Putting things to good use (Disobedient Objects)

A couple of weeks ago I visited the Victoria & Albert Museum with my friend Lizzie and another mutual friend.  Ostensibly we went to see the wedding dress exhibition (which was stunning!), but we did spend rather a lot of time in the cafe. It was so good to catch up; as we all live in different places, we don’t get to see each other that often. There’s nothing like a bit of cataloguing talk in a public place to make me feel more like a librarian, either.

While the other two had plans in the evening and had to leave, I was there for the whole day. Bliss! The V&A is one of my favourite places in the whole world, and I’m not exaggerating. After the wedding dress exhibition, I visited the free exhibition Disobedient Objects. Social justice is crucial for in the kind of world I want to live in, so I really believe that peaceful protest is necessary. Of course there are protests going on somewhere in the world at any given time, but the timing of this visit was particularly auspicious for me, as my home state is now having some major protests and I also recently attended my local Reclaim the Night march. Protests have since become even more widespread in the US given the lack of indictment for the police officer who choked Eric Garner.

I was impressed by the range of objects on exhibition, everything from a suffragette tea cup to a Bike bloc. The majority of the objects in the exhibition were handmade and completely unique. As someone who fancies myself a creative type, it was so inspiring to see how  people stretch their minds to look at objects in a completely different way; for example, there were masks to protect against tear gas that were just gallon bottles cut in a particular way, and very diluted solutions of chalky antacid-type medicines were also used to build up resistance to tear gas (this was particularly powerful, because as the solution dries the person’s face becomes chalky). So creative, yet so sad that these kind of things need to be developed. I relish the quiet, peaceful periods of my life, but often forget how lucky I am to be able to experience them. I dream of a world where there will be justice and peace for everyone. Sadly, I know I won’t see it happen in my lifetime, and, really, it is hard to imagine a time when there won’t be serious conflict. But I can dream, and I do; I can do my bit to try to make the world around me a just one, and I do my best.

Anyway, here are a few of my favourite things from the exhibition; it was very cool to see textiles being used as a means of protest.

The museum caption for these arpilleras was (in part): Arpilleras are appliqued textiles that originated in Chile. Made by women, they documented the violence and hardships experienced during the Pinochet dictatorship. Sold through solidarity networks abroad, arpilleras generated vital income for the women who made them. For a time, the authorities were blind to their subversive nature, dismissing arpillera-making as folk art.


How embarrassing – I should have blogged about this sooner as I’ve forgotten what movement this blanket was supporting! I think it was something to do with women’s rights. If you know, please tell me!



The exhibition included several placards designed to look like book covers, which were used during 2013 protests against budget cuts to the the New York Public Library.


On a side note, I am also a lover of book design and typography, so I found some of the stylistic choices quite interesting. Most notably, a font with ligatures was used. I am not unused to seeing them, though I think it is an unusual choice in the 21st century, but most odd was that two of the letters that were connected were s & t. I don’t think I’ve ever seen that before! Have you?


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