The art of warning: do environmental activists’ actions in museums make sense?

Activists want to reset the counters with their regressive actions and remind us that we are living beings like everyone else.

Although much is said about the actions carried out in museums by the environmental activists of Just Stop Oil and other related movements, we are far from fully understanding them. On the contrary, we have done everything to minimize its impact. We will say: they do not know what they are doing, they confuse the real with the symbolic, they are obsessed with death, they are manipulated, they hate art, they do not understand anything, they are thieves. .

It was as if they suffered from ignorance, culture and education at once. Thus, we will have given up time for observation and reflection. Without seeing it, everything from the choice of artistic and museum target to the mode of operation makes sense. Here, without taking into account the possibility that something important is being addressed to us, it can also refer to our history, our present situation and our future. This will question our intelligence, culture and forms of education.

For us, youth means that we have to take everything back: culture, art, education.

There is definitely something regressive about these actions. However, there is nothing random about regression: it is voluntary and methodical. Activists act as if there is a landscape where there is a painting, and by doing what they don’t see in the museum – by touching and desecrating the works – they are taking culture and education backwards. However, our whole relationship with the world is based on symbolic power and principle separation – people and animals, words and things, images and what they represent, bring us back to the previous stage.

The interest of such a regression is its revealing power. For a long time, the regime of separation did not cause problems, it was even a condition for humanism, that is, the condition for the emergence of what is characteristic of a person. By the 1960s and 1970s, a book was published silent spring ( SilentSpring) by Rachel Carson in 1962 or The Meadows Report Growth restrictions In 1972 we began to realize the problematic nature of such dissociation. As they discovered that humans were not immune to the deterioration of their living conditions on Earth, they realized that they were neither excluded from all living things nor freed from their earthly condition.

What is happening in the museums warns us of the need to put an end to such a regime of separation. Since this system is the basis of our civilization, its task is more difficult: it provides information about the cultural process itself, understood as both art and education. German has the same word for this process, it is Imagegenerally translated as “training” and combining plastic reference to form and image ( Image) and in an educational sense.

This is a composition that the museum exemplifies. It is part art gallery and part school, museum temple Image. It is therefore no coincidence that these acts follow the global school and student climate strike movement launched by Greta Thunberg in 2018. From the threshold of our school, from the hall of our museums, the meaning of young people for us is that we have to take back everything, starting with culture, art, and education. We would be wrong to ignore it: there is no other option to unlock the future.

The young generation of “activists”, who are very worried about its future, aware of the “end” of the planet, choose scandal over political inaction.

The sunflower symbolizes the environmentalist party, which opposes nuclear or fossil fuels and unites the idea of ​​deriving life and energy from the light and heat of the sun. Was Van Gogh in the spirit of activists dousing sunflowers with soup? Listening to their demands, they chose well the work that symbolizes the image of nature, which will not be seen except in museums tomorrow. An effective way to spread WWF’s diagnosis of biodiversity loss.

Greta Grunberg’s climate marches in militant groups, young people socializing with civil disobedience through social networks, and restrictions on their free expression due to state of emergency and arrests are becoming impatient. After the global pandemic, the generation could dream of another world. And who knows, he may be the last to face global warming and all its effects.

Young “activists” oppose a society that will judge them for their actions, when the reality is that lives can be harmed with impunity.

For environmentalists, by analyzing their radical and unprecedented gesture – even artificially desecrating a work of art – they oppose a society that will judge them for this act, when the real landscape, the living landscape, can be damaged with impunity. This tension reminds us that museums are both places of preservation and places to label the beautiful, the admirable. By selecting internationally recognized works, sometimes “icons,” environmentalists know that the message challenges the media and opinion that divides these universal landmarks into a valued regime. Acts reflecting another space labeling those urgently needed to protect living organisms: COPs. What will be decided to protect the planet?

As COP 27 competes with international security issues, environmental activists from many states engage in transnational scandal dynamics and stage the actions of desperate and angry people, often referred to as UP Act mobilizations, leading to their controversial actions. a move not to die (Citing the work of Christophe Broqua published by Presses de Science Po in 2005).

The paradox of our societies is pointed out in these actions, in which activists who cling to each other and stand against each other take part. A mass consumer society that is already at risk of feeding its population. Even soups and purees will no longer be available to the poor in the face of works of art reserved for the protected public. In the media and the globalized era, these environmentalists try to sum up the fear of living in a socially unjust, ecologically unjust, hopeless world with this militant gesture.

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