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The Victoria & Albert Museum’s current exhibition, Disobedient Objects, aims to explore the ways in which objects have been used in protests and movements throughout the last few decades, with means to promote some kind of social change. Containing objects from the 1970s to the present, the show covers a fairly vast amount of political and social movements, which really highlights to the viewer the almost unbelievable amount of injustice that has occurred – and still occurs – in the recent, modern era.

One of the things that I find most interesting about the exhibition is that it somehow manages to create a connection between the viewer and each collection of objects on display, on a surprisingly personal level.

I wonder if this is possibly down to the sense of urgency that seems to be evident in the way that each of the objects featured in the exhibition has been created. Many of the objects are home-made or have been re-designed in some way (thus, making them disobedient), and the impression given by many  of them is that they have been made in a rush – as an immediate and urgent response to something. Perhaps a response to suffering, war, ongoing oppression, attack, or loss. This makes the objects, and the ideas behind them, feel completely unpretentious, but it also makes them rather more challenging to look at and accept as a viewer.

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For example, the makeshift ‘tear-gas mask’ which is displayed alongside instructions on how to make them and photographs of them being worn. We can imagine, through the imagery and context given in the exhibition, the painful reasons why wearing masks would have been necessary for the Turkish protestors, so there is definitely a human-to-human response that feels uncomfortable about it and can really empathise.

Or the beautiful, embroidered protest hangings made by grieving women in Chile who desperately hoped to find their missing family members at the time of the Pinochet regime in the late 70s/80s. Something about these pieces of work, produced by people who were facing oppression, cannot help but stir up emotion and empathy even in someone who is just looking at it from an ‘outsider’s pespective’.

I suppose the success of this exhibition (I find) is due to the way that one can connect emotionally with it straight away – as soon as you enter the room, the objects start speaking for themselves in a way that totally captures your attention. The exhibition (or at least the objects displayed and discussed within it) would be a really great resource for teaching children about modern day history from all around the world.
I suppose it is successful because it reminds us (and rightly so, I think) that just because something is not happening here and now for us, doesn’t make it any less important, and doesn’t mean that we should pretend it never happened.
Perhaps we should let these disobedient objects teach us.

‘Disobedient Objects’ is open at the V&A Museum until 1 February 2014.

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Yesterday a few of us got together to go to a zine fair at Ophelia in Dalston. It was a small event but there was a lot to look at and it was really great to see some current zines and also meet the people behind them.
I also met some people from few small businesses who collaborate with creators of zines to help produce them, so it was interesting to learn a bit more about how it all works.

I’ll definitely keep a look out for a few more events like this over the next couple of months as it’s a great way to get inspired – not only for our zine project but also just for my own ‘extra-curricular’ work.

In other news, Dalston is almost overwhelmingly “hipster”. So my advice would be: only go on days when you’re feeling particularly trendy.

Over and out.

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This week’s CTS reading was an extract from ‘Fanzines’ by Teal Triggs (Chapter 6) which is about The Crafting of Contemporary Fanzines.
Teal Triggs is a writer, historian and professor from America but now lives and works in London. She is the author of ‘Fanzines’, which was published in October 2010.

It was interesting to read Triggs’ ideas about what ‘craft’ means for contemporary fanzines. Something we have discussed in class is that the technology we have access to now probably produces more of a professional look than would have been possible by the producers of fanzines in the past, and in the process of planning my own zine I have considered that we must have a very different idea of what it means for something to be (and look) ‘handmade’ than we might have done, say, 30 or 40 years ago.
However, Triggs doesn’t seem to gage this in quite the same way, so it was interesting to read her thoughts about it. She mainly pointed out that zines are “defined by their materiality” and hold ‘aesthetic value’, as if their ‘chaotic’ and ‘handmade’ appearance has always been a design choice rather than a consequence of the fact that they were made, written, drawn and published by their (amateur) producers.

I agree with her, though, when she says “An intimacy derives from the fact that fanzines remain amateur, ‘handmade’ productions…the history of the object is bound up not only with the history of fanzines more generally, but also with the history of the individual maker.” From what I have seen so far, this is true. I suppose that with any form of work – be it art, or music, or writing, or simply a doodle on a piece of paper – there is always a connection between the product itself and its individual maker.

In terms of this book being a credible source of information about fanzines and the culture surrounding them, I’m not entirely convinced. The Amazon description of the book says “This highly visual illustrated book is full of reproductions of the best fanzines ever created”, and while this may be true, most of them are contained in the book without permission from the creators, which itself does not seem to be supportive of zine culture at all. It doesn’t match up.
I suppose it just seems…shifty (for want of a better word), that Triggs didn’t ask for permission from the creators of the zines until the book had already been sent to production. ‘C.Makepeace’ comments that “I can’t say many of them would care about that from a copyright point of view (fanzines ripped of stuff all the time) but you can bet that if asked most of them wouldn’t want their work included in a poncy art book at 20 quid a pop.” Zines have always been mostly non-profit products; primarily a way of sharing views with the world in the format of ink on paper. So it is interesting that this book has clearly been published with profit in mind, while also trying to appear ‘friendly’ with zine producers, in a way.
A number of zines created by Amber, from hello-amber.blogspot.com, are included in Triggs’ book, without permission. I was particularly shocked by the story of Amber’s experience, as although she was credited in the book, she was actually credited to the wrong name. She goes into further detail about when and why she had her name officially changed on her blog, so I won’t go into it here, but I will say that it is quite a serious mistake made on Triggs’ part.

All in all, ‘Fanzines’ does not seem to be a particularly well researched book, and the way that Triggs has gone about asking for permission from sources is not very professional. I’m amazed that books can still make it through the whole publishing process while still containing incorrect information and other people’s work without permission.

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This is a list of a few people I have seen during my first weeks in London:

+ An old man walking slowly, with the aid of a stick, through the subway.
+ A builder who threw his cigarette butt behind him and it landed on my shoe.
+ A mother with smiley eyes and two smiley kids.
+ A woman outside Elephant & Castle station who threw her empty glass bottle in front of a moving car and laughed when it smashed to pieces.
+ A man peeing in the shadows around the corner from Kings Cross station.
+ A girl on the tube, with dreads and without bra.
+ A guy with an awkward moustache.
+ An old lady wearing a scarf around her head with lots of jewellery and red lipstick, looking like a diva.
+ A little boy who was far too big to be in a pushchair.
+ A woman on the tube wearing an uncomfortably similar outfit to me.

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My own take on Joe Brainard’s “I remember”.

I remember the last day of college. How I vowed never to look back.

I remember family meals out in restaurants – ‘only one drink each’.

I remember when I used to wear tea towels on my head thinking it looked like long hair. I still don’t have long hair.

I remember the ear ache that plagued the summer of 2001.

I remember the first time I smoked a cigarette. It was also the last.

I remember the first time I prayed.

I remember swinging on that car-tyre swing while we pretended to have fun. We both knew what was coming, I think.

I remember the surprise party my parents organised for my eighth birthday. I was elated. There were little bowls of foamy shrimp and banana sweets dotted around the table.

I remember when I finally understood grace. I remember how it changed my life. It changes me every day.

I remember bath times with my brother. ‘Buying’ and ‘selling’ bubbles.

I remember my Grandpa Ruari and the funny songs he used to make up about me.