After making our way through a maze of nude stone sculptures, we found ourselves at the Disobedient Objects exhibition at the V&A.
In this very monumental and ornate museum, this exhibition almost seems ironically placed; ‘Disobedient Objects’ observes the roles that a range of seemingly ordinary items have had in political protests and social movements. (Very unlike the other displays on offer i.e. the Wedding dresses and Indian jewellery.)
In this exhibition a number of contributors have told the stories behind each object, and each object breaks the boundaries of traditional art and design.
One of the first things I noticed was a small familiarity between the thinking behind this exhibition and the origins of zines, our current project. This idea was particularly present in the description of the ‘Poor in Means, Rich in Ends’ puppet display which explained: “Many of the objects in this exhibition were produced under pressure with few resources.” “Some of them may appear rough or unfinished but they are all thoughtful responses to complex situations.” This is very true to the original creation of zines which were made with whatever was available, yet were intimate and meaningful.
As my zine is based around Feminism, I was really intrigued by the Guerrilla Girls display.
Forming in 1985, this group of feminist artists put on gorilla masks, so that attention wasn’t drawn to them as people, but to their idea. The Guerrilla Girls protested against the representation of women in art; one of their observations was that less than 4% of the artists in the Met, New York, were women, whilst 76% of the nude artworks depicted women… Hmm.
What was particularly interesting though, was the response they received; a letter from an antifeminist, Luca Cristiani, read: “Your ideas live in the world of your dirty femminist sex… A woman can be genius, do you remember the HOLY VIRGIN you dammed bunch of hoars? So my dear GUERRILLA GIRLS: AIDS DEATH TO YOU”.
I will let you form your own opinions of Luca Cristiani.
Another absorbing display in the exhibition, and perhaps the one I liked best, presented news reports on the actions of ‘The Barbie Liberation Organisation’. This group of ‘toy terrorists’ purchased 300 ‘Barbies’ and ‘GI Joes’ in America, and replaced the voice boxes in each. They then returned the toys back to the shops to be resold. This resulted in boys with a GI Joe asking them if they wanted to go shopping, and girls with a Barbie that made gun shot and explosion sound effects. The idea behind it? To fight against gender stereotypes, to make parents realise that not all boys like guns and fighting, and not all girls like shopping and make up. The result? Well the news went crazy for it, parents called it ‘sick’, some found it hilarious, but when children were asked, the most significant responses and opinions were found. Boys liked that their GI Joe toys weren’t violent and girls liked that their Barbies were more exiting.
The installation of this exhibition reflects back to the quote “many of the objects were produced with few resources, some may appear rough but they are all thoughtful” I used at the start of this review. Almost all of it was set up with chipboard which complimented each display really well, yet due to it’s simplicity, didn’t take any focus away from the ideas these objects beamed. In some parts, the use of chipboard went too far however. Images printed on it became slightly blurred as if they were pixelated and therefore gave less impact than they would if they were perhaps printed on a plain smooth surface. On the whole, this thought provoking exhibition was very well set up. Being displayed in a small room made it all the more intimate, and true to its nature. I would thoroughly recommend you paying a visit.
“If any objects can claim to have changed the world, then these have.” – Gavin Grindon, Co-curator