The Victoria and Albert Museum (V&A) announced on Friday that recent artifacts from Extinction Rebellion (XR), a global environmental justice group, will join the museum’s Rapid Response Collection. Built for the fast-paced digital age, the Rapid Response Collecting program allows the museum to acquire and immediately display “objects that address questions of social, political, technological, and economic change.” The activism paraphernalia will join the mosquito emoji, a Tampax cup, an Xbox controller, the refugee flag, and an iPhone 6, among other timely objects in the collection.
XR entered the discussion about climate change in the fall of 2018, when the group staged a series of mass protests in Parliament Square that brought London to a standstill. In the months since, they’ve grown to 363 groups across 59 different countries, from the Solomon Islands to India, and have garnered international attention for radical acts like burying a coffin to represent “our future” and gluing themselves to the gates of Buckingham Palace while reading a letter of dissent to the Queen.
In a statement regarding the museum’s acquisition, Clive Russell, of the Extinction Rebellion Arts Group, stressed the dire stakes of climate change. “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. The organization’s visual symbolism is constructed around a 12-tone color palette including shades like “angry” pink and custom fonts like “FUCXED.”
Among the new objects in the V&A’s collection are those that highlight the group’s DIY ethos, such as an open-source digital file of the Extinction symbol, created by street artist ESP in 2011, and a “Declaration of Rebellion” pamphlet from the first of several print runs. The collection also highlights the group’s focus on design with its vibrant green, blue, and pink flags, as well as slogan patches with their demands including: “tell the truth,” “rebel for life,” and “beyond politics.”
Corinna Gardner, Senior Curator of Design and Digital at the V&A, emphasized the link between the group’s success and its visual aesthetics. “The strong graphic impact of the Extinction Symbol alongside a clear set of design principles have ensured that their acts of rebellion are immediately recognizable,” she said in a statement. Some of XR’s objects are on display at the V&A as of last week. Others will be on view at the V&A Museum of Childhood starting in August.
The V&A is not the only big name in the British art world inserting itself into current protest movements. In June, the Museum of London said it hoped to acquire the “Trump Baby” inflatable sculpture. And in April, some speculated that Banksy had signaled his support for the movement by creating a mural at the site of a weeks-long Extinction Rebellion protest—though its attribution to the secretive street artist was never confirmed.