The recently opened Disobedient Objects exhibition at the V&A is based around the idea of design being used to convert every day objects into items of protest. This ranged from hastily made gas masks, banners and placards to an intricately decorated car, subversive dwarf hats and tapestries. They incorporated protests from across the world and illustrated the necessity of invention.
The exhibition also included a series of videos, featuring protests past and present, which I felt brought many of the objects to life. They demonstrated the practical demands which the carefully curated artefacts were subjected to when used as intended. In fact, the exhibition ended by stating that many of the objects would return to use after their time at the V&A.
Badges against Apartheid rub shoulders with faked newspapers and revolutionary appliqué. The outfits of the Guerrilla Girls stand beneath a glittery unicorn banner fighting transphobia. The scope of the exhibition demonstrates that while there are many issues that have been solved through protest, many remain to be fought.
The one complaint I have against the exhibition is that it tries to show too much in such a small space. There is not a clear route around the exhibits so it was often crowded without need. These crowds build up further when people attempt to watch the main video being streamed as there is not much space to watch it without blocking other exhibits. Nevertheless, the exhibition is free and I appreciate the limitations of the gallery available.
These clever book shields turn the violence of those being fought against them. Originally from student protests in Rome against funding cuts they created a tableau of police beating down literature and knowledge when pictures were published in newspapers. The idea has quickly spread across the world.
My personal favourite of the exhibition was the video they featured on the Barbie Liberation Organisation. In 1991 speaking Barbies and G.I. Joes had their voice boxes swapped before being replaced in their boxes at the stores. When customers bought these revamped toys they were surprised to find Barbie’s sentiments changed.
The simplicity of the idea and the unusual approach really demonstrates the arbitrariness of boundaries which have slowly been created and accepted.
The exhibition is completely free and will continue until 1st February 2015 so there’s plenty of time to visit as often as you like!