Part of ‘BP Must Fall’, by BP or Not BP? – 2020

Plaster bandage, 100 performers, sustenance

Monument is a durational performance using plaster casts, bodies, consent, tenderness and sustenance. It takes place overnight from February 8th to February 9th, 2020, in the Great Court of the British Museum.

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Monument aims to embody the climate justice movement. The movement is diverse and growing: so too are the individual bodily casts made here to create Monument. The number of casts made will be determined by the consensual process the performers engage in with each other overnight, carefully co-creating a sculpture drawn from their own bodies, histories and experiences. The first casts to be taken will be from the hands, feet and shoulders of key individuals leading the climate justice movement.

Monument casting by Amy Scaife
Photo by Amy Scaife.

Through Monument we offer an alternative statue to the many colonial statues in our cities and countries today, instead, embodying an alternative. In making this artwork we are practicing a prefigurative politics: we are imagining a world in which the British Museum has stopped celebrating those causing the climate crisis and is instead allying itself with those who have, currently are, and will be putting their bodies on the line to fight for climate justice.

Upon completion, the artwork will be left in the museum.

Monument, end of day
Photo by @helendoyle00 on Twitter.

Background to the performance

“Every choice is inherently creative. If our cultural institutions took a principled stand on this urgent issue it would, in and of itself, be a beautiful creative act, certainly as valuable as any painting or performance they might showcase.”

Raoul Martinez, artist and writer

This performance is part of ‘BP Must Fall’, a creative intervention in the British Museum by the group BP or Not BP? calling for an end to BP’s sponsorship of the museum, to confront the reality of BP’s ongoing investment in new fossil fuels. The name ‘BP Must Fall’ is a response to ‘Rhodes Must Fall’, a campaign originating on South Africa calling for an end to the heralding of colonial legacies in statue and monument forms. The origins of BP, like those of the British Museum, lie in British colonialism, in the theft of objects, artefacts and oil from communities around the world. For the British Museum to decarbonise, it must also decolonise.

Monument sleeping bags

BP sponsorship is worth less than half a percent of the British Museum’s annual income, yet the brand value BP receives in advertising terms is worth hundreds of times as much. As Egyptian author Ahdaf Soueif wrote upon her resignation from the museum’s Board last year: “The public relations value that the museum gives to BP is unique, but the sum of money BP gives the museum is not unattainable elsewhere.” 

The British Museum must now follow in the footsteps of Tate, the Royal Shakespeare Company, the National Theatre, the National Galleries of Scotland and the many other cultural institutions no longer giving legitimacy to fossil fuel companies. Instead, it can and should be part of leading an ambitious response to the climate emergency.

Cast of child's hand

Monument packed away at the end of Sunday 9th February 2020. Photo by @helendoyle00, Twitter.