Signs Of Revolt 13-22 November 2009

Activism can be a joyless, guilt-ridden world. A place where meetings about the world’s evils take on an oppressing stature, where overzealous policing creates an atmosphere of paranoia and fear. Marching and being ignored, standing up for your rights and being beaten down. In order to keep the status quo the status quo, any attempt to subvert authority can be met with a swift and violent backlash from the powers that be. But this is just one side of the activist coin.

In November 2009, the Space Hijackers were invited to take place in an exhibition called "Signs Of Revolt". It was an exhibition to highlight groups who bring humour and art into the world of activism. Groups and individuals who side step the usual dichotomy of protesters and public. A show for activists who engage with the public beyond yelling “down with this sort of thing”. It’s placard-waving with panache.

The collective included such groups like:
• the Rebel Clown Army who use clowning to subvert and diffuse the violent tactics of the police
War Boutique who uses cultural iconography to comment on the Iraq war
• the Laboratory of Insurrectionary Imagination who bring together a network of socially engaged artists and activists
• the UHC collective who bring their design skills to bolster campaign groups
kennardphillipps who use their Photoshop skills to collage poignant social critiques
• and a host of activist photographers, designers and independent media

Held in the eye of the hipster storm on Brick Lane in London's East End, the exhibition space was a large warehouse unit with several back rooms. Our room, we decided, would take the form of a reconstruction of the Hijacker HQ complete with props, costumes, empty beer cans, photos, precariously laid out power-tools and several reports of our actions. We hoped people would wander into the mindset of the Hijacker and engage with the various actions and events we've held.

We loaded up a van with benches from our guerilla benching project, pole dancing podiums, rope ladders, swords, briefcases, police outfits, and hundreds of photos and flyers from our events. Cracking open a few beers and setting to work it wasn't long before the pristine white gallery space resembled our cosy, cluttered office.

The exhibition was also hosting a series of talks, films and events. As well as a presentation of our work on the Saturday afternoon, we decided to move our monthly meeting from our secret Limehouse HQ into the middle of the exhibition space. This enabled us to not only explain to the general public who we are and what we do (around five thousand people came through the exhibition during the week) we also were able to take them through our planning process and come up with plans for actions with them. The meeting was one of our best attended yet with over 50 people present.

The event was a great success. Although (as is always the way with activists) there were differing tactics and opinions (commonly yelled across an exhibtion space), it was a wonderful thing to see so many groups networking together. We can only hope that this spirit of collaboration and sharing continues.

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