For our CTS sessions we were asked to go to the “Disobedient Objects” exhibition at the Victoria&Albert Museum. The exhibition is set up in the Porter Gallery, which is a space exclusively dedicated to contemporary exhibitions. The room is close to the Museum’s entrance, it is spacious and has high ceilings. Last year I saw a very interesting exhibition in the same room, it showed the work of artists nominated for the Jameel Prize 3. The Jameel Prize praises contemporary artists and designers who get inspired by Islamic tradition. That exhibition was absolutely striking, a completely new and different art I had not came across so far at other exhibitions, something I was not expecting, a great surprise! (Read a review about it on The Guardian here)
When I went to see “Disobedient Objects” I had a very different experience. The entrance of the room is marked by high steel bars, which spring from the floor up to the ceiling and divide the space in sections. These bars are to symbolize rebellion or one could interpret them as established social or political institutions, convictions, law or rules against which a force is rebelling. After passing this kind of impressive barricade one enters the exhibition, which indeed is all about rebellion and attempts (some more successful than others) to change social, political and environmental issues. More precisely it is a collection of “disobedient objects”, artefacts not made by artists but by common people with a very functional purpose of delivering a message in the most appropriate way. Objects vary from posters on cartridge paper made by students for a demonstration to Arpilleras, textiles produced by Chilean women as a form of expression during the Pinochet dictatorship. The objects show a broad range of media depending on whatever was available to the people at the moment they needed to express their disagreement on the issue that was bothering them.
I was impressed by the multitude of objects shown, each standing for a different protest from a different country. I was not aware of quite a few of the exposed resistance movements, some of which I found very peculiar – such as the Barbie Liberation Organisation – . The “Tiki Love Truck” probably awed me at most. The truck was redesigned and decorated by British artist Carrie Reichardt, it commemorates her friend John Joe Amador who was sentenced to death by the State of Texas. The truck is a proper artefact with a lot of complex detail I sometimes struggled to understand and interpret. A death mask was casted of J.J. Amador and placed on the truck. It is a very strong statement against death penalty.
The cause the truck has been designed for remind me of “The Life of David Gale”, a movie I really liked and touches me everytime I watch it.
As an overall comment on the exhibition I can say it is very interesting and worth seeing as it definitely raises awareness of past and present protests. Personally I did not really enjoy the exhibition because of the following reasons:
1. The typeface used on the descriptions and explanations felt confusing and distracting to me, it made it hard to read the information – I really had to concentrate
2. The film played on the big screen, which never stopped and always started again, caused an incessant background noise which again made concentration hard (I personally need silence to get a feeling from what I see at an exhibition)
3. The whole space was assembled in a too chaotic manner and it sometimes felt as if all the objects had been crammed into the room to make the exhibition rich in variety. I would have preferred more separation and space between objects of different protests and parts of the world.
About points 2. and 3. I understand it could be argued it all was done on purpose as these features aim to represent the topic of the exhibition itself which is protest and rebellion, hence spontaneity, caos, loud noise, many people crammed together etc. In fact the exhibition itself could be seen as a big protest against all various injustices and therefore it has been laid out like this. However this is how I felt while I was looking at it.