‘Disobedient Objects’ Exhibition at The V&A Museum
“Civil disobedience becomes a sacred duty when the state becomes lawless and corrupt” – Ghandi
Currently exhibiting at the V&A Museum in London is ‘Disobedient Objects’. This is the first exhibition of its kind to bring together a diverse range of objects and creative items which have been used for protest, activism and movements for social change.
I was itching to go to this exhibition when I heard of it and so whilst on a day workshop in London I couldn’t resist the opportunity to go along!
The exhibition is just to the left of the main entrance and gift shop, with its title displayed upon a crowd control metal fence! Metal bars like these, feature throughout the space along with pallet stacks and wooden blockades, making you feel as though you have entered a protest camp.
One of the first exhibits I saw were three giant puppets by Bread and Puppet Theatre – an Iraqi woman holding a corpse, with two white gloved, businessmen behind her. The puppets (and many more similar to them) have been used for demonstration marches against wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, amongst other parades. It’s a striking image of what capitalism, oil, power, and money can cost. Not only that, but puppets I love, especially when used for protest! They have a way of mocking, and can both intimidate or protect in a situation of conflict, depending on how they are used.
Numerous banners and textiles feature throughout the exhibition, such as a large banner across the centre ‘Capitalism IS Crisis’, used at the 2009 Climate Camp at Blackheath. To the right of the exhibition entrance is a knitted ‘Nike’ banner created by Cat Mazza, made from 500 knitted squares. Each square represents a signature from craft workers against the exploitation of labour by global corporations. On the far left of the room, there is an appliqued fabric ‘arpilleras’ from Chile displayed in a glass frame. It shows chained fists, watchful eyes and falling doves representing the disappearance of children and loved ones by the military Junta from 1979. Many of these were made and on the back of them it was common to find a small pocket with a letter tucked inside.
The soundscape as you walk through the exhibition is somewhat unnerving whilst also slightly exhilarating! A video projection plays at the back with the sounds of various street parties and demonstrations – the music, the drums and the chants and cries filling the space. I couldn’t help but feel excited by the carnival of noise filling the room. There is also a ‘Bike Bloc’ fitted with a sound system playing music. The Bike Bloc was used in 2009 by Climate Camp in Copenhagen, as part of the Reclaim Power protests during the 15th Climate Summit. Hundreds of bikes were made creating blockades and decoys, to transmit broadcasts and to transport needed items, from food to compost toilets.
The ‘Tiki Love Truck’ is another vehicle in the room which was used in the First Art Car parade in Manchester in 2007. Carrie Reichardt was commissioned by ‘Walk The Plank’ to decorate the car, which is covered in brightly coloured mosaic tiles, flower garlands and has revolution, freedom & justice quotes written along the sides. The Tiki Love Truck carried the death mask of John Joe Amador, a friend of Carrie’s who was sentenced to death and executed in 2007 by the state of Texas. The truck continues to tour festivals making a statement against the death penalty.
Feminist action appears with an installation of mannequins imitating the Guerrilla Girls, along with one of their banner posters, ‘Do women have to be naked to get in to the Met. Museum’. The Guerrilla Girls were founded in 1985 and created interventions with humour to expose the art world’s corruption, sexism and racism. For example, the banner says ‘Less than 5% of the artists in the Modern Art sections are women, but 85% of the nudes are female’.
One corner of the exhibition is assigned for future disobedient objects, where leaflets, badges, flyers, t-shirts, bags and other items have been pinned to the wall, along with various facts and quotes. If you visit the exhibition and have an object of disobedience you’d like to add, then make sure to take it along with you and add it to the wall!
From stencils of Martyrs and defaced currency to inflatable objects, homemade drones and even a robot to drive in to dangerous zones to paint street art, this exhibition demonstrates the artistry, creativity and profound innovative creations which are not often seen. The exhibition is running until the 1st February, so make sure you catch it before it goes!
I shall leave this post with one of my favourite quotes “The law locks up the man or woman who steals the goose from off the common, but leaves the greater felon loose who steals the common from the goose” – Anon, 17th Century.
For more information about the ‘Disobedient Objects’ exhibition click here
To read our blog of our own knitted blanket click here!
Robynne Willowby, January 2015