In Brief

Objects by Climate Activists Go on Display at Victoria and Albert Museum

The museum acquired a selection of flags, prints, and designs by Extinction Rebellion, a recently formed environmental activist group, for its permanent collection.

Extinction Rebellion’s blue flag in a new exhibition at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London (all photos by Chris J Ratcliffe, Getty Images, for the Victoria and Albert Museum. Courtesy the museum)

Less than a year after it was launched, the global environmental activist group Extinction Rebellion is being inducted into a museum collection. On Friday, July 26, the Victoria and Albert Museum (V&A) in London announced that it will acquire a series of the group’s designs and paraphernalia for its permanent collection. A selection of the new acquisitions is now on display in the V&A’s Rapid Response Collecting Gallery.

The new acquisitions include green, blue, and pink flags featuring the group’s block-printed logo, the “Extinction Symbol.” The V&A, a museum dedicated to decorative arts and design, also purchased two printing blocks that were used to impress the symbol on protest flags, posters, and banners. Other acquired items include the first printed pamphlet featuring the group’s “Declaration of Rebellion” and digital files containing the open-source design of the group’s logo.

Extinction Rebellion’s green and pink flags featuring the block-printed Extinction Symbol

“The objects we bring into the V&A through our Rapid Response Collecting programme are evidence of social, technological and economic change,” Corinna Gardner, Senior Curator of Design and Digital at the V&A, said in a statement. “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,” she added.

Apart from XR’s materials, the V&A Museum of Childhood has acquired a child’s high-visibility jacket worn during one of the Extinction Rebellion’s direct actions. The jacket will be displayed starting August 9 at the Bethnal Green Museum.

Launched in London, Extinction Rebellion is an international movement that orchestrates mass non-violent civil disobedience campaigns to raise awareness of issues of climate change. The group’s first public action was in October 2018, when more a 1,000 of its members assembled outside the Houses of Parliament in London to announce a “Declaration of Rebellion” against the British government. London Police arrested 15 of the protestors. This past April, the group staged “die-in”s at the Natural History Museum and at Tate Modern in London as part of a series of protests in various locations across central London. That week, there were over 1,000 arrests in a series of climate protests held by Extinction Rebellion in London, with 53 people charged.

Colored screen-printed patches bearing Extinction Rebellion’s slogans

In the short time since its formation, Extinction Rebellion, which goes by the abbreviation XR, has garnered wide public support in the United Kingdom. The group is now supported by almost 100 prominent academics in the country, including the former archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams.

To demonstrate XR’s global outreach, giant Extinction Symbols have appeared today, July 29, in various countries around the world. In New Zealand, activists created a sand sculpture of the symbol on a beach in the Bay of Plenty. In Colombia, the symbol was made with flowers in the Universidad de Antioquia in Medellin. In the United States, it was created with human bodies in Central Park in New York City, and in Chile, it was laser-projected on a tower in Santiago.

One of the Extention Rebellion printing blocks acquires by the V&A

“The symbol represents an hourglass and the planet. It exists to draw attention to the Ecological Crisis, specifically the current mass species extinction event and climate breakdown,” street artist ESP, creator of the Extinction Symbol, explained in a statement. ESP created the symbol in 2011 and made it free for anybody to use (except for commercial purposes, which he strictly forbids).

Clive Russell, who represents Extinction Rebellion’s Arts Group, stressed the role of design in the group’s activism. “The Climate and Ecological emergency is THE issue of our time and art and design is crucial to our non-violent actions and communication,” he said. “We call on all artists and designers to think beyond the bullying constraints of commercial drudgery and join us in rebellion.”

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