograph taken then Saturdays and Sundays are the days you should head to the exhibition. But beware, its very popular on those days and advance booking is recommended!
Although booking is essential, one can in fact turn up especially if it very quiet though entry is not guaranteed.
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From the Google area the old Selfridges hotel stairs lead up to the main exhibition area. The old stairs form part of the exhibition with a light show featuring different elements of the stairs’ balustrades and fancy ironwork.
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The main thrust of the exhibition is the seven brands taking part were asked to pinpoint what true luxury is like right now, and what it would be like in the future. TBH it was a little difficult for me to see how this worked, especially with regards to the future.
I noticed people were simply looking at the mirrors, not realising there were words on the backs of these mirrors. This is the first exhibit as one enters the main floor area. Its lit by several sets of lighting including one that looks like a lighthouse. The idea is to give different lighting perspectives given the mirrors and its also a sort of viewpoint from which one can see much of the exhibition area.
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The mirrors section of the Flipside exhibition
As I slowly strolled through the exhibition several groups of Google Pixel enthusiasts overtook me! I wondered, were they getting the better experience than I was with their smartphones than I was with my ancient DSLR’s and thus they were able to pass through the exhibition in double quick time! Perhaps that in itself was one of the luxuries of the future – that others would be able to do so much more than I can – with far less stuff to lumber about lol!
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Another means the exhibition is said to work is by probing the senses of time and space. The above exhibition (by Loewe – the luxury fashion company) explores this very sense with the use of old artifacts from past decades, many of which we would now laugh at. Practically all this stuff can now be condensed into a smartphone. The four giant corkscrews obviously denote the compression of time/space and how all these artifacts are now squeezed into the contents of a smartphone. At least with this particular exhibit I could easily see the central elements of the themes Flipside is said to cover.
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Most of this stuff can now be condensed into smartphones
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General view of part of the exhibition floor area showing the shiny surfaces below the walkways
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This part of the exhibition is by Mr Lyan. It features ways and means of making different types alcoholic drinks without the normal processes (eg breweries, yeast etc) and using more down to earth ingredients. There’s a questionnaire that asks about one’s personal tastes – depending on the answer different leaflets are given out detailing different mixes.
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Just let you know the guy pictured is NOT Mr Lyan – who is said to be the world’s best cocktail mixer. Mr Lyan now hosts his very own cocktail bar in Hoxton.
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When there’s no one around our host has a quick swig of…erm… no wait… that’s actually bottled water! LOL!
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Another general view of the exhibition area
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The sensory experience of being in an exotic location (somewhere on the south coast I presume!) The floor is sandy no doubt the idea (and sounds if there are any) are to give one a sense of being in some exotic location far from London…. All I can say is the experience is actually no different from a stroll along one of the many beaches alongside the River Thames! In fact I’d prefer that experience to anywhere else!
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This is a great sun dial (or sort of) it lights up and tracks people’s shadows across the floor. How does this work with regards to the future? Does it mean people’s timelines will be accelerated or what? Like a whole year passing by in the mere space of a week? That is in essence what it seems like when one reads on how it works…
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The Selfridges Shadow Dial clock in operation. Below is a description of the exhibit

“The Shadow Dial: Using a combined visual language of two universal time-keeping techniques, sundials and mechanical clocks, The Selfridges Shadow Dial abstracts the experience of a sundial into a one-hour clock, letting time expand and contract inside the dream of a half-minute day.
The movement and build of light and sound pulls you towards the centre, so that you become the point around which light pushes shadows in a perfect rotation. Each person who takes up this position travels with time, watching moments move in an endless encircling of now.”

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Bottled water by Byredo (the perfume specialists.) The idea is to illustrate how water will become scarce one day with the containers labelling different countries – all of which have plentiful water supplies. Those with little water are not mentioned. I don’t think this part of the exhibition actually conveyed its message very well.
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Bookings for visits to The Flipside can be made at Eventbrite