Disobedient Objects at the V&A


‘Many of the rights and freedoms we enjoy today were won by disobedience’

So says one of the information texts as you walk into this small, packed, free exhibition.

As a person frequently moved by issues of social justice, I was fired up, excited and ready to get angry about issues of the world when I went into this exhibition. But sadly, Disobedient Objects failed to bring out the activist side of me that I had expected it might.

From 26th July 2014 – 1st February 2015, The Porter Gallery of the V&A will be jam-packed with a vast and varied assortment of objects that have been used for social change. From placards to blockades, paintings to mobile apps, this exhibition is bursting at the seams with objects that have been used to make a stand from the late 1970s to present day.

While the objects in the exhibition present a refreshing splurge of passion, particularly from young people, its extensiveness is probably its biggest downfall. Packing so many different protests, causes and debates in object form into one small (and very hot when I visited) room makes for a tiring viewing.

Perhaps it was the neutrality of the gallery that prevented this exhibition from stirring excitement from the visitor. In a room full of protests, you would imagine that after a few hours viewing, reading and experiencing the passion of others, you might feel some passion brewing inside.

But with such a vast array of causes, and a lack of sufficient contextual information in which to place them, the exhibition sadly failed to stir many emotions or feelings of alliance at all.

One friend that I went to the exhibition with succinctly said afterwards: ‘I’ve just come out of an exhibition about activism and I just feel really drowsy.’

However the exhibition did note at the beginning that it was not a complete study into the world of political art, and there were a lot of interesting objects to look at.

Perhaps it is just a fact that these objects, removed from their context and taken away from the passionate mass of people championing their cause, cannot stir the same emotions and bring about the policy-changing mindset when displayed in the plain, white, neutral space of the gallery.

What do you think? Have you been to see Disobedient Objects? Did you have a different experience?


‘Propaganda: Power and Persuasion’ at the British Library

Inside the British Library

Inside the British Library

Sincere or deceptive, shocking or amusing.

The British Library’s extensive and thorough exhibition, Propaganda: Power and Persuasion focuses on different definitions of propaganda and seeks to distance the viewer from the often negative connotations associated with the word.

'This poster, titled 'Freedom American-Style' subverts the traditional symbolism of the Statue of Liberty, by B. Prorokov.' (Photograph of exhibition postcard)

‘This poster, titled ‘Freedom American-Style’ subverts the traditional symbolism of the Statue of Liberty, by B. Prorokov.’ (Photograph of exhibition postcard)

It starts with early forms of propaganda, explaining the way in which the Romans used pictures on coins to reach the illiterate public. The exhibition explains how authorities have continued to manipulate the arts, using currency, monuments, national anthems, comic books and even board games to reach the masses.

A hugely comprehensive and information-heavy exhibition, I would advise allowing a good few hours at the British Library if you want to see everything in detail!

South African board game. Picture of postcard

South African board game. (Photograph of exhibition postcard)


The exhibition offers thorough contextual information that is vital to understanding propaganda which is often carefully tailored to best suit specific cultures, societies and eras. While there is a lot to read, present-day academics and media people have also been filmed talking about various aspects of propaganda. Clips of these films are shown throughout the exhibition.

I also particularly enjoyed some short black and white films from the World Wars that were almost like black comedy in their satire of enemy nations. One film ridiculing Hitler used video footage of Nazi marches and salutes. The footage was cut up, sped up, slowed down, mashed together and put to comical music in an attempt to undermine the enemy.


Another highlight was an audio clip from a 1941 radio show in which two women discuss saving money at Christmas by serving mutton instead of turkey. The comical episode follows their discussion as they discuss ways of eating mutton as turkey and decide to name it ‘murkey’.


Health propaganda poster (Photo of exhibition postcard)

Health propaganda poster (Photo of exhibition postcard)

The exhibition also showed the ways in which propaganda is used by the state for other issues such as health. A series of screens displayed the BFI collection of public health films. Some used shock tactics, while others were funny. I wonder which method is found to be most effective.


The last section of the exhibition asks the visitor to reflect on who the propagandists are today: the state or the media? The last exhibit is an entire wall taken up with the projections of a live twitter debate on #BLPROPAGANDA

Beautifully ironic poster for 'Propaganda: Power and Persuasion'

Beautifully ironic poster for ‘Propaganda: Power and Persuasion’

This blog post has only vaguely touched on the absolutely huge content of ‘Propaganda: Power and Persuasion’. It is a fascinating exhibition for anyone, particularly in the way it encourages deeper thoughts about what is pulling and pushing us today.

‘Propaganda: Power and Persuasion’ is only on for a few more weeks until 17th September. Catch it while you can!

Patrick Caulfield & Gary Hume at the Tate

Having gone to the Tate Britain just to see the Patrick Caulfield exhibition, we were informed upon arrival that our ticket price also included entry to the Gary Hume exhibition. Seeing the two together turned out to be rather interesting:

Patrick Caulfield

Patrick Caulfield 'Portrait of Juan Gris', 1963. Image from Tate website.

Patrick Caulfield ‘Portrait of Juan Gris’, 1963. Image from Tate website.

Caulfield is well known for his use of bold blocks of colour and heavy, black outlines. The exhibition feels both inviting and playful as you walk around a series of large canvases in spacious rooms.

Excellent organisation of the exhibition in chronological order shows the progression of Caulfield’s works from far more simple, stripped-back compositions in the first room, to textured, elaborate canvases in the fifth. My brother even eloquently labelled one painting in the final room a ‘mind f**k’ due to its complex structure and optical illusion.

Patrick Caulfield ‘After Lunch’, 1975. Image from Tate website.

‘After Lunch’ is one of many highlights in the exhibition. I often think that Caulfield painted the idyllic postcard scene just to prove he could paint realistically! The merging of two genres is both striking and impressive and it is this innovation of composition that sets Caulfield’s work apart for me.

Gary Hume

Photo of the doors to the Gary Hume exhibition

Photo of the doors to the Gary Hume exhibition.

The next half of our visit to the Tate took us through doors specially designed by Gary Hume for this showcase of his work. The colourful walls and optical illusions spilled over from Caulfield’s exhibition but in a more abstract way.

Admittedly, a comparison of the artists may not be a fruitful one to make (I have not researched their practices or influences) but it is also unavoidable when viewing the exhibitions in such close succession.

Gary Hume 'Tulips', 2009. Image from Tate website.

Gary Hume ‘Tulips’, 2009. Image from Tate website.

One aspect of Hume’s work that I did particularly enjoy was his use of thick paint to create lines. This technique contrasted Caulfield’s use of black outlines splendidly, as Hume uses the same tone of paint either thickened or dented to create impressions. This subtle means of depiction is very beautiful and effective on large canvases, often encouraging the viewer to walk in closer to inspect the shapes.

Both exhibitions are showing at Tate Britain until 1st September. To find out more information visit the Tate’s website.

Museo Nazionale del Cinema, Turin

Last week was spent in sunny Turin, Italy. But despite the impeccable weather, I couldn’t resist a visit to something cultural, and a team decision was made to visit Museo Nazionale del Cinema (that’s the National Museum of Cinema for those who hadn’t guessed).

Mirrors created optical illusions

Mirrors created optical illusions

The first section of the museum takes the viewer through the history of cinema, covering the rise of shadow theatre and discussing the physics behind light and optical illusions and other such things. Much of this information was in Italian (and physics has never particularly appealed to me) but this section was very interactive and surprisingly fun to explore.

However the real fun started when we arrived in the main room situated under the impressive dome of Mole Antonelliana.

Inside the main room

Inside the main room

Our entrance to the space was further enhanced as we arrived just as one of the regular projection shows of iconic films began around the room. Epic music played out and beautiful projections lit up the space as we entered what we by the end of the day had termed our favourite museum ever.

The 3D room

The 3D room

Museo Nazionale del Cinema is comprised of a series of themed rooms each showing clips of films relating to that genre. These rooms are fantastically executed and add a refreshing, childlike element to visiting a museum.

Western room

The Western room

The door of the Loony Tunes room

The door of the Loony Tunes room

The romantic room even required visitors to cosy up and lie down on a big bed together to watch the film clips.

Mi amore...

Mi amore…

The themed rooms formed a horseshoe shape around the outside of the main space in which two large screens showed a series of short films. Visitors could watch these in extreme comfort and without disturbance on one of the red chaise longues with inbuilt speakers.

The main room

The main room

We were also delighted to discover that our visit coincided with a large Martin Scorsese exhibition that circled the walls of the main room on a spiral platform.


The exhibition was comprised of film clips, letters to and from the director, photographs taken on film sets, costume designs, props and other items spanning Scorsese’s whole career. The collection was so extensive that we were thoroughly exhausted as we got to the end.

We met up with this fella earlier in the day

We met up with this fella earlier in the day

As has already been mentioned, this may now be my favourite museum ever. And I’ve barely scratched the surface of its content in this post! It is so interactive and the Scorsese exhibition was so informative that my head felt ready to burst as we left. It is definitely worth a visit if you happen to find yourself in Turin!

You can find out more information about the Museo Nazionale del Cinema here.