1666103075 Simons perfect day

The Great Painting | The press

Van Gogh’s Sunflowers. Botticelli’s Spring. Monet’s Millstones. Vermeer’s Girl with a Pearl Earring. And of course the Mona Lisa. For several weeks, these famous paintings, which are the most sold posters that reproduce them, have been the target of environmental activists in various museums, who throw mashed potatoes, soup or cream pie at them to denounce our inaction on the face of global warming. They were careful to select protected canvases each time so they wouldn’t get damaged. This earned a two-month prison sentence for activists who attacked Vermeer’s artwork.

Posted at 7:15am


This is certainly not the first time we’ve seen this type of action in museums. Wanting to draw a Mona Lisa mustache is part of art history. The artists themselves have long been the authors of most manifestations in the museum space. If these paintings were already protected, it’s because their fame inspired action long before today’s environmental activists.

The reaction to these provocative gestures is appropriate. From incomprehension to outrage, to applause, we hear these activists “damaging their own cause,” a familiar tune when activists bother unless we say in a serious tone that they are eco-terrorists representing the barbarity and lack of culture of our time, who are straight at heading towards the collapse of (of course western) civilization.

I don’t see how you can harm your cause if the goal is to get people talking about it. For this it is successful, because the brilliance of bands like Extinction Rebellion or Just Stop Oil have traveled the planet. Candy for alert hunters or climate deniers.

Whatever you think of them, they do prove something: you get a lot more annoyed at a soup can thrown at the window protecting The Sunflowers than at the environmental news. That says it all I think.

I fear that desperate acts will multiply as we experience the effects of global warming. And there’s no guarantee they won’t become more violent.

Many environmentalists are relieved by the choice of Lula in Brazil for the Amazon rainforest. Meanwhile, new Twitter boss Elon Musk shares some conspiratorial things about the hammer attack on Nancy Pelosis’ house.

What a time.

While global warming should be an obvious topic for us all to lean into and ponder, it has instead become a debate urging us to pick sides and tear each other apart on the issue while the house burns down.

It is certain that we will not solve the problem of global warming by attacking works of art, and the activists themselves know that. What they want to evoke is a deeper reflection, I believe. A bit like that of the philosopher Timothy Morton, author of Ecological Thought, which is certainly one of the essays that has most impacted my consciousness in recent years. In addition, on his Twitter account, the philosopher supported these demonstrations because he believes in the role of art in the ecological struggle.

One of Timothy Morton’s concepts that came to mind is that of “hyperobjects”. Creations of human ingenuity of the industrial age, which surpass us in their long-term effect. It’s not humanity’s artworks that will survive the most, Morton says, but these hyperobjects. “Oddly enough, capitalism is making things more solid than ever. In the face of global warming, hyperobjects will be our most enduring legacy. Materials from humble polystyrene to horrid plutonium will outlast current social and biological forms. We speak in hundreds and thousands of years. In 500 years there will still be objects made of styrofoam like cups. Stonehenge did not exist ten thousand years ago. In ten thousand years, plutonium will still exist. »

While a Van Gogh, dunno.

We see nature a little like a visitor sees sunflowers in a museum, like a rural landscape that should be preserved under glass. We look at it all from the outside, thinking we’re spectators, without realizing that we’re still in the picture.

The problem of global warming is taking place on such a massive scale that nothing is spared. We can’t believe it.

In Ecological Thinking, Timothy Morton writes: “There is global warming; there is indeed an ecological emergency; I am not a nihilist; The big picture is shaking right-wing ideologies, which is why the right is so afraid of it. Anyway, this melting world is causing panic. »

I sometimes think that if so many people are detaching themselves from reality at the moment, it’s not because they’re stupid, but because they’re sensitive. They instinctively sense the ecological danger that awaits us and fight it off with all their might and with the means at their disposal. Denying or fighting is a more dynamic response than passivity. I’m at the age where I plan to retire, but I wonder if that will be possible 20 years from now, and that sense of absurdity must be similar to young people being asked to prepare for their future. For at least 50 years, environmentalists have been warning us of what’s happening, and it’s happening faster than expected.

If we react so strongly to actions that actually have no consequences other than media fallout (and increased security in museums), maybe it’s because they remind us what we don’t want to think, it’s so giddy. We will not save the planet, which can very well continue without humanity, despite the small disturbance we have caused it in the eternity of millions of years. We must not prepare for the consequences of global warming in order to avoid them, because they are already here, it is the future that awaits us and to which we must adapt.

Clumsy as they are, these activists remind us of the vulnerability and emptiness of things. And ask us to look at the bigger picture that we are in.