I won’t get into that fruitless debate about “what art is”. But what we can surely say is that anything that “society” considers to be “art” at any given time is a reflection of the sensitivities and mental state of said “society”. This is especially the case if a particular work of “art” receives a prize.
Take, for example, the fake stone slab called “Lest We Forget Those Who Denied”. It was recently presented to the public at the Anglia Ruskin University, having received that place of education’s “2015 Sustainability Art Prize”. It’s made of plywood, painted all in black, and bears the names of six well known British “climate change sceptics” like Christopher Monckton, James Delingpole and Christopher Booker. A constant stream of engine oil runs over the inscription.
The artist, called Ian Wolter, hopes that “the deliberate denial of climate change will be seen as a crime because it hinders progress towards a low carbon future”. Dr Aled Jones, director of Anglia Ruskin’s Global Sustainability Institute, said: “The winner was chosen because of the way they [sic!] approached their [sic!] subject by bringing together a powerful message with a beautiful [sic! I mean sick!] piece of art. The oil waterfall sculpture could be viewed in decades to come as a monument to a period of history that saw scientific knowledge battle to be heard above political ideologies.” Dr. Jones is certainly right in that last sentence, though likely not in the way he means.
Delingpole and others have tried to laugh it off. I’m not laughing. These guys are deadly serious. The artwork is the expression of someone in the thrall of a death cult. The slab looks very much like a tombstone, and the blackness enhances the message for those who don’t want see the resemblance immediately. The artist obviously wishes the people named on the slab “dead”.
By the way, third year fine art student Wolter is not some snotty-nosed whippersnapper eager to please his inevitably leftoid art tutors. Before he studied art, he was the deputy chairman of Attendi. This is a high-end recruitment agency. On their website, they claim to be making “the world a better place by placing leaders in interesting and important organisations. Attenti is a leading executive search boutique with an outstanding track record of success across the commercial, public and not for profit sectors.”
So Mr Wolter is familiar with quite a few high and mighty people it seems. One could even say he is himself a signed up member of the ruling class. But one thing is pretty certain: he doesn’t have the foggiest about climate science. Or of any actual science in fact. If he had, he wouldn’t have made the black monstrosity. The whole idea of it is an insult to science, to enlightened scepticism. Neither does the prize giving director have the foggiest, or he wouldn’t have given the prize. The £250 prize money is obviously a joke for someone like Wolter. He didn’t do this for the money, or the fame, that’s for sure. He did it for the propaganda effect.
Why engine oil? What’s that got to do with climate change? It’s a lubricant, not fuel. It doesn’t add CO2 to the atmosphere. Petrol, which does, would most likely have been an elf-n-safety hazard. So this activist artwork is inadvertently comical. But I’m still not laughing. Because the engine oil too has a purpose. Engine oil stands for machines, for industry, for things that make things for which people are willing to hand over hard earned money. Because they enhance lives. It is this that the death cult ruling class hates. Improvement of living standards, they believe, only befits properly enlightened people like, er, themselves. Not nasty, grubby people who for a reason incomprehensible to them have acquired some “means of exchange”.
However, there may be a glimmer of hope here for those of us who have not taken leave of their senses and do not belong to the current ruling class. For apart from looking like a tombstone, the installation also resembles the mysterious black “star gate” monolith in the film 2001 – A Space Odyssey. How is this relevant? Well, I don’t think the artist thought of that. It may be his sub-conscious (or should that be “sub-conscience”?) speaking to us.
None of the people involved obviously know the first thing about climate science or the market economy, but nonetheless feel entitled to make a “cultural-political” statement that quite likely is taxpayer funded (I’m not entirely sure about that, but it’s very likely). So they are the equivalent of the apes in Kubrick’s film, jumping and screaming uncomprehendingly around the black slab. Ready to kill their fellow ape at the drop of a bone. And they feel entitled to do so, because they consider themselves further evolved then those they label “deniers”. The subconscious never lies. The subconscious of the artist, the prize giver and anyone else “celebrating” the “Lest We Forget Those Who Denied”-slab is telling us what they really are: unthinking brutes with hegemonic aims and offensive weapons. It’s the “unthinking” bit that gives me hope.