V&A exhibition to celebrate objects
designed for political protests

| 3 comments
More:
 

Objects designed to support political activism including a graffiti-writing robot and a giant inflatable cobblestone made to be thrown at police will form the focus of an exhibition opening this summer at London's V&A museum.

V and A exhibition to celebrate objects designed for political protests
Coral Stoakes, I wish my boyfriend was as dirty as your policies. Image courtesy of the V&A Museum. Main image: Inflatable cobblestone, action of Eclectic Electric Collective during the General Strike in Barcelona. Image courtesy of Oriana Eliçabe/Enmedio.info

Disobedient Objects will open at the V&A on 26 July and will be the first exhibition to present innovative examples of art and design developed by countercultures to communicate political messages or facilitate protests.

V and A exhibition to celebrate objects designed for political protests
Occupy London Stock Exchange, Capitalism is Crisis banner. Image courtesy of Immo Klink

"Social movement cultures aren't normally collected by museums, with the exception of prints and posters," the exhibition's co-curator Gavin Grindon told Dezeen. "We wanted to raise the question of this absence of other kinds of disobedient objects in the museum."

V and A exhibition to celebrate objects designed for political protests
The Zapatista Revolution, The Zapatista, Mexico. Image courtesy of the V&A Museum

The objects that will be exhibited were created by non-professional designers, mostly using craft methods or adhoc manufacturing processes.

These include a variety of dolls, masks and puppets such as the tableau created by American group, The Bread and Puppet Theatre, which was used in protests against the first Gulf War.

V and A exhibition to celebrate objects designed for political protests
The Bread and Puppet Theatre, Tableau of three puppets. Photograph by Jonathan Slaff

Craft skills such as sewing will be represented by items including hand-stitched textiles from Chile that document political violence and a banner created for the Unite union in the UK.

Painted banners and placards featuring humorous or evocative slogans have also been selected.

V and A exhibition to celebrate objects designed for political protests
Chilean Arpilleras wall hanging: Dónde están nuestros hijos, Chile Roberta Bacic's collection. Photograph by Martin Melaugh

Grindon, who is an academic specialising in the history of activist art and current research fellow at the V&A, participated in activist movements and organised workshops with protesters to find out which objects would be most suitable for the exhibition.

V and A exhibition to celebrate objects designed for political protests
Banner for UNITE the union at the march in support of the NHS in Manchester. Photography by Ed Hall

"The show is about existing design so it made sense to use a documentary approach to find examples of things that have actually been made," Grindon explained. "None of this stuff is professionally designed, it's just happening in the public sphere in various ways."

V and A exhibition to celebrate objects designed for political protests
L J Roberts, Gaybashers, Come and Get It, USA. Image courtesy of Blanca Garcia

Other objects set to feature in the show include a shiny inflatable cobblestone thrown at police by Spanish protestors in 2012 as a harmless version of a weapon traditionally used by rioters.

A robot called Graffiti Writer that paints slogans on road surfaces illustrates a more high-tech approach to creating protest tools.

V and A exhibition to celebrate objects designed for political protests
Graffiti Writer (Robot for writing street graffiti). Image courtesty of the Institute for Applied Autonomy, USA

Spanning a period from the 1970s to the present day, the exhibition will include newspaper cuttings, how-to guides and film content to provide additional levels of context.

One specially commissioned film will document the evolution of "lock-on" devices used by protesters to attach themselves to objects or blockade sites.

V and A exhibition to celebrate objects designed for political protests
Guerrilla Girls. Image courtesy of George Lange

Objects and imagery will be displayed alongside a text from the curators as well as explanations from the activists about how they came up with the ideas and how they were used.

V and A exhibition to celebrate objects designed for political protests
Bone china with transfers printed in green, bearing the emblem of the Women's Social and Political Union (WSPU). Image courtesy of V&A Museum

"What we'd like people to take away from the exhibition is the idea that design isn't always about professional practice - it's something that people can get involved in themselves," said Grindon. "The actors changing the world are doing so using something that they have in their hands already."

V and A exhibition to celebrate objects designed for political protests
Occupy George overprinted dollar bill. Image courtesy of Andy Dao and Ivan Cash

The exhibition's approach to identifying and procuring objects is in line with the "rapid response" curatorial process introduced by the V&A recently, which has seen it acquire objects including Katy Perry eyelashes and the world's first 3D-printed gun.

V and A exhibition to celebrate objects designed for political protests
Bike Bloc Graphic Poster, Anonymous. Image courtesy of the V&A Museum

Disobedient Objects will be on show at the V&A from 26 July 2014 until 1 February 2015.