In a second protest in a week at the British Museum, arts sponsorship campaigners BP or not BP? walked on to the stage of the BP Lecture Theatre minutes before a lunchtime talk was due to begin, namely the Curator’s Guide to the new BP-sponsored exhibition Troy: myth and reality.
To a full auditorium, they presented three of their own myths and realities about BP exploration and sponsorship. Three figures clothed in statue-grey and bearing BP logos took turns to trot out a company-approved myth, and each time a ‘truth-teller’ clothed in gold responded with the reality.
BP’s current advertising (which contains the slogan ‘We see possibilities everywhere’ repeated several times by the performers) suggests BP is advancing swiftly into renewable energy, but the reality is that they are still drilling, exploring, and opening up new oil fields to produce fossil fuel that humans cannot afford to burn, and this remains 97% of their business.
The myth around BP’s claim to operate responsibly and safely was undermined by a quote from Cherri Foytlin, an Indigenous activist from the Gulf of Mexico region where BP’s Deepwater Horizon disaster happened. She says ‘we want institutions to understand that they [BP] are sponsoring death in our communities’.
The third myth – the British Museum’s director Hartwig Fischer claiming that they would not be able to put on these important exhibitions without BP’s support, was confounded by recent statements from the Royal Shakespeare Company, and the National Galleries Scotland, both of whom have recently and very publicly dropped BP.
During the performance one man shouted out “Shut your face, woman”, but other audience members responded they wanted to hear the protest and shouted back “free speech”. A member of the museum staff took the microphone to say “Let them just speak for a moment please”.
At the end of the three minute performance, the BP figures tore off their logos and threw them in pieces to the ground, and the protesters unfurled a large ‘Drop BP’ banner, asked people to join them on the 8th February for the huge mass protest planned that day, and left the auditorium. A handful of people booed them, but mostly people clapped and engaged. The actual lecture went ahead shortly after as planned.
This intervention came just four days after human statues disrupted the BP VIP reception marking the launch of the exhibition.
This article was originally published on 26th November.