Entering Through The Gift Shop: Carrie Reichardt’s “Tiki Love Truck” in the V&A’s “Disobedient Objects”
In October of 2012, we were part of a lively debate at the British Association for Modern Mosaic’s annual symposium about what it would take to get contemporary mosaic art into the hallowed halls of the Art Establishment – meaning institutions very much like the venue for that meeting – the venerable Victoria and Albert Museum.
Almost two years later, “renegade potter” and craftivist Carrie Reichardt’s two-ton mosaic protest against the death penalty, The Tiki Love Truck, literally went right through the front door AND the gift shop and then over the opus criminale mosaic floors of the V&A to become a highlight of the museum’s groundbreaking exhibit Disobedient Objects (July 20, 2014-February 1, 2015).
Disobedient Objects is “the first exhibition to explore objects of art and design from around the world that have been created by grassroots social movements as tools of social change.” Curated by Catherine Flood and Gavin Grindon, the collection of 99 objects includes Suffragette teapots, hand-sewn Chilean wall hangings commemorating missing loved ones, and life-size puppets by the radical Vermont Bread and Puppets Theater.
In 2007, Reichardt was commissioned by Walk the Plank to create mosaic The Tiki Love Truck for an art car parade in Manchester. The work’s purpose changed radically when Reichardt received word that John Joe ‘Ash’ Amador, an inmate in a Texas prison Reichardt with whom Reichardt had been corresponding with for years, was scheduled to be executed. Amador asked Reichardt to witness the event and Reichardt subsequently travelled to Texas from London bringing with her sculptor Nick Reynolds. With the approval and assistance of the family, Reynolds made a death mask of Amador.
Upon returning to the UK, Reichardt dedicated the Love Truck to Amador, giving the mask pride of place on the front of the work. The artist continues to advocate strongly against the death penalty and solitary confinement of prisoners in the US.
Between October 31 and November 2nd, Reichardt turned the Tiki Love Truck into a Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) Shrine dedicated to the memory of her mother, Jill Richards, Luis Ramirez, Herman Wallace, John “Ash” Amador, and Khristian Oliver. With the disappearance of the 43 students in September in Iguala, Mexico, the shrine was given a second, more urgent focus.
As we write this article, it is Martin Luther King Day here in the US, and we are reminded of this quote:
The saving of our world from pending doom will come, not through the complacent adjustment of the conforming majority, but through the creative maladjustment of a nonconforming minority.
Disobedient Objects has proven to be a great success for the V&A – blasting away at its image of being “England’s Attic” by showcasing works of great heart, creativity and ingenuity that are potent demands for change and, in the process, garnering strong critical acclaim for the effort (below). It is not surprising that Disobedient Objects is already slated for at least one additional international showing at Sydney’s Powerhouse Museum October 30 2015 through February 14, 2016.
And Reichardt? Well, after getting through the front door of the V&A, she was asked by the curators to mosaic it. We’ll be back later this week with Reichardt’s award-winning Intervention.
UPDATE: According to Curator Catherine Flood, the final visitor figures for Disobedient Objects was 417,000 making it the most visited exhibition at the V&A since “Britain Can Make It” in 1946.
- Disobedient Objects at the V&A Exhibit — Ends February 1, 2015
- Carrie Reichardt
- Reichardt previously on MAN
- Review of Disobedient Objects from The Guardian
- Great walk-through of exhibit with Curator Gavin Grindon
- February 2016 interview by Rosie Osborne on Free Spirit Home here