Activists Fighting Climate Change… By Sticking to Art
Chances are that over the past few months you have heard of Just stop the oil. The climate justice campaign group has made headlines for its unusual protest tactics, including storming the track during the British Grand Prix, blocking entrances to oil installations and disrupting matches football by attaching to the goal posts.
More recently, they’ve stuck to famous works of art. Last Wednesday, three activists attached themselves to a work by Horatio McCulloch in Glasgow. On Thursday, another group clung to the frame of a painting by Vincent Van Gogh at the Courtauld. Their target on Friday was a painting by Turner in Manchester. This Monday, it was a table of gendarme housed in National Gallery. Yesterday was a copy of Da Vinci.
Some raised their eyebrows at the group’s actions. No one can argue that actions like these generate publicity and get people talking about climate change – but why target art? Similar questions were raised in May when the Mona Lisa was smothered by a French climate activist. As he was carried away by the authorities, he shouted “all artists tell you: think of the Earth! All artists think of the Earth! That’s why I did this! Think about the planet!
It’s true that while many are worried about the potential damage climate protesters could inflict on these precious paintings, their actions pale in comparison to the inevitable death and destruction that is tearing the planet apart if we don’t act against change. climatic.
We spoke to Paul Bell, 21, a graduate in physics and a member of Just Stop Oil, who glued himself to the painting of Turner Thompson’s Wind Harp in Manchester.
What did you hope to accomplish by sticking to the board?
Paul Bell: I did it in support of the Just Stop Oil coalition, and I did it to assert their central demand: No New Oil. No new licenses and permits for the production, development and exploration of fossil fuels in the UK. This demand is not difficult to implement – all it takes is for the government to issue a statement and stick to it – but it is desperately needed as our future is rapidly becoming unlivable.
Billions of people are already at risk around the world and millions are suffering and dying now.
Why did Just Stop Oil choose to take action by sticking to paintings, in particular?
Paul Bell: The paintings are an important part of the cultural heritage of the United Kingdom. Interfering with them sparked outrage and conversation. At a time when most journalists barely report on the ravages of the climate crisis, and when our [former] Chancellor of the Exchequer earns £1.3m from second oil job, youngsters have absolutely no choice but to make their voices heard in the loudest and most outrageous way possible .
In the words of Eben, who spoke while glued to Constable’s The Hay Wain at the National Gallery, “when billions of people suffer and suffer, what good is art?” When you target art, you force a shift in perspective. What really matters to you? The answer is often the simplest; we all want to live, we all want our children to live. If our government acts directly against these simplest desires? Then we step up civil resistance, using nonviolent direct action, which history has proven time and again to work.
How did you choose the paintings to “target”?
Paul Bell: Thompson’s Aeolian Harp was chosen because it is well known, prominent, and represents a beautiful scene from nature. Our natural world is being destroyed in the current sixth mass extinction caused by our climate collapse.
Ultimately, we will do whatever is necessary in a nonviolent way for our government to end new oil and gas. We will continue to disrupt the world of arts and cultural events into media. It’s crucial that we do this to keep the conversations happening and to attract more people to join us and take action in this wonderful community of civil resistance.
Is there anything else you would like to say?
Paul Bell: It is quite easy to gloss over the words “our future”. First, of course, the climate crisis is not in the future, it is happening now. Birds literally fell from the sky in India and Pakistan during the extreme March heat wave; more than 5,000 people had to be hospitalized for heat stroke in Tokyo during their recent unprecedented heat wave; and currently in Bangladesh and parts of India, nine million people are displaced or affected by severe flooding.
If this is our present, what does our future look like? The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change says we have a “short and fast closing window to ensure a livable future”. Today’s young people will inherit this chaotic and dangerous world – is it too much to ask that it be “liveable”? Come join us!