Liberate the Tate

6 09 2011

While doing some light summer reading of the highly recommended A User’s Guide to Demanding the Impossible (by the London-based collective The Laboratory of Insurrectionary Imagination, aka Labofii, pub. Dec. 2010), we discovered an extended, ongoing intervention campaign intended to liberate the Tate Museum from its sponsorship by British Petroleum.

For those interested in socially engaged art and performance, watch and learn!

Labofii were commissioned by the Tate Modern to give workshops on art and activism, but after being told by curators that no interventions could be made against the museum’s sponsors (i.e. BP), Labofii inspired workshop participants to form a collective to liberate the Tate from the oil barons:  “months later the collective made global headlines when it poured hundreds of litres of black molasses inside and outside the museum, during its party celebrating 20 yrs of BP sponsorship, held whilst oil gushed into the Gulf of Mexico (pp. 18-19).”

The collective that was formed calls itself Liberate Tate.  Titled “Licence to Spill“, the intervention shown above and in complete report below took place in June of 2010.  [Make sure to watch the following clip to see what took place inside of the Tate Modern–not to be missed!]

The above was just one of a series of brilliant unsanctioned art interventions by this group and others that have taken place at the Tate Modern, Tate Britain, British Museum, and National Portrait Gallery, starting last summer.

In September 2010, an oil painting intervention in the Tate Modern Turbine Hall:

Human Cost, Tate Britain performance, charcoal and sunflower oil, April 20, 2011 — First anniversary of the Gulf of Mexico disaster:

Most recently, Reverend Billy led a mass exorcism in Turbine Hall over the taint of BP sponsorship on July 18, 2011:

Additional actions:

Five members of the art activist group Culture Beyond Oil poured non-toxic black oil around the British Museum’s world famous Easter Island sculpture, in protest at BP’s sponsorship of the museum, posted July 2010:

The Great BP-Sponsored Tate Modern Sleep In, April 17, 2011:

Greenwash Spill at the National Portrait Gallery, Greenwash Guerrillas, June 22, 2010:

Balloon Power, an earlier action coming out of Labofii’s January 2010 workshop, which was titled “Disobedience makes history,” released black helium-filled balloons with dead fish attached to them in Turbine Hall, on May 15, 2011:

According to a Voice of America report on the art actions, “gallery staff were forced to shoot down the balloons with air rifles”:

Museum Censorship backfires yet again

John Jordan, co-founder of Labofii, recounts how the Tate’s attempts to censor the commissioned workshop led to the genesis of Liberate Tate and the ongoing long-term campaign to get oil money out of the Tate by 2012, in what he describes as “a pedagogic success beyond anything we could have ever imagined.”

Jordan’s editorial in the Guardian UK: “Will BP lead Tate into artistic Hell? Art risks selling its soul if it looks to corporate sponsorship as the only way out of the funding hole,” July 2010.


Failed “No Tarsands” t-shirt intervention at BP stockholder meeting, April 2011




2 responses

6 09 2011

“gallery staff were forced to shoot down the balloons with air rifles”:

Love it! Brilliant–

14 09 2011

As reported in today’s Los Angeles Times (9/14/11)
“Gulf oil spill: BP gets most blame in government report”

“BP, Transocean and Halliburton all violated federal safety regulations leading up to last year’s Gulf of Mexico oil spill, a federal investigation concluded, in findings that could be crucial for the Justice Department investigation and numerous lawsuits surrounding the disaster.”

The article concludes:

The report said the company was “ultimately responsible” for operations and safety on the rig. It said BP “failed to communicate” key cementing decisions and “the increasing operational risks to Transocean.” Still, the report found that BP and its contractors Transcocean and Halliburton violated at least a half-dozen federal regulations, for which the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management would determine further action and penalties.

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