Yesterday my daughter and I went to see the Objects of disobedience exhibition at the V&A museum in London. Exhibited, was a wealth of unusual objects that have been and are used in movements to protest against laws and to topple governments. Interestingly, the objects range from things that are considered harmless such as teacups and things which symbolize provocation such as a spray can or a balaclava. As one of the exhibition notices read, there is no protest aesthetic. Activists work by media necessary, from mobilising folk traditions to using the latest technology; from interventions on the ground to actions on the internet. While viewing the objects, I did question the ‘no protest aesthetic’ remark. Probably it is not intentional to make objects such as paintings, stencils, badges, sculptures, vehicles etc, pleasing to the eye but the South American tapestries (Oppressive rule in Chile 1973-1989) with their bold colours and intricate stich work were a fantastic spectacle as was the Tiki Love Cherokee jeep (2007) decked out in decorative Polynesian design mosaic tiles.
Below are just a few examples with photos and a video of the objects and their purposes from my notes at the exhibition:
BADGES– Badges against apartheid. Badges to support the struggle against apartheid. (South Africa 1980-1994)
BOOK SHIELDS– book blocs shield us to represent ideas and understanding in the face of violence. Often used in demonstrations by activists with non-violent intentions. (Manchester/London 2011)
VIDEO– Barbie Liberation Organisation- Anti sexual stereotyping (U.S.A. 1993)
SCULPTURE– Guerrilla girls feminist group- synthetic fur and rubber. Exposing sexism in the art world. (U.S.A. 1989)
VISUAL ARTS– Stencils used for artwork to protest in Syria. Graffiti can be executed quickly and clandestinely as possible. Fighting for freedom. (Syria 2012)
BIKE BLOCS– Mass civil disobedience against the COP15 climate summit. Machines of creative resistance. Organized in swarms bike blocs formed blockades and decoys supporting thousands on foot. (Copenhagen 2009)
Other objects of disobedience included t-shirts, banners, newspapers, defaced currency, catapults, PET bottles and guerrilla do-it-yourself manuals which incidentally, looked remarkably similar to the illustrations in The Anarchist Cookbook (1971).