Beginning in May 2010, in the wake of the Gulf of Mexico oil disaster, art activists Liberate Tate staged a dramatic series of performances in cultural institutions to protest against oil companies such as BP and Shell sponsoring gallery spaces. Gushing from floral skirts, spilling elegantly from giant white eggs, jetting from paint tubes across the floor of the iconic Tate Turbine Hall, the flood of oily resistance that followed has generated a fierce debate in the art world around oil, ethics and sponsorship.
Working in association with Platform and Art Not Oil, these performance-interventions have been documented in the postcard pack ‘Liberate Tate: Collected Works 2010’. The sales of these packs are being used to fund a participatory event/exhibition in an art space in 2011 that will provide a space for planning more actions of creative resistance.
'As crude oil continues to devastate coastlines and communities in the Gulf of Mexico, BP executives will be enjoying a cocktail reception with curators and artists at Tate Britain. These relationships enable big oil companies to mask the environmentally destructive nature of their activities with the social legitimacy that is associated with such high‑profile cultural associations.'
A letter in the Guardian signed by 171 people in the art world on the day of the Tate summer party celebrating 20 years of BP sponsorship
'We are seeing a terrifyingly high rate of cancer in Fort Chipewyan where I live. We are convinced that these cancers are linked to the Tar Sands development on our doorstep. It is shortening our lives. That’s why we no longer call it “dirty oil” but “bloody oil”. The blood of Fort Chipewyan people is on these companies’ hands.'
George Poitras, a former chief of Mikisew Cree First Nation, Canada, attending the BP annual general meeting in 2010
The ‘Liberate Tate: Collected Works 2010’ postcard books are available at the online New Internationalist shop, or you can send £5 on Paypal to firstname.lastname@example.org
If you would like to be involved with Liberate Tate, email email@example.com