Updated: Jan 11, 2020
As you may have figured out by now, I am constantly on the lookout for examples of nonviolent action and dissent. All of the algorithms for search engines and advertising and which articles digital newspapers and magazines to put in front of my face certainly have. As such I see examples of how to stand up for what you believe in and how different folks do it, pretty much every day.
I am inspired and awed every time.
But sometimes, something crosses my desktop that just, hands down, delights me. It might be the inherent cleverness or the wordplay or the beauty of the sentiment or the simplicity in the delivery.
Often it is the straightforward clarity and elegance of the message.
Friday, September 27, 2019 was one of those days. The incident happened in Paris. At the Louvre.
For those who don’t know it, I used to be an architect. Among the many buildings I was a part of bringing into the world is the Getty Museum. So when I say I have a sort of mixed reaction to the glass pyramid addition by I.M. Pei know that I’m coming at it from some base of knowledge and experience.
The thing is, I’ve come to understand my impressions of Pei’s work are not all based in the forms, the opposition of style, the slick and shiny of the new vs the aged depth and tangible wear on the stone of the old. My take on museums is now woven through with an understanding of cultural appropriation and theft, patrons and benefactors, sponsors and inequality, highbrow and lowbrow, of the people and of the elite.
For me, art museums are fraught institutions. While I love beauty and thought-provoking creativity, I loath the gatekeeping, judgement, commodification, and biases inherent in the world around art.
So when this story crossed my desktop, I was delighted to learn activists, dressed in black, had dipped their hands into thick molasses and planted hand-prints all over the polished glass of the Louvre's pyramid to protest a museum sponsor.
Liberon Le Louvre were targeting the role of Total, a multinational oil and gas company, in sponsoring the museum. The group has engaged in an ongoing series of actions against Total’s sponsorship, processional performances in the plaza and in the museum, since March 2018 drawing inspiration from Fossil Free Culture NL and their successful campaign to convince the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam to end their sponsorship with Shell Oil.
What I love about this action, beyond the notion of questioning how corporations destroying our planet use throwing desperately needed money at our cultural institutions to sanitize their image, is the way the molasses really looks like oil and the hand-prints on the glass play on that itch to keep glass clean and transparent. Because the molasses can be easily cleaned from the glass in a way that oil can not be (when it spills or simply permeates our environment), it’s use here amplifies the demand to not permanently damage. Additionally the hand-prints make a statement about the grubby hands and sticky fingers of the oil and gas industry and how they dirty up the presentation of cultural commentary and history in the realm of art.
Figuring out a way to make an action operate on multiple levels like the ones employed by Fossil Free Europe means it will speak to different people with different interests and priorities. That means the action is more likely to succeed.
And, someone like me will be completely delighted.
Methods of Nonviolent Action employed:
 No. 40: Religious processions, No. 29: Symbolic reclamations, No. 21: Delivering symbolic objects, No. 7: Slogans, caricatures, and symbols, and No. 22: Protest disrobings among others