Discovering Protest Art at the V&A

On Saturday, ‘Disobedient Objects’ opened to the public at the Victoria and Albert Museum. A thoughtful insight into the innovative practices of art and design oriented toward political resistance and social change.  The exhibition brings together objects from all over the world in order to establish a comprehensive exploration of the creative forces that drive protest and political art.  Museum director, Martin Roth, commented “this is a brave and unusual exhibition; these are brave and unusual designers.’

Many objects in the exhibition are humble, small pieces, while others more imposing, but all have helped change laws and win rights. The objects ranged from a battered pan lid used in Argentinean manifestations in 2001 to the Tiki Love truck driven as a protest form through Manchester in 2007.

Tiki Love Truck by Carrie Reichardt

Roberta Bacic is a collector of arpilleras who lent a few pieces of her collection for the current exhibition. We had the pleasure of hearing her talk about this folkloric yet politically charged artwork. 

Chilean arpillera, 'Donde están nuestros hijos’.

Arpilleras are colourful patchworks, usually made from scrap textiles, that depict scenes of conflict. This technique began in Chile during the military dictatorship in the 1970’s. These creations were made by women – using a traditional form of textile folk art – in an attempt to promote collective national memory by keeping a documentation of the brutalities Chile was facing. 

Roberta Bacic

Today, many women have embraced this form of textile art across the globe, from South Africa, to Colombia, to Ireland. It is the way women find a channel to express their opinions about conflicting issues that they live in. It gives them a voice. Bacic has become a prominent arpillera collector with works from all over the globe. She sees the greatness and importance in this technique, and works hard to preserve and promote it. 

Bacic reminds us that although these objects are in a museum context we should not consider them ‘dead’. All of these objects and techniques are still used today to fight for justice and to create awareness. 'Disobedient Objects’ is an exhibition that is dealing with the current, it is not a retrospective.