Artforum reports that ninety-two museum directors have signed up a document to denounce the targeting of works of art by climate change activists. How could it be otherwise? What is more important to a museum director than not having his marble soiled, than defending the importance of art and culture, than avoiding these vexing problems? That is his job, that is what his salary and his joy depend on.
Also many sensitive people, lovers of art and cultural objects, believe that the activists are wrong because these works are very valuable, property of all humanity, because it gives a bad image to the cause, because art is aloof of the schemes of the oil industry and polluting governments. Of course, these people are in favour of defending the planet, being as sensitive as they are, but that’s not the way, they think – and they write it in newspapers and blogs, too.
Good. The activists have chosen the correct target – whether they know it or not, whether they do it for the right reasons or the wrong ones. First, because – it should be remembered – culture is the opposite of nature. What is cultivated is what is extracted from its natural state and, in one way or another, for the purpose of exploiting the resources contained in nature. These works targeted, the more culturally valuable they are, the more guilty they are with regard to the destruction of nature. They are guilty, for example, of attracting thousands of tourists who, in order to see them, fly like flies, but on regular airlines, from all over the planet (that is what the directors of the museums want, that more tourists fly to see this «heritage of humanity»).
These works are valuable, and the tip of an iceberg that global warming is fattening while contributing to global warming: how many, lesser-known, works are in museum halls, in basements, in galleries, in artists’ studios, all of them with their modest contribution of CO2 to the atmosphere! How often do these works travel in bulky crates, with their specialised staff, with all the papers in order! How many of them go from one continent to another to art fairs and with them their artists, sellers, collectors, spotters and careerists! How many art gadgets are born in studios all over the world, with their colossal expenditure of raw materials, with their tacit support of the oil companies!
Are these works under attack valuable? So are the ones next to them in the museum. And the cars owned by Sir Norman Foster that were shown at the Guggenheim, and the fashion designers’ suits that have been exhibited in many museums. And – one cannot be elitist – macro-concerts are also valuable, and all the amusement parks, Marvel or Disney, and jet skis are culture; football cups, and local football matches; it goes without saying that gastronomy, whale meat or barnacles, are culture. Because in this democratic world, no one is willing to give up and under this totalitarian regime imposed by the media, these works have the same value as Jenifer Lopez’s tours, for example – for activists, of course, who would gladly throw soup at Jenifer Lopez, for the good of the planet, or glue themselves to her calves with super glue.
I have my objections to the actions of activists and the responses they provoke:
The first condition for defending art – coherently with art – is to know and make explicit its premise: art has no value, let alone art objects.
The first condition for defending the planet – coherently with the planet – is to denounce the real problem it faces, which is neither CO2, oil companies, insidious governments, nor capitalism. It is the arrogance of human beings, their culture but above all, above all, their number. As I wrote recently in a pamphlet book: it’s your children, stupid.