Victor RPA: Turning an Album Cover Concept into an Exhibition
Case Studies · 31st July 2015
Last week we took a bit of a step into the unknown, by turning what was an album cover concept for Victor RPA (AKA Dan Green) into a physical exhibition at The Gallery at Munro House.
Victor RPA’s music is a collection of ideas. Each conceptually explores and articulates experiences, thoughts and feelings – sometimes remarkable, sometimes commonplace; sometimes sublime, sometimes everyday.
Just as his music uses found sounds throughout, we imagined each piece – each idea – as a found ‘readymade’ object that Dan had come across in his life, taken from the everyday and exhibited to be explored more closely.
This collection of artefacts, originally used to create the artwork for Big Sounds from Small People, became the basis of an exhibition as part of Victor RPA’s album launch.
But what on earth were we doing exhibiting a full size beehive and a porcelain frog at a gig?
As music becomes an increasingly digital, streamed, playlisted affair, it’s much harder to give context and insight to music. There’s no album sleeve to explore; no liner notes or lyrics. At the same time, in answer to the digital revolution – and the loss of income that comes along with this for musicians (+) – we’re also seeing independent artists and the industry alike place increasing importance on the live experience.
As music writer Craig Havighurst recently lamented here, this shift to an iTunes-led world presents a challenge to creative musicians looking to write more than a good hook:
‘When we don’t feed the mind as well as the ears, we make temporarily engaged consumers of a lifestyle product, not music lovers.’
So we wanted to experiment with what design could bring to the table in a live setting. How could careful consideration of context and the design of a space influence how the music was received?
Dan’s music is as thoughtful as it is playful, and the exhibition (just as the artwork before) was designed as a creative way to give insight into the inspiration behind Dan’s music.
‘The objects and accompanying gallery-style notes gave a unique way for the audience to delve a little bit into my music, and meant the gig could be performed with no explanations or interludes making for a much more immersive performance.’ – Dan Green
We also wanted to use the exhibition to help make the experience of the album launch stick in peoples mind; to set the tone, help it stand out, raise questions and pique the listener’s curiosity. In short, we wanted to achieve all the things that an album cover should do for a record, but in a live setting. And just as any album cover should, we wanted to attract new listeners to Dan’s music – not just by offering an added ‘extra’ at the gig, but by presenting the launch in a non-music venue we aimed to give a new, and hopefully sympathetic, audience access to Dan’s music.
‘The gig was an incredibly satisfying experience. By presenting my music in a gallery setting, the audience’s reaction was informed significantly by the venue itself – a traditional arts setting. As a result the audience were respectful of the conceptual nature of the music and visuals and I was truly thrilled by their willingness to listen and immerse themselves in the overall project.’ – Dan Green
The Gallery was packed out for the launch and it was fantastic to see the music received so well, but in case you missed it you can check out a taster of the sounds of Victor RPA here.
Our guide to the sounds and artefacts of Victor RPA:
 Introduction: Travel Guide
Exploring the contrast between the beautiful and the everyday – the romantic and the banal.
The train ticket is innocuous, disposable, nothing of note and yet offers access to the experiences we treasure most – travel, adventure, love, family… as well as trips to and from the daily grind.
 Boxing Day
Boxing Day addresses the experience of drug withdrawal and ‘come downs’.
After all, there are too many songs written about Christmas Day.
 Four Digits
Whether it is to unlock a mobile phone or withdraw money, the necessity of four digits to access all amenities, people and entertainment has infiltrated our lives.
 No More Love
A tribute to Manchester-based composer, Vini Reilly.
 One Time Only
Exploring the protection that both bravado and naivety offer. The vulnerable can so often become the predator, the predator so often the vulnerable.
 My Global Village
Inspired by a term coined by Marshall McLuhan, My Global Village is written about social media and the notion that we are in touch with more people, but speak less.
Just as with social networks, the beehive offers a simulation of the natural environment – the instinctual requirements, social structures and biological necessities remain intact. The inhabitants might not ever notice the difference from the inside, yet the hive ultimately gives up its spoils to the beekeeper, not the bees.
 Link: Travel Companion
 White Ceiling Light
The passion and paranoia, intimacy and insecurity. The white ceiling light sees it all.