CAS @ Oil In A Teapot, Tate Britain

First appeared on Ctrl.Alt.Shift on Thursday 21 April 2011.

There’s nothing we like more at Ctrl.Alt.Shift than a quick bit of protest on our lunch break. That’s why Amy Hall jumped at the chance to head down to the Tate Britain this week and join climate change campaigners Climate Rush as they mourned BP’s sponsorship of the arts…

The sun blazed down on a crowded lawn outside the Tate Britain as members of Climate Rush gathered for an afternoon picnic, aptly named ‘Oil In A Teapot’, to mourn the lives lost in the BP oil disaster exactly one year ago.

But they were also mourning what they see as a cultural loss, showing their sadness that cultural spaces, such as the Tate, have to accept funding from companies with dodgy ethical reputations such as BP.

Dressed all in black, with their suffragette inspired red sashes, the group posed for photographs on the steps of the Tate along with artwork produced by artists from Louisiana which was greatly affected by the Gulf of Mexico disaster.

The paintings were then displayed alongside the picnic with and a version of a Turner painting, altered to show an oil spill. This was later delivered inside the Tate with ‘Love Oil Painting, Hate Oil Funding’ written on the back and a message asking them to stop accepting BP’s money.

Passers by couldn’t help but take a look at tea party (grabbing a cucumber sandwich in the process). Many people had never heard of the link between BP and the Tate and were intrigued to know more about why the group were there. The stunt was part of a wider week of action against the relationship between the arts and BP coordinated by Art Not Oil.

“A year ago today BP caused an environmental disaster in the Gulf of Mexico,” said Jennifer Sherriff of Climate Rush. “80% of the oil is still in the ocean and toxic dispersants were used. BP has not only destroyed the environment of the area but 11 people died and livelihoods were ruined. They are still not paying the compensation they should be and are breaking the law.

“BP needs to stop trying to fix their image through corporate sponsorship. They need to be held to account.”

BP has described the last 12 months as Year of Change for the better. But many from Louisiana say their communities and livelihoods have been destroyed.

Since the Gulf of Mexico oil disaster, the company has also started extracting oil in the Canadian Tar Sands a project not just controversial for its massive effects on climate change but also to the lives of First Nation communities who suffer high levels of cancer and devastation to their natural environment.

The First Nation communities from Canada have joined with those in Louisiana in solidarity in their campaigning.

Questions are again being asked about arts funding, especially in the wake of cuts to public funding for the arts. Should it matter where cultural spaces get their money from? Are companies like BP legitimising themselves in Britain while people across the globe suffer at their expense? And perhaps most importantly, does art have an obligation to be moral?

Find out more about the campaign at the Art Not Oil website.

Photos: Climate Rush

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One thought on “CAS @ Oil In A Teapot, Tate Britain

  1. I really liked this. It’s good to read about innovative forms of non-violent protest; I think they have a much greater long-term impact on those who experience them.

    I think the funding question is a very interesting one. BP should worry about spending adequate money on its own equipment and renewable alternatives before it supports the Arts. Ditto fair pay for all of its workers.

    Equally, is it possible for the state to justify funding the Arts when there are people in this country (let alone others) living in poverty?

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