Extinction Rebellion, V&A Museum of Childhood until February 2020
This October, Extinction Rebellion is acting once again to persuade governments to acknowledge and address the climate crisis the world is facing. A non-violent protest group network raising awareness of global heating and climate change, Extinction Rebellion – known as XR – use civil disobedience to engage people with their cause. In their third major action since forming just over a year ago, they are occupying several major streets in central London, holding up traffic and holding talks and workshops instead.
These events have been adorned by the work of Extinction Rebellion’s Art Group, who have harnessed illustration and graphic design to create memorable visuals. These designs have also been shared online so that anyone can use them: they have been added to by other groups around the world but all feature the same colourways, typeface and styles.
At the V&A Museum of Childhood, we recently unveiled our own acquisition of a child’s hi-vis vest from the major XR action in April. This is quite a departure for the museum, known by most for its extensive collections of toys. Many children with concerns about their future, however, have been inspired by the actions of young activists such as Greta Thunberg, initiator of the School Strike for Climate, and have participated in these protests through the Extinction Rebellion Families Group. The vest is displayed here is part of a larger display of loans from the XR Families Group alongside the creative work of children produced at these actions, including flags, protest signs and giant banners.
The vest is adorned with a hand-stamped patch from XR’s Art Group, featuring the group’s immediately recognisable hourglass in a circle. This graphic symbol, evoking the idea of time running out, has been adopted from a 2011 design by street artist ESP, who has allowed the group to co-opt it to spread their message (and the V&A to collect the website). It’s been a hugely successful and iconic intervention, and the symbol can be seen all over the world, from Berlin to Buenos Aires, Mumbai to Melbourne.
With this display our intention is to embolden our young visitors with the knowledge that creative actions can empower them. When protestors use the same colours, illustrations and phrases, their shared messages and voices are amplified. Through harnessing their creativity and working together with others, young people too can make their own voices heard, a key notion for the redevelopment team as we work to renew the Museum of Childhood for the future.