I’m starting a new job at Greenpeace this Summer: ‘Actions Creator’. It’s very much a natural step for me, having spent the past five years working on the creative side of campaign communications at Greenpeace. It’s a traditional action logistics role but with a front-loaded creative twist. I’ll work for six months of the year, sharing the job with another who does the other six. He’s in post now – I go second. The idea is that for the half of the year where you’re not working at Greenpeace HQ, you pursue your own creative projects.
Outside of Greenpeace I’m part of the artist-activist collective, Liberate Tate. Liberate Tate is a wonderful bunch of creative people pledged to “take creative disobedience against Tate until it drops its oil company funding.” Our performance interventions, or Live Art, are different to regular non-violent direct actions because of both the medium and process: we are artists making art, rather than campaigners taking part in protests or non-violent direct action.
Liberate Tate has made some bold art together over the last few years. Our subject is the relationship that Tate has with BP. Through our work, we point to BP’s f**k ups, particularly Deepwater Horizon. Our collective strapline, ‘Love Tate Hate Oil’ explains how we feel about Tate, and how it’s BP that is the bad influence in their unhealthy relationship. We believe that Tate can do better.
Oil companies like BP and Shell use the cultural estate to wipe clean their more sinister actions to give them the ‘social license to operate’. They get to have their logo on the buildings themselves, but they also get to use the spaces for special events. In response to this Liberate Tate performed License to Spill at the Tate’s summer party in 2010. In a similar vein last year I occupied the roof of Shell- sponsored National Gallery with Greenpeace – and Greenpeace returned to the same corporate shindig event again this year. Sponsorship deals like these are practically the only way oil companies can manage to keep a good reputation. You can read more about this in Culture Beyond Oil.
To interfere with this social license to operate Liberate Tate has made several works. In Tate Britain, for our Human Cost piece, we poured oil over a naked male form on the first anniversary of the Deepwater Horizon spill. We were remembering those men who died in the initial explosion. And in Tate Modern for The Gift, we installed a 16.5m wind turbine blade into the turbine hall and left it there; under the Museum and Galleries Act 1992, the board would be legally obliged to consider it to become part of their collection, and thus would force them to discuss their sponsorship policies. You can watch videos of these and other performances on our website.
But this week we’ve taken a new direction. BP is on trial this year in New Orleans, for Deepwater Horizon. In a new move towards public accountability, each day the official transcript is released online by the court. Our new piece All Rise helpfully amplifies this public accountability by bringing the trial into the heart of the Tate. Is this what justice sounds like? All week, All Rise performers are murmuring an audio transcript of the trial whilst moving about the galleries. This means that as art-lovers marvel at Lichtenstein’s drowning woman, they’ll also catch whispered snippets of BP’s Deepwater Horizon trial.
Our performers have talked about their experience as being trance-like. They are all livestreaming to our performance page www.all-rise.org. There you can watch a mesmerizing and interactive triptych of video as side-by-side each artist moves about the space creating together. It’s an audio-visual cacophony that’s disturbing yet quite beautiful to watch. With performers free to move about the space where they like, displayed artworks come in and out of frames as do visitors to the gallery.
The All Rise piece is raising questions about liveness in both performance and corporate accountability. Aside from the act of bringing the trial into the space, All Rise also follows current experimentation with live online performance in live art at the moment. For example the live streaming of Marina Abramovic's The Artists is Present, and the live streaming of protest events likeOccupy Wall Street.
All Rise is both a critical and creative comment – both art and activism combined. It’s experimental, unexpected and unsettling, perfect for an Actions Creator’s extra curricular project and why I invited the incumbent Actions Creator to perform the piece – you can see us together in the image. He’s wearing the ‘snorricam’ camera harness that we made especially – I’m reflected in the glass behind him.
We are livestreaming All Rise for the rest of this week, every day at 3pm for one hour. Tune in to watch past and present performances.