Last Wednesday, April 20, the activist group known as Liberate Tate staged another protest performance at Tate Britain. Set on the anniversary of the Deepwater Horizon explosion that killed 11 workers and spilled 4.9 million barrels of oil into the Gulf o Mexico over 87 days last year, the group poured an oil-like substance over a naked member of the group who laid motionless in a fetal position in the Single Form exhibition.
Single Form, an exhibition dedicated to the human body, is one of a series of BP funded art displays staged throughout Tate Britain. The performance art comes in tandem with a letter printed in the Guardian and signed by 166 artists. The letter urges the Tate “to demonstrate its commitment to a sustainable future by ending its sponsorship relationship with BP.”
“Many important cultural institutions have been the victim of the government’s cuts in arts funding recently,” explained Terry Taylor, one of the members of Liberate Tate. “The fact that many organizations will be actively looking for new funding means that the debate around the ethics of corporate sponsorship is more important than ever. Oil companies like BP are responsible for environmental and social controversy all over the world, and we can’t let their sponsorship of institutions like Tate detract from that fact.”
Among BP’s most recent questionable actions are increasing investment in Canada’s tar sands project, backing Mubarak’s repressive regime in Egypt, and attempting to drill for oil in the Arctic Ocean.
“By refusing to disclose the extent of its BP sponsorship, Tate is preventing the necessary public debate from taking place,” says Taylor. “It’s time it came clean about just how much dirty oil money is propping up public arts institutions.”