The disfigurement of art is not beneficial to the climate

Such " theatrics " stir up the fire of fears with no argument: worse, they unleash a dangerous and equivocal message
© CdT/Archivio
Paride Pelli
26.10.2022 03:00

The topic of climate change and a necessary ecological transition is fast becoming a common fixture in recent years. In fact, it already is. Each of us has our own ideas about how much clout to assign to the topic and the possible ways forward to clean up the air we breathe every day and keep pollution under control. Albeit among differing political views, we can see that a green awareness has irreversibly taken up residence in the hearts and minds of everyone, at least in the West. We can only be glad about that. It involves, after all, the environment in which we live, in which we will raise our children and grandchildren, as well as in our daily lives, all of which we want to be as healthy as possible. But as with all things, it' s now a matter of not overdoing it. Of not ending up obsessed with a climate apocalypse that is not coming either before Christmas or in this millennium. Of not turning the forecasts of scientists into dogmas that disregard our individual experience: last summer in Ticino, we suffered the scorching heat, we worried about some drought warnings, and we implemented the remedies we could, but we were very careful not to turn all this into an overwhelming and oppressive ideology. And so it had best be the case in the future as well.

In fact, to devalue and exaggerate a constructive debate, the one precisely on climate warming, activists from the Just Stop Oil protest movement are already taking care of it: the latter broke into the National Gallery in London by hurling tomato soup at Vincent van Gogh's painting "Sunflowers." Despite the fact that the painting was protected by a pane of glass and the canvas was undamaged, anyone who loves art and beauty felt personally scarred and their hearts skipped a beat. The two activists then glued themselves to the wall beneath the work, shouting a rhetorical as well as boorish and divisive question, "What is worth more, art or life?" The outcry, the latest in a long series organized by the movement, was meant to draw attention to the fact that some British families ("millions" according to the organization) will not have enough gas this winter to heat soup. They are, these, gestures as egregious as they are thoughtless and disrespectful, fomenting dangerous repetitions. Not coincidentally, last Sunday, two other activists from the "Last Generation" movement went into action at the Barberini Museum in Potsdam and hurled mashed potatoes at a painting from Claude Monet's "Haystacks" series, which was also protected by thin glass. The reader can trace other similar incursions on the Internet: from John Constable's "Hay Wagon" to the "Last Supper" by Giampietrino, a pupil of Leonardo, several masterpieces have been attacked and outraged "in the name of climate" in recent months.

It is impossible not to ask some questions, especially about the readiness of these kids to evade the checks of sophisticated museum security systems. And also impossible not to do some reflecting. We all come from stressful, dramatic times for some and the anxieties about our future, including climate, we can understand; the pandemic has also instilled in so many people a sense of insecurity that it is exhausting, but incumbent, for us to try to cushion. But these latest " theatrics" against art - one cannot call them otherwise - certainly do not go in that direction. Rather, they blow on the fire of fears without arguing anything: worse, they clear a dangerous and ambiguous message, that it is possible, that is, to sacrifice the civilization that was invented and realized before us in favor of a vision of the future that certainly deserves to be considered, but that cannot, neither today nor ever, become blackmail to our present and damage to our history.