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?