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This weekend we’re inviting you to Tate Modern and we haven’t asked them for permission. Here’s why.

Image: Deadline Festival, design by Jon Daniel.

 

This week, climate negotiators from all over the world are descending on Paris to discuss planetary deadlines to come off fossil fuels. London, we think, has some deadlines of its own to discuss.

I could not put it better than the Art Review critic reviewing Mel Evans’ Artwash: Big Oil and the Arts.

"Few artists are so well represented in British institutions as the one born the Anglo-Persian Oil Company in 1908, known today as BP. Yet the Tate and National Portrait Gallery alike exhibit just a single work (in multiple reproductions) by this towering figure: a yellow and lime-green sunburst (Helios, 2000) indebted to the abstraction of Kenneth Noland and the geometric modulations of Julio Le Parc.

Such institutions ignore BP’s arguably more significant site-specific works, e.g. at Prudhoe Bay, Alaska (2006) and Macondo Prospect, Gulf of Mexico (Deepwater Horizon, 2010). These epic time-based works, involving several million barrels of oil mottling thousands of miles, expected to affect habitats and livelihoods for years to come, declaim man’s destructive potential and the dark underside of the Enlightenment fascination with nature’s domination.”


Tate’s current sponsorship contract with BP expires at the end of 2016. So the gallery has exactly one year to decide if it will keep on promoting this “towering figure”.

 

Image: Liberate Tate's Sunflower performance in Tate Britain, 2010

This is why, this weekend, we’re curating an unauthorised arts festival inside Tate Modern. We did not ask permission. And we invite you to join us! Here are five things we want to do together:

1. Refuse BP our approval
We recently spent a whole three years fighting a legal Freedom of Information appeal so that Tate would tell us how much BP actually contributes to its budget. If you haven’t heard the answer, have a guess before you read on. What did you guess?

The actual answer? An average of £224,000 a year, not even 0.5% of Tate’s budget.

For this money, the oil company gets to put its name to works of art that move hearts and minds - and invite diplomats, journalists, and business partners to exclusive parties in Tate’s galleries.

So we’ve invited artists participating in the festival to tear apart BP’s veneer of social acceptability. The results include a surprise intervention by The Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence (Saturday 4pm), an alternative audio tour with artists Phil England and Isa Suarez (Saturday 11.30am), and a retrospective of creative resistance to oil sponsorship with author Mel Evans (Friday 4.30pm).

2. Take public space for public art
Why take over a gallery without asking permission? Because we believe that public arts institutions exist as spaces to develop and challenge our cultural imagination, and if Tate would rather keep the climate challenge out, we’re going to bring it in. By doing art.

Caryl Churchill has written a short play about this: we’re putting it on (Saturday, 4pm), followed by a panel discussion on performance and power with theatre and performance makers.

Candy Udwin was sacked from the National Gallery for opposing the privatisation of this public art institution. After a 100-day strike she won her job back, and won the National Gallery staff a guaranteed London living wage and union recognition from their outsourcing firm. Candy is joining the 'Art & Politics' panel at Deadline (Sunday 1pm), alongside Julie Ward MEP (Labour) and Natalie Bennett (Green Party).

3. Listen to the voices that BP would rather keep silent
Performances across the festival raise up the voices calling from climate justice. All weekend you can come and watch Pumping Station - a video installation featuring executed Nigerian writer Ken Saro-Wiwa, Colombian trade unionist Gilberto Torres, and critical artists from around the world - voices that are absent from Tate’s otherwise interesting Citizens & States exhibit. Virtual Migrants will perform abstracts from their touring transmedia project Continent Chop Chop (Friday, 12 noon), and campaigner Ewa Jasiewicz and artist Ibrahim Fakhri will ask “Who gets to change the climate?” in the face of anti-Muslim racism and Fortress Europe (Sunday, 4pm).

4. Uncover Tate’s colonial legacy
Tate’s new major exhibition, ‘The Artist and Empire’, promises "to explore how artists from Britain and around the world have responded to the dramas, tragedies and experiences of the Empire”. Tate members can even partake in an ‘Artist and Empire inspired four course meal’ with a curator talk for £90. But will the display reflect on Tate’s own colonial legacy, built on a fortune earned by sugar magnate Henry Tate from slave labour in the Caribbean? And how do Tate Modern’s regular displays deal with these legacies?

We’ll hear from Lena Mohamed, ex-curator at Tate Britain, during an alternative tour of Tate Modern’s Picasso rooms (Sunday 6th, 3pm), as well as a panel on The Artist & Empire (Sunday 3th, 1pm). Also on that panel is artist Miranda Pennell, whose father worked for BP (then Anglo-Persian Oil Company) in the mid 20th century, and who has just spent several years digging up her family’s history alongside orientalist photography colonial maps of Iran in BP’s archives. Her film The Host explores this troubled colonial history.

5. Plant some seeds of the future
We invite you to join us to imagine Tate without BP, and a world that no longer drills for oil, or transfers profit from the energy we all need into deep corporate pockets. Come and chat about what a positive future looks like for London (Friday 6pm, Capital / Climate / Culture with Professor Doreen Massey, Artist Loraine Leeson and London Young Poet Laureate Selina Nwulu) and for the world (This Changes Everything, 6.30pm with filmmaker Avi Lewis and First Nations activists Melina Laboucan-Massimo and Dini Ze Toghestiy).

Inside the Turbine Hall there’s currently an installation called 'Empty Lot’, by Argentinian artist Abraham Cruzvillegas. The installation consists of turf lifted out of London’s parks and vacant lots, and "provokes questions about the city and nature, as well as wider ideas of chance, change, and hope”.  We invite you to pocket a few sunflower seeds and plant them in the Empty Lot with us, calling for change and for hope (Saturday 3pm).

Platform present
Deadline at Tate
4-6 December 2015
deadline.org.uk

@platformlondon
facebook.com/platformlondon

 

Image: Tate Britain BP displays advert

 

Image: Liberate Tate's 'Hidden Figures' performance in the Turbine Hall. Credit: Martin LeSanto-Smith

 

Image: Not An Alternative, Art Not Oil Coalition, Brandalism. Paris, November 2015

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