Space For Protest, Respect For Art
Across Europe museums have become battlegrounds this autumn. Climate activists, feeling desperate because of government inactivity on climate action, have expressed themselves in a rather divisive way. They have splashed iconic art work with food colouring, mashed potato or tomato soup or glued themselves to frames.
Usually the activists targeted paintings covered in glass and claim they had planned their acts carefully to ensure there were plenty of headlines but no lasting damage. However. these “art attacks” have caused shockwaves through the art world.
“The activists responsible for them severely underestimate the fragility of these irreplaceable objects, which must be preserved as part of our world cultural heritage,” wrote the directors of almost 100 galleries in an open letter published online.
Mistrust and Prejudice Instead of Discussion
In the short term, this has meant more security and more mistrust in museums, spaces that the directors themselves have called “places where people from a wide variety of backgrounds can engage in dialogue and which therefore enable social discourse.”
This has been a sad development. The sight of young people arriving at art galleries should bring joy and optimism for art lovers, but it started to bring a sense of fear.
A Way To Bring People Together
“Like all museums, we reacted to all this news about climate activists in the same way. We made stricter controls, we had more security personnel. And a culture crept in that young visitors in particular are viewed more critically than older ones,” admits Michael Zechmann-Khreis of Tyrol’s State Museums. “That was actually a kind of general suspicion of a certain group of people. And then we said ‘stop, it doesn’t work that way, we’re a museum for everyone and we’re fighting precisely those prejudices that are happening right now.’”
Space For Protest, Respect For Art
If we agree that museums are places designed to inspire thought and reflection, it would be absurd if climate activists and museums became enemies or opponents. They are natural allies. That is why Michael Zechmann-Khreis has dreamed up an initiative called #noclimartchange based at the Ferdinandeum in Innsbruck. It allows space for protest and shows respect for the concerns of the protesters but also protects artworks and, with a knowing nod to the controversial art protests, gives something back to the community.
“We’ve called on all visitors to the museum of the Ferdinandeum to bring food with them,” he explains. “Of course, this food is not poured onto paintings, but is collected and given to people in need via Caritas.”
Waking People Up
That’s only one part of the initiative - an empty exhibition room was made freely available in the Ferdinandeum musuem for the activists to express their legitimate without endangering art and cultural assets. Fridays For Future (Regional Group Innsbruck and Kufstein), Last Generation and Protect Our Winters (POW) have already taken the opportunity to decorate the room with their core messages.
“This room is freely accessible without a ticket. There is a beamer with the films about the climate activists,” he explains. “These groups have designed the walls completely freely. You can find facts about climate change there and you can also do something participatory, you can block roads by sitting in front of two trucks, for example.”
Sophia Scherer of Fridays for Future Innsbruck explains why her group accepted the invitation. “We believe that we have still not managed to raise awareness among the general public of how big the problem of the climate catastrophe is for all of us. We hope that this will get us out of the bubble and wake up the visitors a bit.”
Publiziert am 30.11.2022