Follow the make-shift tear-gas mask instructions…

Earlier this year, one of followthethings.com’s activities was to take a group of Exeter Geography undergraduates to the Victoria and Albert museum in London to compare its Disobedient Objects, Rapid Response Collecting and Fashion collections/exhibitions. We’d heard that some of the Disobedient Objects could not only be followed into and through the exhibition (lent by and returned to those who made them), but also out from it: as the exhibition’s DIY leaflets were being used elsewhere in the world to make the objects on display. We then found this article by Alice Bell which explains this brilliantly. 

Art historian Gavin Grindon first spotted DIY gas masks last year, looking through photos of the Gezi Park protests in Turkey. He was developing an exhibition on the art and design of protest, and was intrigued by a street-based response to tear gas: essentially a surgical mask stuffed inside a sliced plastic bottle, with some insulating foam and elastic added for good measure.

“As far as I can tell, it was playing around with what [protesters] had on hand,” Grindon told me. The trick of soaking cloth in lemon juice or vinegar has long been used by protesters to protect themselves against tear gas. But Grindon believes that as tear gas is being used more and more, people are looking for something more powerful. (For instance, Greek activists are experimenting with antacid medicine as more effective than vinegar.) For his part, Grindon imagined he could use a rough how-to guide for the bottle-based idea he found pinned to a wall in some photos to design something even better.

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