Extinction Rebellion designs to go on display at V&A

The items including flags and artwork are at the Museum of Childhood in Bethnal Green, London.

Flags, artwork and signs used by global activist group Extinction Rebellion are among a new collection of acquisitions on display at the Victoria & Albert Museum in London.

As part of the museum’s Rapid Response collection, the items were donated by the graphic designers, activists and artists responsible for Extinction Rebellion’s Design Programme.

The collection will shed light on how the environmental campaign group has designed its visual identity since its first public action in October last year.

Rapid Response Collecting
Items on show include flags and pamphlets (V&A Museum)

The items range from the open-source Extinction Rebellion Symbol created by street artist ESP in 2011 and adopted by the group in 2018, to the declaration used at their first act of rebellion.

The display includes flags carried during mass demonstrations, the first printed pamphlet issued by the protesters outlining its “Declaration of Rebellion”, a digital file outlining their open-source design programme – including their symbol, their woodblock type and other graphics and materials for download.

It also includes six brightly coloured screen-printed patches bearing the group’s slogans, such as “Tell The Truth”, “Rebel For Life” and “Beyond Politics”.

The V&A has also acquired a child’s high-vis jacket worn during a peaceful demonstration.

The material will go on display at the V&A’s Museum of Childhood in Bethnal Green from Friday August 9 as part of a free six-month display.

The museum praised Extinction Rebellion for “balancing joy and menace with a bold, tongue-in-cheek approach” with its colourful graphics, influenced by pop artist Eduardo Paolozzi.

Rapid Response Collecting
The group’s initial declaration is included at the museum (V&A Museum)

The designs often juxtapose imagery of the natural world along with more sinister images of skulls and bones, articulating hope but also showing the grave consequences that the group feels are inevitable if change does not come.

Corinna Gardner, senior curator of design and digital at the V&A, said: “Design has been key to Extinction Rebellion’s demands for urgent action on climate change. The strong graphic impact of the Extinction Symbol alongside a clear set of design principles have ensured that their acts of rebellion are immediately recognisable.

“Punchy colours, woodblock prints, and carefully worded slogans available for download empower members of the public to produce their own creative responses that collectively amplify the XR’s call to action.

“The objects we bring into the V&A through our Rapid Response Collecting programme are evidence of social, technological and economic change.

“Extinction Rebellion have galvanised public concern for the planet, and their design approach stands in relation to earlier protest movements such as the Suffragettes, who encouraged the wearing of purple, green and white to visually communicate their cause.”

Rapid Response Collecting
Extinction Rebellion has grown into a global movement (V&A Museum)

Clive Russell, of the Extinction Rebellion Arts Group, said: “Extinction Rebellion is pleased our work and practice can be seen for free at the V&A, a collection that includes works by William Morris and other design activists from the past.

“All these designers addressed the issues of their times. The Climate and Ecological emergency is the issue of our time and art and design is crucial to our non-violent actions and communication. We call on all artists and designers to think beyond the bullying constraints of commercial drudgery and join us in rebellion.”

Extinction Rebellion took its first public action on October 31 in London in 2018, urging the Government to declare a climate and ecological emergency and to commit to reducing emissions.

It has since grown into a global movement with more than 360 groups active in 59 countries.

The display is in the V&A’s Rapid Response Collecting Gallery from Friday July 26.

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