Sunflowers 2: The destruction of art

I’ve been thinking about my angry blog the other day regarding the Sunflower stunt. I didn’t know it was glassed. The picture itself was unharmed and I’m told that this was the thinking – to encourage people like me to be immediately angry about a work of art being disrespected as if we aren’t already more angry about the fact that we are destroying the world with convenience. They wanted to highlight bad priorities. I thought they had destroyed the picture, hence my reaction. They hadn’t destroyed it. Allegedly they wanted to provoke the very reaction they provoked in me, but to provoke it in people who are not already deeply engaged with the horror of how our desire to have everything NOW is truncating the natural world at a rate that most life will be unsustainable in a few generations.

I switched on the television in my digs just now and randomly watched a show where Jimmy Carr took a vote about whether Rolf Harris or Eric Gill were worse humans. They ended up dramatically taking flamethrowers to the Eric Gill.

The show is still playing. It’s a show trying to provoke outrage. It’s a show that is further normalising the destruction of art.

Just Stop Oil apparently knew that the Van Gogh was glassed. They wanted the discussion they provoked. Problem is, they’ve put art in the firing line. And shows like this bollocks with Carr are adding to it. This arrogance that our “now” thing is more important than the eternal – that’s getting compounded. “This helps us understand where our audience stands on offensive imagery,” says the narrator as they gear up to fuck up another artist’s work because of subjectivity.

Marcus Harvey’s Myra Hindley has just been shot through by paintgun.

“It feels like these are very dark times,” says someone on the programme. And yes. Yes. Based on this.

Back to Just Stop Oil. Absolutely we have to stop our reliance on oil. We have to break the relationship. We are so so lazy. We are making the world uninhabitable by being lazy. But, to Stop Oil immediately is not a just. Infrastructure would fall apart. “Stop Oil” is a call to revolution, and yeah we need revolution. But revolution is not a “just” thing. It’s bigger than “just”. And now, if we had that “simple” revolution, art is in the firing line. So who would emerge afterwards? People who don’t give a fuck about history? Is art is somehow part of the problem? This doesn’t fill me with confidence.

What are we fighting for? This home-made great extinction will eventually make convenience culture impossible, and going the way it’s going, once things finally snap there’ll be a generation that angrily starves to death waiting for a delivery. But art is something that raises us from beasts. It’s not at war with nature.

Nature will survive. Nature survives. It’s just another great extinction that we’ve catalysed. Even humanity might survive without The Amazon and without Amazon. Not in the same lazy form, but in some form. But … if we put art in the firing line, it’s only a matter of time before people stop caring about whether there’s glass in front of the art. And without art we shift back to just meeting our needs. Copycats who are angry about their small things will start wrecking beautiful “art” things to highlight their axegrind. And even now we find it informative when we find Neolithic cave art. “They were eating animals!!! Baddies! Smash it!”

Animals can learn how to play and we are filled with wonder and joy, but only we make art. Not even octopi or corvids or pigs make art. Watch now though, as people with no creativity but to justify something they believe in start to ruin beautiful things to highlight their whateverness.

Come the revolution, the galleries will burn now. They’re in the firing line because of this relative value stuff. It’s so narrow minded. We will lose generations of wisdom and beauty in exchange for trying to make everybody as angry as you are.

If we are fighting for families that can’t heat their soup though, surely we are fighting for humanity… and if we are fighting for humanity we surely are fighting for the humanities? For art, whose message complicates and changes over years. For the fact that we cannot believe what they believed when they made that beautiful thing, but the thing is still beautiful.

But … we start to put value on belief. The Anglicans destroyed so much Catholic art with the dissolution of the monasteries because Henry VIII forced the idea that Anglican was better than Catholic as an idea. Short termism. It’s everywhere. The internet has made it a blight. Causes are rallied behind and things with time behind them fall victim to flashes in the pan. Time is always ticking and all the things that matter to you now will be dust. The library of Alexandria burnt because, apparently, the only book we need is the Qur’an. Short-termism is so unutterably boring and self centred. Me me me. And so now, to save the something, we will shortly be butchering beauty.

Now, on TV, Jimmy Carr is chopping up a Hitler painting with chainsaws. Ok yeah so I think Hitler was a baddie too so apparently I’m part of the club. These paintings though, don’t they help us remember he was a human too? He tried to paint, the fucker. And he instigated genocide. We are close to such horrors happening again and if we only look at how we frame the past, we are fools. We have to learn. We won’t. But again, this TV show is just putting art into the frame for destruction. And so we get smaller and smaller and smaller.

We make people into monsters, we chop up the monster’s paintings cos monsters have no nuance. These nasty assholes lived and loved. With Hitler we all know where it ended up, but circumstances and unexamined prejudices allowed him to follow a line where it never would have occurred to him that he was being literally evil and his outcome would be detested for a generation before dumb people started trying to pretend it hadn’t happened. We can all get sucked into being terrible. Isn’t it better to be aware that “the monster” liked to paint? Especially when we are literally going that way again. If I’m playing a baddie I want to make them relatable, not just a two dimensional being. It’s why I play them so often. Success is about making the right people think “I’m like that… Am I a baddie?”

Anyhow. Bedtime. Zzzzz

Author: albarclay

This blog is a work of creative writing. Do not mistake it for truth. All opinions are mine and not that of my numerous employers.

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