Fossil Free Culture NL at the Engaged Art Fair in de Balie
“Which is a greater crime: the befouling of art or the destruction of life? The Van Gogh Museum —like many others— takes the dirtiest money in the world to fuel its activities: oil money. With this, Royal Dutch Shell is ‘artwashing’ its image. The ‘collateral damage’ of the oil business is deaths, spills, wars and the injustice of the climate catastrophe. Such extreme situations call for extreme responses. Today we are blacking out Van Gogh’s Sunflowers because art sponsored by oil is not worth seeing. This is also collateral damage.”
Fossil Free Culture NL strives to end fossil fuel sponsorship of the arts. Through sponsorship deals, fossil fuel companies promote a false and misleading image of their societal generosity, in an attempt to secure the social license they so badly need to continue to operate. The climate is reaching a tipping point. We can’t afford to sanitise the reputation of these companies when our habitat and the ecosystems that sustain us are at stake.
The profoundly unethical and violent nature of the fossil fuel business has been exposed over and over again. On the other hand, the ethics of arts funding by fossil fuel companies in the Netherlands has neither been discussed nor challenged with the urgency it calls for.
Blackout Shell is a hoax* intended to provoke the fundamental questions:
Can we afford to look at art that has been stained by oil money?
Why is it painful to see an iconic piece of Western culture being damaged yet somehow manage to accept the endless spills, destruction of livelihoods and ecologies, and violent repercussions of climate change directly caused by Shell?
In the context of a contemporary art event, the statement and the video are intended to trigger a conversation about ethics and arts funding and create a myth: Were the Sunflowers really destroyed? Are activists ready to take extreme actions to end oil sponsorship of the arts and stigmatise Shell and other big polluters?
* A hoax is a deliberately fabricated falsehood to make the invisible visible.