Disobedient Objects

  • Where are our children? - Santiago, Chile, 1979

    Where are our children? - Santiago, Chile, 1979
  • Still the Enemy Within - London, 2013

    Still the Enemy Within - London, 2013
  • Trini dolls - Mexico, about 1996

    Trini dolls - Mexico, about 1996
  • Badges of the struggle against apartheid - South Africa and other countries, about 198094

    Badges of the struggle against apartheid - South Africa and other countries, about 198094
  • Stamped dollar bill - United States, 2011

    Stamped dollar bill - United States, 2011
  • Where are our children? - Santiago, Chile, 1979
  • Still the Enemy Within - London, 2013
  • Trini dolls - Mexico, about 1996
  • Badges of the struggle against apartheid - South Africa and other countries, about 198094
  • Stamped dollar bill - United States, 2011

Disobedient Objects

A pioneering exhibition at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London examines the powerful role of objects created by grass roots movements, as tools for social change.

Focusing on a period from the late 1970s to today, this exhibition displays arts of rebellion, from around the world, that demonstrate how political activism drives a wealth of design ingenuity and collective creativity. 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.

Pictured here are some examples of the ‘objects’ exhibited.

Where are our children? - Santiago, Chile, 1979

During the Pinochet dictatorship, women in Chile made arpilleras (appliquéd textiles), such as this. Crafted from basic resources and sold through solidarity networks abroad, these arpilleras provided vital income for the women who made them. Sometimes dismissed as folk art, arpilleras existed for a time below the radar of political censorship, raising awareness and strengthening solidarity outside Chile. Today they serve as living memories of the violence and hardships experienced then.

Still the Enemy Within - London, 2013

Fabric banners have been an integral part of the spectacle of marches and demonstrations for trade unions and campaign groups since the 19th century. This piece was created by contemporary banner maker Ed Hall for the South Yorkshire Community branch of Unite. It responds to Margaret Thatcher's comment on the striking miners and their families who resisted her reforms as “the enemy within”.

Trini dolls - Mexico, about 1996

In 1994 the Zapatista Army of National Liberation (EZLN) emerged, asserting Indigenous autonomy against neoliberal capitalism. These dolls represent Trini, commander comandante of the Zapatistas, and are masked versions of the traditional Mexican Chamulan dolls. Sold to visitors, the dolls are a means of symbolic and economic solidarity.

Badges of the struggle against apartheid - South Africa and other countries, about 1980-94

These badges were created by South Africans and liberation groups, forced into exile during the apartheid, a system of racial segregation, as well as by international solidarity groups. The badges demonstrated unity in the face of censorship.

Stamped dollar bill - United States, 2011

There is a long history of defacing coins and banknotes to put a political message into circulation. Currency represents the face of the state and tampering with it is an illegal act in many countries. In 2011, inspired by the Occupy movement, artists Ivan Cash and Andy Dao created a set of stamps to illustrate the widening wealth disparity in America. In this example it is revealed that the richest 400 people in America have as much wealth as the poorest 150 million.

Disobedient Objects is at the Victoria and Albert Museum, London until 1 February 2015.

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