Disobedient Objects is an exhibition at the V&A running until February 2015 which showcases various objects used by activists as a form of protest and resistance. The objects displayed range from the late 1970’s to the present, involving a variety of different movements. Unlike other exhibits, Disobedient Objects is not just a display of activist art but rather a collection of objects used as the physical tools of protest (direct action), making it the first ever major exhibition to focus on this.
Some of the objects in the exhibition were just everyday objects used in protest, and the action of being used provided them with their symbolic meaning.The suffragettes used everyday objects such as tea sets marked with the suffragette ‘angel of freedom’ motif, using them as ‘propaganda tools to promote the movement, most elegantly, in a bid to convert their ‘anti’ neighbours’.
Other objects already possessed a historical context associated with resistance, and the use of these in modern day protest was to connect that event with the past. An example of this was an exhibit featuring dented cooking pots from a protest in Argentina in 2012, the dents being the result of protesters banging on the pots like drums. Pot banging protests are symbolic in Argentina as it is reminiscent of protest tactics used during the 2001-2002 economic and political crisis.
The exhibition also features artistic objects that were created to represent a specific movement and designed to displayed. One such display item was the Tiki Love Truck, created by mosaic artist Carrie Reichardt. The Tiki Love Truck is a colourful memorial to John Joe Amador who was executed by the state of Texas. Reichardt, with the help of John’s family and friends made a death mask soon after his execution placing it on the center of the Tiki Love Truck. The Truck later toured around Britain to protest against the death penalty.
Other items featured at the V&A’s Disobedient Objects include props that were designed for performance at protests, such as the inflatables cubes seen below.
The co-curator Gaven Grindon says that the exhibition was designed “to show the collective power these domestic objects can have when grabbed and re-purposed with political intent.”
Although the people behind each of the protest movements featured at the exhibition have their motives and history, I found that what ultimately unites them all is a need to channel feelings of resistance and objection into objects/symbols of art and expression. As Jeanette Winters states, “Art is a continuum, passed down from hand to hand, lost, rediscovered, found in objects as proof of a living spirit that defies the orthodoxy of materialism. If war flattened London tomorrow, someone would start to make an installation out of the rubble.”
You can still see disobedient objects at the V&A until February 2015