Step from the rush of London's business district and into Wouldn't it Be Nice at Somerset House's Embankment Galleries, and you'd be forgiven for thinking you've accidentally wandered into some eccentric multimillionaire's bachelor pad. Complete with remote-controlled cars, oversized couches, and slick furniture from the likes of Martino Gamper, the exhibition exudes a kind of aspirational cool with a touch of Alice in Wonderland about it.
Cars dominate the first floor, including the contribution from team Bless, Couture Car Cover 2008 - a life-size model made of foam and leather, embodying the wishful thought that owners of luxury cars need not part with their favourite models once inside. The model is oddly juxtaposed with a film by Copenhagen collective Superflex featuring a burning car, probably meant as blazing social commentary. The nod to social critique is taken up in the next level with Alicia Framis' China Five Stars - 100 Ways to Wear a Flag, a poke at globalisation and the fashion industry.
Beyond Framis' draped models, though, things get altogether more surreal (though that might have been the champagne that flowed freely through the gala opening). Social commentary gives way to subversive wit, with works like Dunne & Raby and Michael Anastassiades' Alignment, a bright pink mass that exudes from a wall like a tongue and periodically inflates and deflates, and Gamper's towers of furniture with humorously designated drawers for various objects. Noam Toran and Onkar Kular's MacGuffin Library has great fun with rapid prototyping, creating an ever-changing array of narrated pieces inspired by Alfred Hitchcock's thoughts on plot device.
With extravagant flair and an eye for detail (the display kit is gorgeously crafted from polystyrene of low carbon footprint, and may well be the exhibition's most socially-conscious design), Wouldn't it Be Nice may not answer the heavy questions it poses, but it lacks for nothing in spectacle. This is the second offering from the newly-opened Embankment Galleries, and the high arches and corridors begging to be explored prove a perfect setting for a show that is essentially about having fun.
By Rebecca Pohancenik. Image author's own.