|Climate Rush holds picnic at Tate Britain to remember the oil spill|
|Sunday, 24 April 2011 23:19|
On the first anniversary of BP's oil disaster, Climate Rush held a party and art show to protest outside Tate Britain. As they point out, disasters such as this oil spill are only a part of the enormous damage BP causes to the planet.
On the first anniversary of BP's Deepwater Horizon oil disaster, Climate Rush held a party and art show protest outside Tate Britain where BP tries to clean up or 'greenwash' its image by art sponsorship. London, UK. 20/04/2011
A year ago, BP's Deepwater Horizon rig in the Gulf of Mexico began to gush oil at a huge rate from the deep sea bed into the Gulf of Mexico, contaminating a huge area of the ocean, ocean floor and coastline. 80% of that oil is still there, and BP's efforts to clean up the spill using gallon upon gallon of toxic dispersant (Corexit, banned in the UK) made matters worse. While reducing the largely cosmetic damage of oil floating on the surface of the sea, the dispersant breaks down the oil into small droplets which are then ingested by fish, shellfish and other species, greatly increasing the toxic effect of the spill.
Drilling had been allowed at great depth, where the hazards are not well understood and as was shown, the oil companies have great problems in dealing with them. What would have been relatively minor incident on land proved almost impossible to fix. Giant oil companies succeed in pushing through weak regulation which allows them to exploit unsafe areas thanks to their huge financial resources paying for high-powered lobbying.
As the Climate Rush protesters point out, disasters such as this oil spill are only a part of the environmental damage BP is causing to the planet. They are pressing ahead with their highly damaging and polluting extraction of oil from the Canadian Tar Sands, endangering the fragile Arctic environment - where disasters may have a dramatic impact on global warming - through drilling, and even plan to resume deep water operations in the Gulf of Mexico in a couple of months time. Of course BP is not the only environmental villain, with other oil companies also seriously threatening our future.
To rub salt into the Gulf coast wounds, the executives of Transocean Ltd, the company who were actually operating the Deepwater Horizon rig for BP, awarded themselves millions of dollars in bonuses last year to reward "the best year in safety performance in our company's history."
BP uses art and cultural sponsorship as a way of cleaning up its image and enhancing its reputation, so that people think of them as the people who sponsor great exhibitions and fine concerts rather than those responsible for huge damage to the environment. Until recently, the tobacco companies, selling products that killed millions who became addicted to them,used the same technique to gain respectability. They were kicked out of public institutions some years ago and the protesters say its time the same happened to the oil companies. And of course we are as a nation addicted to oil, and it is very much an addiction that is proving toxic for the world.
The Climate Rush protesters came to Tate Britain dressed in black to mourn those lost in the gulf oil disaster as well as the damage to the environment. They wore their normal red sashes, some with the suffragette 'Deeds Not Words' motto, and some too were in period dress recalling that heritage.
They brought with them an exhibition of paintings from the Facing The Gulf - Portraits of Oil project, produced in a 5 week project in in Grand Isle, Louisiana, a small community badly affected by the disaster, where UK artist Nick Viney spent 5 weeks teaching ordinary residents portrait painting. These portraits were then submitted for one of BP's largest 'greenwash' events, the BP portrait awards at the National Portrait Gallery, but were all rejected. They are now to be used to hold an alternative Portrait Award Ceremony outside the NPG on the night of the awards and then as a shadow exhibition following the pictures from the award when they go on tour.
These pictures were then held up by the Climate Rushers on the steps to the Tate Gallery, along with a 'newly discovered work by JMW Turner', his "Fishing upon the Blythe-Sand, Tide Setting with flaming Oil Rig', a smaller sketch of one of his images from 1809 currently on show at Tate Britain, and which the protesters intended to donate to the Tate Gallery and the nation at the end of their picnic. Fittingly Turner painted the original more or less at the site of BP's giant Coryton oil refinery on the Thames estuary, sold to Petroplus in 2007.
While some of the protesters stood holding these invaluable art works on the steps of the gallery, others handed out leaflets to those entering and leaving it, explaining why Tate Britain and other public institutions should not accept sponsorship from BP and the other oil companies.
The Climate Rushers went on to hold a picnic on the lawn outside the gallery, handing out leaflets and sandwiches to those enjoying the warm sunshine there - a very popular form of demonstration, although I don't think anyone really ate the sandwiches which were garnished with 'crude oil' poured from a teapot over them.
Then one of the protesters climbed up and put the Turner briefly on display in one of the large niches along the front of the building, which brought over the security who until now had watched benignly from a distance, and the protesters promised not to do it again. The protest continued at ground level with the exhibition, leafleting, sandwiches and cake.