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Victoria and Albert

“Power To The People”: Carrie Reichardt’s Mosaic Intervention on the Facade of the V&A

Carrie Reichardt & The Treatment Rooms "Power to the People" (2014)

Carrie Reichardt & The Treatment Rooms Collective “Power to the People” (2014)  Quote by Berthldt Brecht   Photo courtesy of the artist

Having broken through the modern mosaic barrier at the Victoria and Albert Museum with a four-wheeled, two-ton protest against the death penalty, (Entering Through the Gift Shop: Carrie Reichardt’s “Tiki Love Truck” at the V&A” ), craftivist Carrie Reichardt was given the extraordinary opportunity to expand her role in the museum’s ground-breaking Disobedient Objects exhibit (July 25, 2014 – February 1, 2015) with a project that would transform the front of that venerable institution.

Carrie Reichardt & The Treatment Rooms Collective "Disobedient Mosaic Intervention" (2014)

Carrie Reichardt & The Treatment Rooms Collective “The Disobedient Mosaic Intervention” (2014)  Photo courtesy of the artist

Asked by the V&A’s Director and Curators to create something “playful, provocative and sincere”, Reichardt designed a full-frontal installation comprising two panels and the risers of the steps leading up to the front doors of the museum.

It was a brilliant stroke by the V&A, really.  Some exhibits are promoted with banners. Others with posters. With Reichardt’s mosaics, the Disobedient Objects exhibit literally spilled out of the galleries and onto the museum’s front steps. According to Curator Catherine Flood, the final visitor figures were 417,000 making Disobedient Objects the most visited exhibition at the V&A since “Britain Can Make It” in 1946.

While many of objects inside the exhibit were artifacts, The Disobedient Mosaic Intervention was artful political activism live.

Carrie Reichardt and The Treatment Rooms Collective “History Is A Weapon” (2014)

The design of the two panels was a collaborative process that included the curators for Disobedient Objects, Gavin Grindon and Catherine Flood, each of whom selected a quote for one of the panels.

Carrie Reichardt & The Treatment Rooms "Power to the People" (2014)

Carrie Reichardt & The Treatment Rooms “Power to the People” (2014)

Reichardt’s use of digital transfers to create custom tiles for each of her mosaics is at the core of her activist aesthetic. She blends the profane and prosaic to enormous effect in these two panels. The British pound note with the visage of the Queen fills the visor of a baton-wielding riot policeman, surveillance cameras loom and England’s ubiquitous poppies bloom.  At the bottom of each panel, a “groundswell” of protest from the people; at the top energy based on the conflict below radiates outward.

Disobedient Objects

Photo courtesy of the artist

Photo: Melanie Watts

Photo: Melanie Watts

Carrie_Reichard_Power_To_The_People_Detail2 We love Reichardt’s idea to use the risers on the steps of the museum to display some of her favorite quotes. The format immediately calls to mind how ticker tapes and thin strips of paper attached to carrier pigeons were once used to transmit urgent news about disasters, conflicts and possibilities.

Photo courtesy of the artist

Photo courtesy of the artist

Photo courtesy of the artist

Photo courtesy of the artist

Photo courtesy of the artist

Photo courtesy of the artist

Photo courtesy of the artist

Photo courtesy of the artist

“Think for yourself – act for others” is what has driven Carrie Reichardt to take her message of art as empowerment to disenfranchised communities in Mexico, Chile, Romania and into the marginal neighborhoods of the UK. Kudos to the V&A for giving this artist and the Treatment Rooms Collective the opportunity to turn the facade of the museum into a modern day “Speakers Corner” as part of their Disobedient Objects exhibit.

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Mosaic Intervention at the V&A (2014)  Made by the Treatment Rooms Collective: Luke Allen, Gary Drostle, Mark Drostle, Eoghan Ebrill, Linda Griffiths, Gabrielle Harvey-Smith, Liam Heyhow, Peter Henham, Kevin O’Donohue, Carrie Reichardt, Thayen Rich, Sian Wonnish Smith, Cerdic Thomas, Liam Thomas, Karen Wydler, Mark Wydler.

Video of Reichard’s presentation on the Intervention at The British Association for Modern Mosaic’s 2015 Forum

RESOURCES:

Video walk-through of the Disobedient Objects Exhibit with Curator Gavin Grindon

  • February 2016 interview by Rosie Osborne on Free Spirit Homes here

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Entering Through The Gift Shop: Carrie Reichardt’s “Tiki Love Truck” in the V&A’s “Disobedient Objects”

Photo:  Catherine Flood V&A

Photo: Catherine Flood, Victoria and Albert Museum

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.

Tiki Love Truck Carrie Reichardt

Photo: Catherine Flood, Victoria and Albert Museum

Photo: Catherine Flood V&A

Photo: Catherine Flood, Victoria and Albert

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).

Carrie Reichardt "Tiki Love Truck" (2007) Designed by Carrie Reichardt and Thayen Rich. Death mask by ick Reyolds. Made by Carrie Reichardt and the Treatment Rooms Collective.

Carrie Reichardt “Tiki Love Truck” (2007) Designed by Carrie Reichardt and Thayen Rich. Death mask by Nick Reyolds. Made by Carrie Reichardt and the Treatment Rooms Collective.  Photo:  © Victoria and Albert Museum

"Disobedient Objects"  Photo courtesy V&A

“Disobedient Objects”   Photo © Victoria and Albert Museum

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.

Photo courtesy of the artist.

Tiki Love Truck’s appearance in Manchester Art Car Parade, 2007. Photo courtesy of the artist.

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.

Death mask of John Joe "Ash" Amador made by Nick Reynolds.  Photo:  Wanranya Jangwangkorn

Death mask of John Joe “Ash” Amador made by Nick Reynolds. Photo: Wanranya Jangwangkorn

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.

Photo:  Pete Riches

Photo: Pete Riches

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.

Carrie Reichardt (front)  Photo: Pete Riches

Carrie Reichardt (front) Photo: Pete Riches

Photo: Pete Riches

Photo: Pete Riches

Photo courtesy of the artist

Photo courtesy of the artist

Carrie_Reichard_truck_Dayofthedead_4_Pete_Riches

Photo: Pete Riches

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.

Until then,

Nancie

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.

Resources:

  •  February 2016 interview by Rosie Osborne on Free Spirit Home here

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