Words by Alejandra Silva Romero

“What is worth more art or life?” said an activist at the National Gallery (The Times, 2022). Global warming acknowledgment began in the 19th century, it is now a factual international concern that involves respect of nature to avoid more cracks in the ozone layer by carbon emissions. In 2022, miscellaneous facts started to make noise. In fact, in the UK, an ecologist group that makes sure that  fossil combustible energy is regulated created a very questionable outburst when they dumped two cans of tomato soup on the painting “Sunflowers” by Vincent Van Gogh at the UK’s national Gallery. This organisation is named Just stop Oil and has indeed, the very honourable purpose of executing a social pressure on governments concerning the planet’s survival. Just Oil declares a “social collapse” if the government doesn’t take action in the environment wellbeing, they use strong witted words such as “slaughter” and “genocidal policy” toward irresponsible industries that use fossil fuels. However, their methods to draw attention to their message tarnished the noble motive behind it, from a lot of people’s point of view. 

They claim that this method was very efficient and gained in visibility thanks to the famous painting that were targeted. A lot of similar events began to happen, in Germany, an activist from Last Generation (another activist group) threw mashed potatoes in “Grainstack” by Claude Monet and also in Italy, protesters threw pea soup on another Van Gogh painting entitled “The Sower.” 

Why paintings? In general, public opinion thinks that the industry of art is directly attacked when disrespecting the masterpieces of the painters (iconoclasm) and also disrespecting the museum’s staff with the damages. Moreover, the painter’s legacy is being diminished well knowing that painters like Van Gogh serve the starving artist syndrome, which means that painting was more important to him than his own survival. 

Whether the paintings were protected by glass or not, it would have been way more appreciated from them to perhaps express themselves through art without ruining someone else’s. Various questions are raised by these actions : is it the most efficient way to draw the attention of the government and the public? Is the situation going to have a counter effect : would the activists be taken as ridiculous or heroes ? All of this has to do with the presentation. The presentation? Well, a lot of people appreciate art because it represents so many things: beauty, history, protest etc. Which is why activists use art. Nevertheless, throwing and screaming are actions that are considered violent in society. The fact to impose on the public is not taken in a good eye. 

However, considering the communication process, it has a positive impact on the informative aspect and enlighten a lot of silent government acts, as an example, the previous prime minister, Truss, sabotaged much of the country’s climate progress, climate protesters’ messaging has centred on rising energy costs as a result of the war in Ukraine driving up fossil fuel prices, and the British government’s move to allow oil and gas companies access to new drilling locations in the North Sea, which it claims will improve the country’s energy security. 

Even if the opinions are mitigated, this method doesn’t seem to be the right one to raise awareness, globally speaking, for the population as well as for the government. What do you think? 

Categories: Opinion

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