Disobedient Objects is a forthcoming exhibition that signals an important new direction for the V&A: thinking about the social and political contexts where design defines our relationship to one another as citizens. Below, in an extract from the forthcoming catalogue, V&A director Martin Roth explains why the show is so critical, and how this seemingly controversial topic links the museum to its founding mission.
Directors foreword to Disobedient Objects:
‘Disobedient Objects tells design history from below, through the objects produced by grass roots social movements. These are often simple in means, but rich in purpose and impact. Powerful, provocative, poignant or subversively humorous, these objects change the way we look at design, and at each other.’
‘The majority of objects in the exhibition have been loaned directly by activist groups from many different countries. They raise difficult questions about the world in which we live. Several were made during recent struggles that are unresolved or still raw. In many cases they encapsulate the jeopardy and trauma experienced by their makers. We are immensely grateful to these groups and individuals for sharing their work and ideas with the V&A. This is a brave and unusual exhibition; these are brave and unusual designers. We are proud to present their work to a broad public.
The V&A is a historic institution with a radical mission: to bring art and design to all. Prince Albert, its founder, was inspired by the work of Gottfried Semper, who described museum collections as, ‘the true teachers of a free people’. Today, through this exhibition, we stay true to that mission by recognising ongoing struggles for freedom taking place around the world. Disobedient Objects reveals design to be much more than a professional practice or a commercial process. It shows that even with the most limited of resources, ordinary people can take design into their own hands. It celebrates the creative ‘disobedience’ of designers and makers who question the rules.’
Director, Victoria and Albert Museum