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Delivering Arctic ice to Tate Modern...and carving out a space for grief

(Photos by Vita Brown)

Press release 15 January 2012

Liberate Tate stage Arctic ice performance in Tate Turbine Hall

- ‘Floe-piece’ highlights Tate’s sanctioning of BP’s risky Arctic drilling

On Saturday evening (14 January 2012) art collective Liberate Tate carried out their latest unofficial performance in Tate Modern highlighting Tate’s complicity in BP’s controversial oil extraction practices around the world...

At 6.30pm at the Occupy London protest camp at St Paul’s Cathedral four veiled figures dressed in black lifted the 55 kg chunk of Arctic ice onto a sledge and walked it in procession across the Thames on the Millennium Bridge and into the Tate Modern Turbine Hall. They placed the ice at the bottom of the Turbine Hall, standing silently around the melting ice for 15 minutes before leaving the building.

The Arctic ice had been donated to the Occupy London protest by an Arctic researcher who had brought it back to the UK.

Terri Gosnell of Liberate Tate who carried one corner of the sledge said:

“Arctic ice is melting at record rates as a result of climate change. The irony is that the same oil companies like BP that carry a lot of responsibility for climate change, are using the melting ice as an opportunity to drill for more oil in previously inaccessible areas. And Tate is still maintaining that this is a perfectly respectable company to be taking money from.”

Chris Sands of Liberate Tate who took part in the performance said:

“BP have an appalling record of leaks and spills in their Arctic drilling in Proudhoe Bay, Alaska, and now they are expanding their operations in Arctic Canada and Russia too. Arctic oil drilling is incredibly risky because of the adverse conditions and the difficulty of access for potential clean up operations. Tate is aligning itself with a company that it gambling with some of out last pristine eco-systems as a means of maintaining its profit margins.”

The performance took place after a day in which more than 150 people took part in an afternoon-long event called ‘The Corporate Occupation of the Arts’ at the Bank of Ideas, a space being run by the Occupy London movement.

Following the Liberate Tate performance the Occupy London General Assembly was held in Tate Modern around the Arctic ice – the first time Occupy London has held this daily gathering in a public art museum.

Thousands of Tate visitors have called on the art museum to end its relationship with BP so they can enjoy great art without the gallery implicating them in the climate and other negative environmental impacts of the oil company.

Here is a 5 minute video clip of the Liberate Tate performance:

Floe Piece - Liberate Tate from You and I Films on Vimeo.

For more information, pictures of the performance and comment contact:

*** ENDS ****


Notes to the editor:

1. A placard with the title of the performance and a brief explanation was placed at the foot of the melting ice piece. The placard read:

Floe Piece
Liberate Tate. Arctic Ice, canvas, light, water.

“The fact that BP had one major incident in 2010 does not mean we should not be taking support from them.” – Nicholas Serota, Director, Tate.

[Floe Piece - an expression applied to sheets of ice not more than a furlong in length]

The Deepwater Horizon disaster did not end in 2010 for the communities affected; BP’s harmful impacts are numerous and occur across the globe year on year. In 2010-11 BP pushed forward expansion plans into the Arctic in Alaska, Canada and Russia.

Oil extraction in this region is only possible because of melting ice caused by climate change. Spills in Arctic waters are immensely more complicated than elsewhere, and indeed BP is itself responsible for the largest oil spill on Alaska’s north slope, at Prudhoe Bay in 2006, where the company continues to drill for oil.

This Arctic ice has been transported from the Arctic region to London, the home of BP; today (14 January 2012) it has been carried by Liberate Tate from Occupy London at LSX to Tate Modern’s Turbine Hall.

The journey of this block of ice retraces the line of connection from BP’s devastating impacts on ecosystems, communities and the global climate to Tate, an art museum complicit in this destruction though its support of the company’s efforts to create a positive public image, a social licence to operate.

2. Liberate Tate ( is an art collective exploring the role of creative intervention in social change dedicated to taking creative disobedience against Tate until it drops its oil company funding. Contact:

The 14 January 2012 performance of the art collective follows earlier self-curated performances at Tate such as:
• ‘Human Cost’: a performance in Tate Britain on the anniversary of the Deepwater Horizon explosion (April 2011) when a naked member of the group had an oil-like substance poured over them on the floor in the middle of the exhibition Single Form which was dedicated to the human body and part of ‘BP British Art Displays’
Video here.
• ‘Dead in the water’: a contribution to Tate Modern’s 10th Birthday celebrations (May 2010) by hanging dead fish and birds from dozens of giant black helium balloons in the Turbine Hall
• ‘License to spill’: an oil spill at the Tate Summer Party celebrating 20 years of BP support (June 2010) – Video here.
• ‘Crude/Sunflower’: an installation art work which saw over 30 members of the collective draw a giant sunflower in the Turbine Hall with black oil paint bursting from BP-branded tubes of paint (September 2010) – Video here.