If the Star Wars Identities exhibition at the Powerhouse was a person they’d have a serious personality disorder.
The brilliant part of the exhibition is the memorabilia from the movies. There are early sketches and ideas – Yoda might have been called Buffy! – models, props, and so on. If you are in to Star Wars then it’s captivating stuff; but even if you’re just interested in the depth of thinking that goes in to creating a movie, it’s totally worth a visit.
But when this exhibition was conceived they obviously decided that they needed more. Something to provide more of an educational arc that would bring the schools in. So the theme is all about understanding what goes in to creating a person’s identity, the things that influence who you are. And it’s that that makes the whole experience feel like you’re being inducted into some sort of weird cult based on personality tests.
Upon entering the show you are given a headset and a wrist band. The headset gives you access to audio in a way which is so tightly directional that you need instructions on how to use it. The wrist-band is used to record choices you can make at ten stations along the path through the exhibition.
The audio and short films tell you about things such as the influence your parents have on you, how DNA shapes you, and so on. It’s armchair psychology made into an interactive game.
The interactive element is you choosing things to make up your own Star Wars character. This is probably the most disappointing element of the whole thing. It’s quite fun and engaging along the way but the end result says nothing – it’s just a summary of the choices you made. And from the sample of the people I went with, most of the choices were made on the basis of what would make the most amusing end character.
It all could lead to something if your choices made for a conclusion. But that the final point where you could be assigned to the dark or light sides of the force, you get to make your own choice that has nothing to do with your earlier choices.
Look, I get that they needed to have an educational element to make an exhibition like this work for school groups and so on. And they did a good job on the individual bits. That said, put together it seemed weird and poorly executed. It also takes up so much of the available airspace it’s impossible not to concentrate on it.
And you shouldn’t concentrate on it. The underlying stuff from the films is far more interesting and entertaining. That’s what makes this worth a visit, especially if you have any level of interest in the movies. Chewbacca was inspired by a dog riding shotgun in George Lucas’ car, and voiced by combining bear and seal sounds. Jabba the Hutt was impossible to make real until the third movie, at which point he was inserted into the first movie. I still can’t get over how different the universe would be if Yoda had been called Buffy and looked like a garden gnome.
Go and see Star Wars Identities for the memorabilia. Make the wrist-waving choices as you go. Don’t get too caught up in, or expect too much, from the rest of it.
All the details and tickets are here.