Art and protest collide at the V&A’s new ’Disobedient Objects’ show

Disobedient Objects
A new show at the V&A in London, ‘Disobedient Objects’, presents four decades worth of protest art, agit-props and other devices of dissent.
(Image credit: © Victoria and Albert Museum, London)

The inflatable cobblestone is a large blow up silver cube. It was devised by the Eclectic Electric Collective and used during strikes and protests in Berlin and Barcelona in 2012. And may pop up at a protest near you some time soon.

Designed to be thrown at the police instead of actual cobblestones - the traditional protest ballistic -  it either ties them up in the tiresome business of deflating it; trying to squeeze it into the back of a van, a potentially comic process requiring a good deal of manpower; or engaging them in a bouncy back and forth, play or absurdity replacing violence and hostility.

It's just one of the 99 exhibits (one space is left for a late addition, the struggle continues and all that) at the V&A’s new ‘Disobedient Objects’ show (opens in new tab), a collection of four decades worth of protest art (and apps), agit-props and other devices of dissent; from a graffiti writing robot to Chilean textile storytelling, most of it borrowed from activist groups. There is also a cup and saucer set from the permanent collection, branded with the suffragettes symbol which oddly looks like the Starbucks logo.

The show’s co-curator Gavin Grindon says it's a collection of 'art and design from below' and an area criminally over-looked by institutions. This small but definitely significant exhibition is especially strong at looking at the ‘alternative infrastructure’ that protest groups often offer, from maps to the inflatable general assembly by 123Occupy (inflatables are big in contemporary protest) and signage produced by the Occupy Sandy movement (opens in new tab). When Hurricane Sandy hit New York many of those involved in the Occupy Wall Street protests decided they had the collective will, organisational skills and practical know-how to lead the recovery efforts - they were right.

It’s just a shame the show has been crammed into such a small space, even if Jonathan Barnbrook’s graphics and the exhibition design by the V&A’s Line Lund keep things clear and vital. 

Disobedient Objects

This small but definitely significant exhibition is especially strong at looking at the ‘alternative infrastructure’ that protest groups often offer. The 'Bike Bloc', for example, was part of the mass civil disobedience against the COP15 climate summit in 2009. 

(Image credit: © Victoria and Albert Museum, London)

Disobedient Objects

'Inflatable Cobblestone', was devised by the Eclectic Electric Collective in cooperation with Enmedio collective, and used during the General Strike in Barcelona 2012. 

(Image credit: © Oriana Eliáabe -Enmedio.info)

Disobedient Objects

Signage produced by the Occupy Sandy movement, 2012. When Hurricane Sandy hit New York many of those involved in the Occupy Wall Street protests decided they had the collective will, organisational skills and practical know-how to lead the recovery efforts

(Image credit: press)

Disobedient Objects

'The Tiki Love Truck', by Carrie Reichardt of the The Treatment Rooms, was originally commissioned by outdoor performance specialists Walk the Plank. This mosaic-covered pick-up truck is dedicated to the memory of a death-row inmate. 

(Image credit: © Victoria and Albert Museum, London)

Disobedient Objects

Detail of 'The Tiki Love Truck'. 

(Image credit: Courtesy of The Treatment Rooms Collective)

Disobedient Objects

A graffiti writing robot, by the Institute for Applied Autonomy, 1998, is just one of the 99 exhibits on show. 

(Image credit: Courtesy of Institute for Applied Autonomy)

Disobedient Objects

Other works, most of it borrowed from activist groups, include an example of Chilean textile storytelling. 

(Image credit: Courtesy of Martin Melaug)

Disobedient Objects

There is also a cup and saucer set from the permanent collection, branded with the suffragettes symbol which oddly looks like the Starbucks logo. 

(Image credit: © Victoria and Albert Museum, London)

Disobedient Objects

'Gorilla masks' and ‘Do Women Have to Be Naked to Get into the Met Museum?’, 1989 (reprinted in 2014), both by the Guerrilla Girls. 

(Image credit: © Victoria and Albert Museum, London)

'Graffiti Stencils from Syria', by Zaher Omareen and Ibrahim Fakhri, 2012. 

'Graffiti Stencils from Syria', by Zaher Omareen and Ibrahim Fakhri, 2012. 

(Image credit: © Victoria and Albert Museum, London)

Jonathan Barnbrook’s sharp graphics and exhibition design keeps things clear and vital.

Jonathan Barnbrook’s sharp graphics and exhibition design keeps things clear and vital. 

(Image credit: © Victoria and Albert Museum, London)

'Book bloc', London, December 2010.

'Book bloc', London, December 2010. 

(Image credit: Courtesy of Indymedia)

Installation view of 'Disobedient Objects'.

Installation view of 'Disobedient Objects'.

(Image credit: © Victoria and Albert Museum, London)

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