Saturday 20 January 2018

Viktor Wynd's Museum of Curiosities

Ever since reading about Viktor Wynds Museum of Curiosities I have been eager to pay a visit to this fascinatingly fantastical place. Finally a trip to London to soak up some culture and indulge in some Heavy Metal provided the opportunity to pay the museum a visit for myself. I thought had a fair idea of what to expect, having read articles, seen some photos and been given the Viktor Wynd Cabinet of Wonders book for Christmas. But nothing could prepare me for the reality of this treasury of the beautifully bizarre tucked away in East London.

The striking monochrome exterior instantly stands out amongst the kebab shops and pubs of South Hackney. With windows hazed with the fog of condensation the curiosity of what waits within is only increased. The atmosphere inside is bustling and electric. The bar is jammed with people and the chatter and excitement that comes with it. A party was being held in the back room, and the front was equally bustling, but with a little vigilance and patience a seat became available to rest my weary leg and indulge in a little tipple.

The upstairs is a taster for the senses, with exhibits dotted around to intrigue the inquisitive as you sip on your choice of refreshments. A goats hoof and candle sticks crafted from some hairy mammal sat behind us next to a wooden carving of a horned man, Pan, Satan, a Satyr, possibly even Puck. Exotic fish swim nearby in a tropical tank and I resist the temptation to interrupt a couples quiet drink to ask to see the Kapala Skull behind them.

Descending down from the land of skeleton specimens hanging from the ceiling and cocktail shakers rattling like teeth on a fair ride you enter the inner sanctum of strange. Immediately you are greeted by a whole host of weird wonders to observe. A creature which reminds me of the Fiji Mermaid, taxidermy Squirrels playing cards, an enormous bosomed golden mannequin, Viktor's famous sequinned suit, skeletal birds ridden by butterflies, ants and a whole host of creatures. The eclectic collection of strange specimens, books and objects leaves you in an overwhelmed frenzy wondering where to put your eyes next.

As you wander around the narrow maze of cabinets full of mysterious artefacts and bizarre memorabilia there's a mass of strange things to suit every penchant. Pornography, taxidermy, puppets, masks, bizarre books, sculptures, skulls, medical dioramas, prints, shells, shrunken heads. The list is endless. But there's certainly no shortage of surreal and strange sights to soak up during a visit.

It quite quickly became apparent to me that what others around me seemed to be perceiving as random, chaotic placement of items I was often finding quite logical, and now and then spied a witty pun or comment hiding behind the collection of items. My particular favourite was the plastic phallus beside a book called 'The glands of destiny' and some neatly placed perfectly white eggs. Certainly raised a smile. It was an incredibly intriguing thought that through all these items Viktor is making comments,statements, or simply expressing thoughts, some clearly more obvious than others, and I got the feeling that even with a lifetime to decipher it all you wouldn't even come close.

After a while lurking around the cases and gazing in wonder, grabbing my camera and snapping some more every time I spotted something which 'spoke to me' in a particular way I suddenly realised that the majority of people around me were reacting quite differently. Most seemed to gawk in horror, or feel the need to announce to the world what they did and didn't like, or what they found repulsive or horrid. While I hovered around silently soaking it all up like a gleeful sponge. In that moment I remembered a French phrase I'd had somebody impart on me many years ago 'C'est Marginale.'. For a long time I've known I fall into the strange, dark category of 'C'est Marginale', and quite clearly Viktor Wynd does, but I began to get the feeling a lot of these people probably didn't, and the view into the mind of someone a little 'different' by their standards was really unsettling them. An odd thing to bear witness to, and honestly, often quite amusing.

I enjoyed seeing the incredible, eclectic collection of Viktor Wynd as much as I had hoped, and probably far more. I got a real sense that, like at the Pitt Rivers Museum I was seeing a snapshot of countless different cultures and customs. With the incredible, exotic death rituals of distant lands, wonders of the natural world, and importantly; wonders of peoples mind and creativity the Museum is a non-stop feast for the senses. All given an incredibly personal feeling by the fact that this is Viktor's collection and his ultimate expression of himself. As a fellow collector and if were being unkind; obsessive hoarder, I feel I understand and relate to the fascinating assembly of items which Viktor has amassed, a goal which I can only dream of one day achieving for myself.

A truly inspirational, awe-inspiring experience for anyone falling into the category of 'C'est Marginale'. Considering a voyage into the weird world of Wynd? Visit the website to find out more ...

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