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Sunday, 26 October 2014

Disobedient Objects

A few weeks ago I met up with my friends to go to the V&A. Meryem needed inspiration for her Art & Politics essay so the Disobedient Objects exhibition was perfect for some thought provoking material. It's all quite heavy, so I needed another cup of tea first. 

The mood the curators have created is powerful. The music thumps and whines in the background and when you look around, the pieces are quite ugly.  Dolls and mannequins with monkey heads leer down at you, crude posters and boards shout their messages, and thick iron bar structures create a cage like atmosphere in the centre of the room. 

On first impression, it was oppressive and quite scary, even. The collection of badges, banners, paper clippings, posters and films all signified something important to hundreds or thousands of people, but I felt like I was missing the point a bit. Without experience of what all these people were fighting for or against, without being there or going through what they went through, I felt that I could not ever fully understand. Reading a plaque about the history next to the piece wasn't enough to know the true reason why these people had been fighting, but the feeling as an outsider was clear to me; anger. 

The people behind these stories had clearly been pushed as far as people can be pushed and they were fighting back in whatever way they could. Through protests, defacing currency, hunger strikes, organised movements, social media, even children's games or sewing, the exhibition was a result of pain, suffering, isolation, and oppression in some form or another. 

These tapestries really struck a nerve for me; sewn by Chilean women under the General Pinochet dictatorship, these 'Arpilleras' became a medium for story telling and resistance during this time. With thousands of men missing, dead or in prison being tortured, it fell to the women to lead the fight, and they did so through these moving pieces. I don't get anger from these, but sadness and loss and the innocence of people. 

Whatever your opinion on the history of these objects, one thing can be said; people having the right to an opinion and freedom of speech is something we should surely never take for granted.   

Disobedient Objects is showing until the end of January and is free to view. The website is here if you want to learn more. 

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