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Exhibition review: Disobedient Objects
Amalia Loizidou reviews the Disobedient Objects exhibition at London's V&A museum
This exhibition takes people on a journey through protests around the world and across time through objects, protest art and design. A Unite union banner saying: "Still the enemy within" greets visitors; this refers to how Thatcher talked of striking miners in the 1980s. The exhibition is full of DIY protest objects - some of which normally have a completely different use.
There is the lid of a cooking pot, used in Argentina around 2001 in protests against the bank accounts of millions being frozen. These protests led to the fall of four different presidents in three weeks. Next to it was a teacup and saucepan from the Women's Social and Political Union, the suffragettes' movement in Britain.
Other objects included a self-made gas mask used by protesters in Turkey in the Gezi park movement and the red square cut-out used as a solidarity symbol for the 2012 Quebec student protests.
A moving feature was the Arpilleras, appliquéd textiles made by women in South America. One of them celebrated the fall of dictator Pinochet in Chile; others were calls of hope and to remember the children who disappeared.
This exhibition also shows the guerrilla girls' gorilla masks, a feminist group of artists who were protesting the lack of female artists' representation in New York's Metropolitan Museum. You can learn about the history of the "bust cards" made in case of the arrest of protesters, explaining to them their rights and legal procedures.
There were placards from the 2011 student demos in Britain against increasing university tuition fees and abolishing the EMA. Wherever you stand in the exhibition a huge banner watches over you, saying "Capitalism Is Crisis". It's a pleasant surprise in a museum - Victoria and Albert (V&A) - named after royalty!
We went to the exhibition the day after the TUC "Britain needs a pay rise" demo in London. So it was good to see stickers from the V&A staff and the PCS union, with slogans about the living wage on the description panels.
Another good feature was a wall covered with current campaigns' material such as leaflets (including Socialism 2014 flyers) and also knickers with slogans about the abortion rights movement in Ireland.
This exhibition can teach you about movements in different places of the world and different moments in time that you might not know about. It even has items that you might have been using yourself while demonstrating for your rights. It will make you smile at objects produced for the different movements. It can also make you cry.
It will certainly leave you inspired about all the struggles across the world and across time. It shows how the baton is now in your hands to fight for your own rights and your own future. The exhibition, on until 1 February 2015 is definitely recommended! And it's free!
In The Socialist 12 November 2014:
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