Licence to Spill – Shitting in the Palace

Platform launch their latest publication ‘Not if but when – Culture Beyond Oil‘ this evening. Here’s the full version of some commentary I contributed to their 2010 leaflet, Licence to Spill:

download the full leaflet here

Shitting in the Palace – 8/6/10

During the 2009 C Words artist-activist season at the Arnolfini gallery in Bristol I heard several versions of a story about a legendary character known as “the Shitter”. The Shitter, as one version of the tale went, was a disgruntled visitor whose method of protest was to take a dump in the corner of the gallery.

The Shitter’s medium of choice reminded me of the Bill Hick’s quote:

“You do a commercial – you’re off the artistic roll call, forever. End of story… You’re another whore at the capitalist gang bang… there’s a price on your head. Everything you say is suspect and every word that comes out of your mouth is now like a turd falling into my drink.”

There have been a lot of oily turds falling into drink-water of late.

There is however, one pleasing aspect to this latest oil spill – it directly affects rich people. As such the BP Deepwater Horizon disaster is big news and some action is thus being taken to mitigate its effects. We can only fantasise that oil is discovered, drilled and fracked on the Rockefeller family estate; huge coltan reserves mined under the Pentagon; a massive plutonium store tapped in the grounds of Windsor Castle – the accompanying industrial destruction helping to speed the end of sweat-shop-reliant consumer globalism, finally enabling that move away from “growth” to saner, renewable, sustainable low-energy, slow travel, slow food communities and the death of ecocidal planet ravaging King C.O.N.G. (coal, oil, nuclear, gas industries).

As I say, for now this remains fantasy, for what is not big news of course is the massive everyday destruction of wildlife, people’s and habitats by corporations such as Shell and BP in poorer locations around the world (Alberta in Canada, the Niger Delta, Congo, Ecuador, and on…). With this latest disaster, “artists” willing to take money from such corporations may now pause to consider the stench it will leave on their breath. BP-funded institutions such as the Tate may also be more likely to consider the Diplodocus-size dumps that accompany any hypocritical piecemeal pretentions to addressing the climate crisis. Just as it became culturally unacceptable for the Trans-Atlantic enslavement of Afrikans, for women not to have the vote, and for the advertising of nicotine, so the stink of oil is becoming harder to ignore – people are waking up and smelling the shit.

An oil company-funded clean up and repair in the Gulf of Mexico is welcome, but I also look forward to a clean up of the Gulf of Guinea, the Persian Gulf and to a time when the gulf between the exploiting rich and exploited poor regions is overcome; with reparations made to all deliberately impoverished regions, peoples, wildlife, and habitats around the world. Thoroughly clean that is, not green-washed.

To this end it is vital that the gulf in cultural thinking that allows “artists” and arts institutions to see no conflict in accepting money from climate criminals is also repaired. Anglo-Iranian/British Petroleum and their many-tentacled friends must be forced to eat their slick oily words and move beyond fossil fuels into spending our collective stolen wealth on global reparations, renewable sustainable energy and not more rebrands, PR, spin and deadly drills. If this does not happen soon, then I look forward to hearing more from indigineous grassroots activist groups in oppressed regions, and the continued work of organisations in solidarity with those groups.

More solidarity, more climate camps, more oily fish hung in galleries. And perhaps – more Shitters.

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