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V&A/RCA History of Design (MA)

David Tsui

The Polymath

I am an architect by training and my goal is to become a polymath with a specific interest in curating and writing.

A Jean Paul Gaultier 'Classique'  Eau de Toilette 100ml Perfume Bottle.

The Story Teller

I am interested in researching everyday objects and their significance in our lives, often objects linked to past performance such as fashion shows, concerts, theatre and circus, to name a few. My job as a future design historian is to excavate their past from fragments of historical evidence and to compile such data into a readable and comprehensive format. The purpose is to construct a narrative with the support of appropriate theoretical and methodological frameworks, hence pushing the argument forward. It is in my view that all objects have a story to tell, I therefore interpret them as people and subsequently, it is possible to develop personal and emotional relationships with them. With this view in mind, whilst we reveal the material culture of objects, we are also revealing a part of ourselves reflectively and this anthropological dynamic is what motivates me.

A Victoria and Albert Museum postcard of a pair of super elevated gillie heels, accession number: T.225:1, 2-1993.
A Victoria and Albert Museum postcard of a pair of super elevated gillie heels, accession number: T.225:1, 2-1993.

I have since written a small piece of writing titled 'The Postcard' which relates to the uploaded image of a Victoria and Albert Museum postcard and it is my pleasure to be able to share this with you.

The Postcard

           I was only thirteen when I first saw that picture—can’t remember exactly where; after all, it has been thirty years. Possibly I might have seen it in a friend’s house whilst flicking through his mother’s magazines (very likely to be something like Hello! Or OK!) or on the newsstand in my local newsagent, either after school (or when I was supposed to be in school). Anything is possible at this point but none of that really matters because nothing in my surroundings (then) could have offered that level of excitement, drama and glamour—the blood-orangey, red carpet-like catwalk. Pedestaling a shimmering plum velvet blazer, hugged by a cloud of fuchsia pink feathers and obviously, those heavenly yet impossible heels. Of course, there is Naomi; I’ve always liked her—think we have a lot in common. We are both mixed-race part Chinese, British, tall, slender, and not bad looking either. It was different then, being brought up in Rathfarnham -a sleepy middle- class suburb down South and right behind our four-bedroom semi-detached house is the Dublin Mountains, the air is pretty fresh out there but it rains a lot, that’s why the grass is always green in Ireland. School was fun and everybody was white, church was fine and everybody was also white. The neighbours are nice and white too; I must have been the only one who was not white within the radius of three or four miles—which is a great deal of distance for a boy by the way. To see someone like that was rather comforting, as well as reassuring—made me feel less alone.

         Until recently, I saw you in a museum gift shop by chance, behind a parade of visitors and wandering school kids. Actually, there is a photograph of you on a postcard (to be precise) and my, oh, my, that was a bit of a shock. Like seeing the familiar face of a childhood friend from next door, suddenly reappearing in my reality without any prior warning. They told me the shoes are in Blythe House until next year, so I guess this little card is the closest thing to the real deal.

So how have you been after all this time? Much has happened in my life since and I don’t even know where to begin: transitioning from a boy to an adolescent to a man was not easy, to say the least. But one doesn’t seem to have changed—still blue and eccentric; they talk about you a lot in the press and on TV, in case one hasn’t noticed. I sincerely hope life treats you well. Now tell me yours and I shall tell you more—my dear old friend, how has the journey been so far? What is your story? I will help you reveal it.