The Art Not Oil Coalition got underway with several spectacular Actions. A large turnout of London Rising Tiders helped our friends of Liberate Tate with theirs, organised at Tate Britain.
Fifty veiled figures dressed in black carried out a performance art installation entitled ‘Parts Per Million’ throughout a series of rooms in the so-called ‘BP Walk Through British Art’ at Tate Britain during the art gallery’s official re-opening (Saturday 23 November 2013). The piece critiqued the role that Tate is playing in exacerbating climate change by bolstering the public perception of BP through its long-standing sponsorship relationship.
The art at Tate Britain was reordered chronologically this year. The Liberate Tate performance began in the ’1840′ room, when the industrial revolution started to significantly impact emission levels, to the present day room with contemporary art created as carbon dioxide levels reached an all-time high of 400 parts per million (ppm). Leading climate scientists consider 350 ppm to be what must be returned to in this century for earth to be safe for human life for generations to come. In each room the Liberate Tate performers arranged themselves in a different configuration and counted aloud en masse the increase in atmospheric carbon ppm during that time period.
One of the performers said: “Any celebration of British art that prominently bears the BP logo is also endorsing that company’s business model which explicitly involves the destruction of a safe, liveable climate. Tate Britain celebrates with a ‘House Warming Party’, but the presence of BP, one of the companies data shows is most responsible for climate change due to its carbon emissions, makes it more of a ‘Global Warming Party’.”. “Tate’s vision statement says that it will ‘demonstrate leadership in response to climate change’. Yet oil companies like BP are actively looking for ways to expand their markets and find new reserves at a time when the world needs to be dramatically reducing the amount of fossil fuels that are being burnt. By actively promoting BP, Tate is positioning itself on the side of the fossil fuel companies that are actually creating dangerous climate change.”
The national collection of British art housed at Tate Britain – art owned by the public – was rebranded the ‘BP Walk through British Art’ in May: in the very week it was announced carbon dioxide levels had reached 400 ppm. A report published in the week of the action estimated that BP was responsible for 2.5% of global historic emissions. http://www.theguardian.com/environment/interactive/2013/nov/20/which-fossil-fuel-companies-responsible-climate-change-interactive.
There is growing alarm from artists, Tate members and visitors that Tate is providing support to a corporation creating climate chaos and forcing climate-conscious gallery visitors into an uncomfortable position if they want to enjoy art at Tate. Last year Tate said in a reply to a freedom of information request that it had received more representations raising concerns about BP’s sponsorship than any other issue since the oil company became linked to the gallery in 1990. Evening Standard art critic Brian Sewell asked: “I wonder if BP realises how sick of its initials some of us are? Not only is there now a BP Walk, but there are BP Displays of Turner, Blake and Moore, and BP Spotlights too. Are we soon to buy BP sandwiches in the BP café, drink BP water from the BP waterspout, and dry our hands on BP paper in the BP loo?”