No Art For Oil: BP & Tate on Thin Ice
Following reports that a number of the UK’s biggest cultural organisations have renewed millions of pounds worth of sponsorship deals with BP, Occupy London collaborated with art activist collective Liberate Tate to stage a mourning over the environmental destruction propelled by the oil industry – with an art installation and subsequent happening involving a melting block of Arctic ice.
Also see photos at http://www.flickr.com/photos/normko/6696934379/in/set-72157627901303874/
The 49kg ice block, which played the lead role in two interactive art exhibitions by KryoLab artists, Anna Dumtriu, Antti Tenetz and Dave Lawrence in 2009 – at The State Museum of Contemporary Art (Thessaloniki, Greece) and at Rondo Gallery (Katowice, Poland) – went on a freezer-strike in solidarity with the occupy movement. Dave Lawrence, who donated t of KryoLab, hoped the act would remind people how close our society and the environment are to the brink, but also send a message that we still have time to avoid falling over the edge.
The exhibit ran through Saturday afternoon, coinciding with a plethora of events focusing on the Corporate Occupation of the Arts at the Bank of Ideas. Members of the public, and amongst them several families, gathered round to touch the ice and listen in as Charlie Kronick from Greenpeace, Pete the Temp, Cat Brogan, Danny Chivers and Grassy Noel, amongst others, joined in to support and bring across the message in spoken word and performance.
As night fell, four veiled figures clad in black from Liberate Tate carried the ice on an illuminated platform – from St Paul’s and across the Millennium Bridge – to BP-sponsorship recipient the Tate Modern, where the artwork was set down in the turbine hall, accompanied by a caption entitling the artwork ‘Floe Piece’. The caption condemned the Tate for its recent sponsorship arrangement with the oil giant, which also extended funds to the British Museum, the National Portrait Gallery and the Royal Opera House.
The unauthorised artwork was temporarily appropriated by Tate authorities, but was returned to its previous owners later. A section of the ice ended its days in the Thames River at the request of the artist, whilst the last chunk returned to form the centrepiece of a subsequent Occupy London general assembly. Supporters remarked on a ‘very touching event’, and university student Rebecca said ‘It is inspiring and touching to see Occupy so engaged and inviting’, expressing her respect for what the movement has achieved to date. With the meltwater from the ice trickling down the incline of the Turbine Hall, occupiers used the GA to discuss the aims of the movement in light of the looming court ruling and the insecure future of a fragile but invaluable environment.
Reflecting the message from speakers at the steps of St. Paul’s, there was a shared concern but also a sense of determination amongst the occupiers leaving the GA – with hope that their actions can help to turn the tide before the tipping point – towards sustainability, social and economic justice for current and future generations.
By Ragnhild Freng Dale & Mark Kauri