Written by Tamara Klopper
As a Master’s student Arts & Culture, specialization Design Cultures, I am completing a research project on an upcoming exhibition at The Museum of Bags Amsterdam. This small museum houses in a historical canal house originally built as a residence. That is why you experience a personal atmosphere when walking around here. People visiting the museum tell me they find it surprisingly interesting.
Handbags are like small sculptures, revealing information about the people wearing them. They reveal a lot about tastes, desires and intentions. In fact, the handbag is all about fashion as communication. I find this particularly interesting. As a student Design Cultures, you learn to analyze everyday objects to understand the ideologies and beliefs of people. On this point the specialization Design Cultures connects very well to the new direction the Museum of Bags is taking by preparing future exhibitions towards the idea of fashion as communication.
The upcoming exhibition I am working on is about bags as objects of seduction and suspense in films. Several filmmakers have assigned the handbag a starring role. In fact, in iconic films of Hitchcock and other directors the handbag is like an actor that does things, and it follows its own plotline.
When studying on scenes of the handbags in films of several great directors they tell you a “second story”, revealing crucial information on the intentions of the male and female protagonists. Thus, the handbag is a silent narrator informing you in a visual way, this is a subtle, poetic and effective way to convey what moves the protagonists but is left unsaid.
I have watched a great many movies, read plenty of books about design- and film theory, and I have carried out visual analyses on the most interesting scenes involving the bag. I did this in the offices of the museum, at home and in a cabin at the EYE Collection Centre where students and researchers can work conveniently.
Now I am in my fourth and last month of the research period, dedicated to the writing of the narrative of the exhibition, and to exploring several contexts which touch the subject such as feminism and the ties between films and the fashion industry in France, Italy and North America. It is the most interesting project I can imagine.
In the museum’s depot with the Kelly bag of Hermès, an often-seen “actor” in films.
The cabins of EYE Collection Center are a great place for studying moving images.
In the 1950s these transparent purses called “lucite bags” were worn by Hollywood actresses off-screen.
These are recent acquisitions including the bag “Sculpture” designed by Off-White’s Virgil Abloh for Ikea.