As many of you will already know through watching demonstrations or taking part in one, there is an art to protest.
Whether it be through the medium of fashion or the craftsmanship of posters and placards, the form a protest takes can vary by nation, generation and purpose.
Take the 3 finger salute of the Hunger Games for example. This year it has been used around the world in various movements from the Ferguson protests in the USA to the Umbrella Movement in HongKong. Continuing student protests in Thailand against the junta (the result of the 22 May coup in the aftermath of the “2013-2014 Thai political crisis”) have made it their symbol to the point that it has been banned by the regime. Throughout history culture has been a rallying point for our protests; Roseau’s Social Contract shaped the French revolution, John Lennon’s anti-war anti-Nixon message through music was part of the grassroots movement against the Vietnam War. But I think in a time of twitter and youtube, culture can be more than just a rallying point, its also a cause of solidarity. Case in point, regardless of what the Hunger Games salute actually symbolises, ‘liberty, equality, fraternity’ or ‘no coup, liberty, democracy’, most of us who see the protesters with the salute in the air can immediately, regardless of where we come from, understand the meaning behind their movement; a human struggle against injustice.
Whether you are interested in this protest culture or the activism (or both!), the Disobedient Objects Exhibition at London’s V&A museum will be engrossing.
For example, the hi-jacked Nike swoosh embroidered on a quilt made by international activists, hangs boldly to share a message so different to the egotistic and zealous attitude exhibited by the ‘Just Do It’ slogan. As a part of ‘the Nike Blanket Petition project’ the swoosh on the quilt is a testament to the immense struggle against multinational corporations that continues to this day by the lowliest of their workers.
However not only is it a message of worker’s rights, it is used to promote micro-craft economies and the feminisation of labour. Microrevolt believes that one solution to sweatshops is making our own clothing again,hence why they knitted the swoosh. But also, its a form of third-wave feminism which reclaims female dominated art forms like knitting, and uses it as a medium to express opinions. The activists succeeded in giving the Nike swoosh a deeper and larger meaning that I will be reminded of every time I see it (everywhere basically).
Then there’s the truck (pictured). At first it looks like a Jipney or a Metatu or any one of those ambitious brightly coloured and slightly hazardous looking buses you see in the southern hemisphere. Here it is actually an immensely personal and passionate demonstration against the death penalty. The ‘Love truck’ was driven through Manchester by a British artist who made it as a tribute to an American friend John Joe “Ash” Amador killed on death row in Texas.
Amnesty International writes that in the USA alone in 2013, 80 were killed by electrocution on death row. In the same year, the state of Mississippi increased the scope of the death penalty expanding it contrary to the ‘contravention of international human standards’.
The death mask, pictures and tokens stocked in the back of the truck brings the meaning of the death penalty to a much more personal level.
Whatever your walk of life, with the huge variety of activism reflected in the exhibition, you are guaranteed to leave having connected to at least one cause and having lots of food for thought.
Death Sentences and Executions 2013. Rep. Amnesty International Uk, n.d. Web. 19 Nov. 2014. <http://www.amnesty.org/en/death-penalty>.