Disobedient Objects was a V&A exhibition that looked at objects used in protest and social change. As curators put it “It demonstrated how political activism drives a wealth of design ingenuity and collective creativity that defy standard definitions of art and design.” Objects dates from 1970s to present day and ranged in size from small badges to an inflatable cobble stone suspended from the ceiling.
Personally, I loved the look of the exhibition space itself. The display cases were made using plywood and scaffolding poles to fit with the Do-it-yourself theme. It added to the rustic feel and made a change from the usual pristine white walls that you associate with galleries. In some of the cases, there were instructions for how to make the objects and the guides are also on their website. The guides for how to make a gas mask were reportedly used during the protests in Ferguson, USA last year.
A few pieces from the collection really stood out to me. First was a news clip played on a TV talking about toys which had been modified to highlight gender stereotyping in children’s play things. They switched the voice boxes from Barbies with G-I Joe figures and vise-versa. It was less life threatening than some of the other issues being discussed, but I still think it was very effective. Also, it is something that I can relate to working in a toy shop because I often hear parents telling children that they can’t have a certain toy because its meant for the opposite gender. It’s a little disheartening and usually it’s followed by a temper tantrum. I see no reason why little boys can’t play with dolls and girls with trucks, providing that it makes them happy.
Another piece that I liked was an interactive game about the working conditions in factories. This one isn’t meant for young children as you control guards whose job is to catch the people jumping off of the roof. Of course, the game is un-winnable because as time ticks on more and more employees descend from the roof top. As you’re playing a voice over describes what’s happening. I enjoyed actually being able to play the game and it’s one that I went away thinking about afterwards. For a while they’re just pixels on a screen and then you realise just how many real life people they represent.
The last pieces I wanted to talk about are the Gorilla Girl outfits and billboard. I remembered briefly seeing something about it on the news a few years ago, but actually seeing the sign and reading about their aims in one of the biggest museums in London really made it hit home. The costumes were a little terrifying but you’d definitely want to know what someone wearing them had to say. Who isn’t going to bring up the fact they saw a gorilla on the way to work this morning?
Overall, it’s one of the best free exhibitions I’ve been to in a while and I walked away with a new in sight into activism. It also opened my eyes to some issues that I’d not been aware of and showed that there’s more than one way to get your point across.