Category: LACMA

BP’s Oily 25th Anniversary

During a protest at London's 2014 BP Portrait Award at the National Portrait Gallery, an anonymous artist, her face splattered with oil, stands before a portrait of Margaret Thatcher. Photo by Jen Wilton/Art Not Oil.

During a protest at London's 2014 BP Portrait Award at the National Portrait Gallery, an anonymous artist, her face splattered with oil, stands before a portrait of Margaret Thatcher. Photo by Jen Wilton/Art Not Oil.

I am one of 205 signatories to a letter published in The Guardian that asks the National Portrait Gallery of London, England to end BP funding of its esteemed annual competition and prize, the so-called BP Portrait Award. Published on June 24, 2014 the letter was timed to coincide with the museum “celebrating” 25 years of BP sponsorship.

The National Portrait Gallery’s BP Portrait Award of 2014 is an international competition. This year’s 2,377 entries came from 71 countries, including the United States. The event is also a major “Greenwashing” public relations campaign by one of the world’s leading polluters. Based upon my relentless criticism of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) for accepting BP funding since 2007, the Art Not Oil coalition of the United Kingdom asked that I sign their protest letter. The letter read in part:

“As arts practitioners and those working in arts institutions, we feel that the time is right for the cultural sector to be discussing alternatives to income gained from oil sponsorship in the same way that discussions about ending tobacco sponsorship took place more than two decades ago. Figures such as Archbishop Desmond Tutu have called for an apartheid-style boycott of fossil fuel companies, explicitly mentioning cultural institutions. Art shouldn’t be used to legitimize the companies that are profiting from the destruction of a safe and habitable climate.”

Also commiserating the 25th anniversary of BP sponsoring the National Portrait Gallery is the U.K. arts activist organization, Platform (a member of the Art Not Oil coalition). Platform released a report titled: Picture This - A Portrait of 25 years of BP Sponsorship. The report details “25 of BP’s major environmental catastrophes,” one for each year that BP sponsored the National Portrait Gallery Portrait Award since 1989.

The Platform report, which can be read online or downloaded as a printable .pdf document, opens with the statement, “How bad does a company have to be before an arts organization refuses to be associated with it or takes its money?” This is a question for Angelenos as much as it is for Londoners. The report also includes Picturing the Future, an article by painter Raoul Martinez, a former participant in the BP Portrait Awards. Martinez makes his case for rejecting oil company sponsorship of the arts, stating that “We can no longer allow the celebration of human creativity to provide cover for environmental destruction.”

Screen shot of an anonymous activist from the Art Not Oil anti-BP performance at the National Portrait Gallery, June 21, 2014. Image courtesy of Clear Blue Films/Art Not Oil.

Screen shot of an anonymous activist from the Art Not Oil anti-BP performance at the National Portrait Gallery, June 21, 2014. Image courtesy of Clear Blue Films/Art Not Oil.

In the run-up to the 25th anniversary of the BP Portrait Award of 2014, dozens of art activists from the Art Not Oil coalition staged a June 21, 2014 silent performance inside the National Portrait Gallery that they called, 25 Portraits In Oil.

Gathering in the gallery and wearing white, 25 performers simultaneously poured what appeared to be oil on their faces. These individuals then scattered throughout the museum, taking up positions to mutely stand before various portrait paintings in the collection. A short video documenting the 25 Portraits In Oil intervention at the National Portrait Gallery can be viewed here.

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"25 Portraits In Oil" - Art Not Oil coalition, 2014

Another good example of arts activism would be the brilliant Reclaim Shakespeare Company, formed in response to BP’s sponsorship of the Royal Shakespeare Company in 2012. The “Guerilla Shakespeare” troupe’s website cleverly alters the Bard’s famous Hamlet line into the slogan “BP or not BP.” They perform public art interventions in Shakespearian style at venues and events funded by the oil giant. Most recently they have criticized the BP sponsored exhibit Vikings, life and legend, held at the British Museum. The Reclaim Shakespeare Company not only invaded the museum to hold an anti-BP performance replete with Vikings brandishing BP logo emblazoned shields, they lampooned the official British Museum promotional video for the Vikings exhibit with their own parody video, BP Vikings - Pillaging the planet.

The artists and activists of the U.K. are to be commended for their creative and non-violent opposition to oil-industry sponsorship of the arts. But there is much work to do, especially here in “liberal” L.A., where not a single protest against BP sponsorship of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art has occurred since that oleaginous relationship was established in 2007.

In my writings on the subject I have attempted to link BP’s sponsorship of LACMA, not just with environmental destruction, but with the wider topics of military adventures and imperialism (Iraq, Libya, etc); examinations of the debilitating supremacy corporate power exercises over the arts and democratic institutions, and the interlocking systemic nature of the crisis. These are just some of the questions that must be confronted if we are to succeed in righting the art world.

The Reclaim Shakespeare Company, zeroing in on BP as a company that devours the earth and gorges on its resources, reminds us all of the pertinent words of the Fool from Shakespeare’s tragic King Lear - “He’s mad that trusts in the tameness of a wolf.

New Art at LACMA: BP Drones

I have been writing about the relationship between the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) and the British-based oil giant BP (British Petroleum) since March 2007. That was when LACMA underwent a complete renovation, and the museum’s director, Michael Govan, accepted $25 million dollars from BP to help in the construction. At the time Govan announced LACMA’s new entry way would be named “The BP Grand Entrance,” and justified taking BP’s money by saying, “What was convincing to me was their commitment to sustainable energy.”

Govan’s statement should not be read as a point of pride, but of shame. Three years later BP’s 2010 Gulf of Mexico disaster occurred, leaking over 200 million gallons of crude oil into the Gulf; it would be the largest environmental catastrophe in U.S. history. On June 9, 2014, the U.S. Supreme Court refused BP’s request that its damage compensation payments of some $5.5 billion to businesses ruined by the Gulf disaster be stopped while the oil company appealed the original U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals decision calling for the payments. Trial proceedings slated for Jan. 15, 2015 will determine the fines BP must pay for their role in the Gulf catastrophe, fines that are likely to surpass over $20 billion dollars.

To this day LACMA proudly exalts BP as a major corporate sponsor. It is ironic that BP’s $25 million dollar donation to LACMA in 2007 was the exact amount the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency made the oil company pay in civil fines for spilling over five thousand barrels of crude oil in and around Prudhoe Bay on Alaska’s North Slope in 2006. The Prudhoe Bay Oil Field is operated by BP, it is the largest oil field in North America, but Prudhoe also looms large for another reason.

On June 10, 2014, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) granted BP permission to conduct drone flights over the Prudhoe Bay Oil Fields. It is the very first government sanctioned, large-scale commercial use of unmanned drones in the United States. BP will use small “Puma” drones designed for the U.S. military to conduct surveillance on roads, equipment, and pipelines at Prudhoe Bay. The negative repercussions of increasing commercial drone flights in the U.S. should be obvious, especially in light of President Obama’s mass surveillance and killer drone programs, though it will all be presented in terms of being for “the public good.”

If you remember, the failed Jeff Koons Train “sculpture” for LACMA had a projected cost of $25 million. That boondoggle project entailed hanging a 70-foot steam engine locomotive from a 161-foot crane at LACMA’s BP Grand Entrance; Michael Govan equated the proposed monstrosity to the Eiffel Tower in Paris. Train was only derailed by the U.S. financial crisis of 2008-2012. When LACMA’s endowments and donations plummeted from $129.7 million to $29 million in 2008-2009, the Choo-Choo Train project was pushed back to 2015. Since the U.S. has not yet recovered from the financial crisis, things are looking bleak for Train. However, there does seem to be a splendid, lower cost, alternative installation for LACMA, but I would be remiss not to first mention BP’s role in Iraq.

The financial news and opinion website, 24/7 Wall St., reported that oil production in Iraq “is now second only to Saudi Arabia” with oil production “of around 3.3 million barrels a day.” 24/7 Wall St. also reported that BP “has a 38% working interest in the Rumaila field in southern Iraq,” one of the “five largest oil fields in the world” with proven reserves of “nearly 18 billion barrels.” As of this writing, thousands of militants from the Al Qaeda-offshoot, the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), have succeeded in routing the U.S. trained and financed Iraqi armed forces in the north and west of the country. As worn-torn Iraq literally implodes, looking much like Vietnam during the 1975 fall of Saigon, BP is working like the dickens to get every last drop of Iraqi oil before it is too late!

Image: Unidentified artist, I always feel like somebody's watching me (BP Puma Drone), 2014, Puma surveillance drones, wire, and paint, 20 feet x 15 feet, British Petroleum Art Foundation, London; Gift of Bob Dudley (BP CEO, & Carl-Henric Svanberg (BP Chairman. © 2014 BP plc/Artists Have No Rights Society (AHNRS), International. Photo courtesy of Tony "I'd like my life back" Hayward.

Image: Unidentified artist, "I always feel like somebody's watching me (BP Puma Drone)," 2014, Puma surveillance drones, wire, and paint, 20 feet x 15 feet, British Petroleum Art Foundation, London; Gift of Bob Dudley (BP CEO, & Carl-Henric Svanberg (BP Chairman. © 2014 BP /Artists Have No Rights Society (AHNRS), International. Photo courtesy of Tony "I'd like my life back" Hayward.

Perhaps it is no surprise that the spin doctors employed by BP to continually present a forward-looking face for their client, have come up with a new direction for LACMA and BP to show their unity. Anonymous sources have informed me that LACMA is considering purchasing I always feel like somebody’s watching me (BP Puma Drone), a new kinetic sculpture created by an as yet unidentified conceptual artist. Rumored to cost substantially less than the $25 million Koons Train (though the actual purchase price has not yet been verified), I always feel like somebody’s watching me (BP Puma Drone) openly celebrates the sponsorship of BP. Slated to hang at LACMA’s BP Grand Entrance to welcome visitors, the outsized metal mobile is powered, not by wind, but by the electricity generated from the solar panels sitting atop the BP Grand Entrance. Constructed using four actual U.S. military Puma drones with 9-foot wingspans, the mobile’s drones are equipped with surveillance cameras and working propellers!

I always feel like somebody’s watching me (BP Puma Drone) will not only be in perpetual motion, providing a convivial attraction to museum goers, it will also provide unending surveillance of all patrons passing through the BP Grand Entrance. Given that LACMA is always on the cutting edge, arrangements have been made with the artist to assure the drones are outfitted with a newly emerging technology, 3-dimensional face recognition. Museum visitors who are LACMA members will be instantaneously scanned and identified by I always feel like somebody’s watching me (BP Puma Drone), allowing for immediate free access to all museum events! The recipients of the gathered intel cannot be divulged, but privileges do have their costs.

I always feel like somebody’s watching me (BP Puma Drone) will be a rare acquisition for LACMA, as it is a contemporary work of art that presents a clear, unambiguous message with social content. Inspired in part by the works of the American sculptor, Alexander Calder, the installation of I always feel like somebody’s watching me (BP Puma Drone) will coincide with LACMA’s exhibit, Calder and Abstraction: From Avant-Garde to Iconic.

LACMA Halloween Nightmare

Alternative BP logo - Anonymous. Submission from the BP "Logo Makeover" contest sponsored by Greenpeace UK in May of 2010. © All rights reserved/Greenpeace UK.

Alternative BP logo - Anonymous. Submission from the BP "Logo Makeover" contest sponsored by Greenpeace UK in May of 2010. © All rights reserved/Greenpeace UK.

Hallowe’en… what fearfu’ pranks ensue! This October 26, 2013, the trendy vampires and way-out ogres of Los Angeles will shamble and hobble their way to the 10th-annual “Muse Costume Ball” thrown at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA).

By a route obscure and lonely, haunted by ill angels only, the museum promotes their monstrous masquerade ball as “haunted by the ghosts of old Hollywood,” and entreats those who are fearless enough to attend, to “make your red-carpet debut and toast the town, but don’t be surprised if you feel some darkness lurking behind the red carpet.”

Oh yes dear baddies and cackling cacodemons, there are evildoing specters oozing, percolating, leaking, and bleeding all over the LACMA campus, and the foul spirits reek of viscous crude oil!

Ghoulies and harpies attending the Muse Costume Ball will be bedeviled, and distressed by various exhibits and art happenings in and around the unholy grounds of LACMA.

Clairy Browne and the Bangin’ Rackettes will regale rapscallions and banshees alike with their clichéd sultriness, Theophilus London will get dem dry bones clattering with the type of rap so fresh that it makes a George Romero reanimated corpse look like a newborn, and Zombie Joe’s Underground Theatre Group will do their very best to scare the bejesus out of bored, jaded, trend mongering, L.A. bon vivants. For youse jack-o-lantern headed, worm-eaten postmodern art loving goons, you can feast yer vacant eyes on Richard Serra’s Whatchamacallit, Bruce Nauman’s Gang Signs For Beginners, or Chris Burden’s super expensive Tonka Toy set, Metropolis I love you. Wow, all those performers and artists… really scary stuff.

Alternative BP logo - Based on Edvard Munch's artwork, "The Scream" © All rights reserved/Greenpeace UK.

Alternative BP logo - Based on Edvard Munch's artwork, "The Scream" © All rights reserved/Greenpeace UK.

A horrid night will be had by undead art superstars, devilish art critics, and other ne’er-do-wells, but perhaps the most disagreeable and ghastly evening will be had by none other than Michael Govan, the Director, CEO, and numero uno mischievous sprite of LACMA.

It is rumored that Govan will make an important announcement at LACMA’s Muse Costume Ball, the acquisition of a most important “land art” masterpiece from New York based conceptual artist, Bob Dudley.

Titled Massive Tar Mat, Dudley’s earth art magnum opus makes use of natural materials from the Gulf of Mexico; sand, shells, water, and a few lifeless sea creatures. The controversial work of genius is said to measure 165 feet long by 65 feet wide, and Govan has secretively kept the piece underwraps, though it is beginning to stink of petroleum and death.

Dudley’s Massive Tar Mat was purchased for an undisclosed price rumored to be as high as $18 billion. Much bigger and far more expensive than Michael Heizer’s $10 million boulder, Levitated Mass, Dudley’s tour de force will no doubt put LACMA on the map for worldwide art tourism. No-goodniks and wraiths at the Muse Costume Ball will breathlessly be anticipating the unveiling of Dudley’s masterwork.

Alternative BP logo  - Anonymous © All rights reserved/Greenpeace UK.

Alternative BP logo - Anonymous © All rights reserved/Greenpeace UK.

Meanwhile, there are those interfering and annoying do-gooders who just want to spoil a damned good night of mischief-making.

The California Attorney General has filed a lawsuit against BP for violating state law on handling hazardous materials and toxic waste, accusing BP of endangering public health by not properly inspecting and maintaining underground gasoline storage tanks for 750 California gas stations.

Oh come on, why be so upset about a little lethal waste? Besides, BP is a major contributor to LACMA, how can the museum keep telling people of BP’s “commitment to sustainable energy” with the state of California suing the oil giant?

But wait, there is more… paranormal events have been spooking LACMA’s grounds in the days just before the Muse Costume Ball. The disembodied spirits of the 11 workers killed when BP’s Deepwater Horizon oil rig exploded in the Gulf of Mexico on April 26, 2010, have been seen on the roof of LACMA’s “BP Grand Entrance.” Atop that wretched entry, the ghostly workers reenact desperate attempts to evacuate the burning oil rig that led to their demise. No doubt the specters will continue to haunt LACMA’s entrance as long as it bears such a hellish name.

Alternative BP logo  - Anonymous © All rights reserved/Greenpeace UK.

Alternative BP logo - Anonymous © All rights reserved/Greenpeace UK.

Museum patrons have reported that poltergeists have rebuilt the large reflecting pools of water that once graced LACMA’s grounds. Younger Angelenos will not remember the pools on Wilshire Boulevard that nearly surrounded the entire museum in its early years.

Because oil from the nearby La Brea Tar Pits continually seeped into those lovely pools, they were emptied of water and eventually filled in; a portent of LACMA actually becoming the oil museum. But since poltergeists love to plague and pester, they have created phantom pools containing not water, but tar balls and smelly petroleum.

Those who have seen the mirage-like black pools swear they contain horribly mutated sea creatures from BP’s Gulf disaster; shrimp born without eyes, clawless crabs, fish with oozing sores and other nightmares.

When on October 26, hipster hobgoblins, suburbanite zombies, and edgy demons with androgynous hair cuts try and make their way to LACMA’s Muse Costume Ball, they may well have to circumnavigate Bob Dudley’s malodorous Massive Tar Mat, a phantasm burning oil rig, and some really pissed-off mutant sea creatures in order to do so. Not to mention encountering the scary Attorney General of California gnashing her teeth out in front of the BP Grand Entrance.

Oh, and there is one more nightmarish thing to deal with, ticket prices. LACMA’s monster mash is not for bête noire proletarian miscreants, it is strictly for upper-crust bloodsuckers and villainess socialites. At $100 per general admission ticket, what is a poor working ghoul to do?

Ya know… creeps and bugaboos might be better off staying at home and watching reruns of The Walking Dead.

Celebrate Earth Day with BP!

One of the thousands of seabirds killed by BP's 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil disaster. Photograph by Charlie Riedel © for Associated Press.

One of the thousands of seabirds killed by BP's 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil disaster. Photograph by Charlie Riedel © for Associated Press.

The Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA), sponsored by the multinational oil company BP - responsible for the biggest toxic oil spill in history, had the unmitigated gall to organize “greenwashing” activities on its museum campus for Earth Day.

Posting an announcement on the LACMA website for the April 21, 2013 Earth Day activities, the museum gave its day of programs the ill-chosen title, “Because Earth without Art is Just ‘Eh’”.

While LACMA invites people to walk through its “BP Grand Entrance” to celebrate Earth Day - Florida, Mississippi, Alabama, and Louisiana have filed lawsuits against LACMA’s oily sponsor over the incalculable damages their states suffered because of BP’s 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil disaster. LACMA’s announcement reads as follows:

Earth Day: Because Earth without Art is Just “Eh”
Sunday, April 21, 2013 | 11 am

Celebrate Earth Day with a day of programs and activities designed for all ages, including artist-led workshops, tours of the collection for families and adults, a nature-inspired poetry workshop for adults, sketching from nature, music jam with instruments made of recycled materials, and a guided walkthrough of the natural art on campus. You and your freinds (sic) can organize your own community bike ride to LACMA! If you plan to travel to LACMA by bike on Earth Day, be sure to check out LADOT’s bike maps for a safe route.

*Does not include admission to Stanley Kubrick.

BP Grand Entrance l View full schedule | General museum admission is required; free museum admission will be granted to those with a bike helmet, or those who have traveled by alternative transportation.

UPDATE: On Wednesday, 5/1/2013, LACMA sent out its May newsletter to the public with a “Corporate Member Update”. In a single perfunctory sentence, the newsletter informed readers that the museum was “pleased to announce” the renewal of corporate sponsorship from BP. No further details were offered. Meanwhile, in the reality based community, people are paying attention to the ongoing “Clean Water Act” trial BP faces in New Orleans, Louisiana. The proceedings will establish whether BP was guilty of “gross negligence” in running its Deepwater Horizon drilling platform. If found guilty, the oil giant could face a $21 billion fine. A ruling is expected sometime in September.

BP, LACMA, & the Gulf Oil Spill

This June 3, 2010 photograph by AP photographer Charlie Riedel shows a seagull trapped in oil along the Louisiana coast after the BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill.

This June 3, 2010 photo by AP photographer Charlie Riedel shows a seagull trapped in oil along the Louisiana coast after the catastrophic BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill.

With scarcely any coverage on televised news, multinational oil company BP pleaded guilty on November 15, 2012, to 14 criminal charges related to the death of 11 oil rig workers and the corporation having spilled over 200 million gallons of crude oil into the Gulf of Mexico in 2010.

BP agreed to pay $4.5 billion in criminal penalties for the Deepwater Horizon oil spill disaster - the biggest fine in U.S. history for the largest ecological catastrophe in U.S. history.

From a strictly monetary perspective, BP’s oil spill caused tens of billions of dollars in economic and environmental damage, but really, what are the lives of 11 oil rig workers actually worth in dollars? What is the true cost of the destroyed fishing industries that once thrived in the Gulf of Mexico? What dollar amount does one attach to the 68,000 square miles of ocean that BP covered in a massive oil slick? How does one put a price on the more than 6,000 seabirds, 600 turtles, and 500 dolphins found dead as a result of the spill? For answers to those questions, ask Michael Govan, the Director of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA).

In 2007 Michael Govan accepted a $25 million “donation” from BP on behalf of LACMA, stating publicly that the oil giant was a “green company”. After naming the entry way of LACMA’s newly renovated campus “The BP Grand Entrance”, Govan told the Los Angeles Times that he had accepted BP’s money since: “What was convincing to me was their commitment to sustainable energy (….) We won’t make the transition without the help and cooperation of these major corporations.” To this day Govan has not made a single public statement about BP’s Gulf of Mexico disaster.

In the Nov. 15, 2012 announcement, BP pleaded guilty to 11 felony counts and three misdemeanor counts, one of which included the obstruction of the U.S. Congress. Separate and multiple damage claims are currently being sought against BP by several Gulf Coast states and private plaintiffs. Dead or dying seabirds and sea creatures are still being found in the Gulf. A recent study mentioned in Discovery News found that the two million gallons of chemical dispersant called Corexit used by BP to “clean up” the spill, mixed instead with the oil to become a “chemical cocktail” 52 times more toxic than the oil by itself. The toxic brew led to a massive die-off of microscopic aquatic animals that form a large part of the Gulf food chain. The impact on wildlife is incalculable. There is some evidence that BP’s “capped” undersea oil well continues to leak crude into the Gulf.

When making the Nov. 15th admission of guilt, Bob Dudley, chief executive of BP, said the oil company took “responsibility for our actions”, and that “since the spill, we have worked hard to rebuild confidence in the company”. To that reprehensible task, it appears that LACMA’s Michael Govan continues to lend his complete and unconditional support.

LACMA’s Levitated Mass at a Rock-Bottom Price!

Not long ago, while taking one of my periodic trips to the high desert country of California, I happened upon a colossal boulder straddling a stony crevasse. Walking through the gravel-strewn gulch directly beneath the huge rounded mass of rock, I recognized the great boulder as the answer to all my dreams of becoming a postmodern “land artist”.

As it turned out, the gigantic rock was located on private property, and after a friendly talk with the supportive landowner I easily secured rights to the rocky colossus; it remains in storage at its secret undisclosed desert location. I hope to sell my giant rock to the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA), but first, a little background on the story.

[The artist with his "Alleviated Masses" 100-ton boulder at a secret desert location storage area. Photograph by Jeannine Thorpe © ]

The artist Mark Vallen with his "Alleviated Masses" 100-ton boulder at a secret desert location storage area. Photograph by Jeannine Thorpe ©

If you have been hiding beneath a large rock you might be excused for not knowing that LACMA is spending around $10 million dollars to install a gigantic boulder near the museum’s Resnick Pavilion rear entrance. LACMA is constructing a 15-foot deep, 456-foot-long cement-lined channel over which a 340-ton, 21-foot high granite boulder will be placed. The “conceptual” art piece dreamt up by Michael Heizer will allow people to walk through the trench to see the boulder appear as if it were levitating - hence the title of the work, “Levitated Mass“.

Instead of paying $10 million for Michael Heizer’s 340-ton granite boulder, LACMA can purchase my 100-ton, 10-foot high boulder, titled “Alleviated Masses“, for the amazing low price of only $1 million - that is an incredible savings of $9 million dollars! With such a sweeping reduction in expenditure LACMA can take the amount left over to help create a critically needed first-rate arts curriculum for Los Angeles school children, put into action an expanded artist residency program, and have enough left over for the purchase of artworks from contemporary artists having a hard time due to the economic downturn.

Mr. Heizer’s rock sits in a Riverside, California quarry, swathed in protective plastic and mounted atop a specially constructed 196-wheel transport vehicle. It has waited for bureaucrats and lawyers from several municipalities to give permission for the rock to be moved; a tremendously expensive and hazardous project, for you see, the 340-ton behemoth will tie up traffic and close streets in 22 cities. It will traverse a 105-mile route at eight miles an hour before it reaches its trench at LACMA. By comparison transporting my mere 100-ton rock will be a fantastically simple matter: street closures and traffic jams will be avoided; money and resources will be saved by doing away with bureaucratic red tape; and with the price of gasoline nearing $5 per gallon the savings in fuel expenses alone will be substantial.

LACMA’s director, Michael Govan, told the L.A. Times that the rock in Mr. Heizer’s installation is “ultramodern because it’s self-referential and it’s about the viewer’s experience - it doesn’t represent some god, yet it has the timeless, ancient overtones of cultures that moved monoliths, like the Egyptians, Syrians and Olmecs.”

My boulder may very well be smaller than the $10 million dollar rock used by Mr. Heizer, but I am sure everyone will agree it is no less profound. It is undoubtedly one of the most ultramodern boulders to be discovered anywhere in the world today. With a price tag of only $1 million, my rock does not come complete with overtones of the ancient Egyptians and Syrians, but for the price its near perfect spherical form is nevertheless highly evocative of ancient Olmec monoliths.

Mr. Govan obviously likes to think big, which is clearly the reason he receives annual compensation of $915,000 - more than twice the salary of a sitting U.S. president ($400,000). Heizer’s Levitated Mass is not the only evidence of Mr. Govan’s grandiose way of thinking. Since 2007 he has worked with the King of Kitsch, Jeff Koons, to hang an actual locomotive from a 161-foot-tall crane to be installed on the LACMA campus. Titled Train, the project will ultimately cost $25 million, but it is currently on hold due to the worldwide crash of the capitalist system.

 Image: Mark Vallen, preliminary sketch for Alleviated Masses, 2012 ©

Preliminary sketch for Alleviated Masses, Mark Vallen 2012 ©

No doubt the largest economic crisis since the Great Depression has prevented Michael Govan from going forward with his Train project, so in the face of widespread unemployment and economic collapse Govan has wisely chosen to persevere with the less costly $10 million boulder.

All the same, perhaps the gargantuan un-carved rock is still a bit steeply-priced given the shaky economic situation; I humbly suggest that LACMA and Mr. Govan seriously consider purchasing my slightly scaled-down, easy on the pocket, land art installation - Alleviated Masses.

I enthusiastically await Mr. Govan’s inquiries, and sincerely hope my 100-ton boulder will soon have a new home at LACMA.

An end to oil company sponsorship of the arts

In marking the one year anniversary of the catastrophic BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, I signed a letter of protest along with 165 other arts professionals and activists that appeared in the Guardian on April 20, 2011. Titled Tate should end its relationship with BP, the letter calls on the Tate Gallery of London “to demonstrate its commitment to a sustainable future by ending its sponsorship relationship with BP.”

The letter reads in part:

“In the year since their catastrophic oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, BP have massively ramped up their investment in controversial tar sands extraction in Canada, have shown to be a key backer of the Mubarak regime in Egypt and have attempted to commence drilling for oil in the Arctic Ocean. While BP continues to jeopardize ecosystems, communities and the climate by the reckless pursuit of ‘frontier’ oil, cultural institutions like Tate damage their reputation by continuing to be associated with such a destructive corporation.”

Signatories to the letter include the likes of writer and art critic Lucy R. Lippard, painter John Keane, artist and Stuckist co-founder Charles Thomson, artist Billy Childish, and many others. Anti-corporate globalization activist and author of The Shock Doctrine, Naomi Klein, was also a signatory.

While directed at the Tate, the Guardian letter by implication calls upon all art institutions to end their partnerships with BP specifically and with oil companies in general. I first began writing about the relationship between BP and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) in 2007. The Director of LACMA, Michael Govan, had just accepted a $25 million “gift” from BP, monies the museum would use in part to build a new entry gate, the ill-named “BP Grand Entrance”. That first muckraking article was followed by a multitude of other commentaries and critical essays that further exposed the saga of BP and LACMA; by the look of things this current post will not be my last entry on the matter.

Since the BP disaster in the Gulf of Mexico exactly one year ago, much has been learned about the oil company’s affairs. PLATFORM brought to light the oil giant’s close relationship with former dictator of Egypt, Hosni Mubarak, now under investigation for ordering the murder of hundreds of protestors during the three-week long pro-democracy uprising that toppled his regime. Last February I wrote about the collaboration between BP and Colonel Muammar Gaddafi - a friendly and quite lucrative business relationship that culminated in a deal worth billions. On April 16, 2011, Al Jazeera published an in-depth report by independent U.S. journalist Dahr Jamail. His BP anniversary: Toxicity, suffering and death is about as excoriating an account of corporate and government irresponsibility likely to be found.

On April 19, 2011, The Independent published Secret memos expose link between oil firms and invasion of Iraq, a timely report that verifies the U.K. government was holding meetings with BP, Shell and BG (British Gas), on “post regime change” opportunities for oil exploitation - a year before the war on Iraq began. Minutes from one Nov. 2002 government meeting with BP noted; “Iraq is the big oil prospect. BP is desperate to get in there and anxious that political deals should not deny them the opportunity.” At another meeting held in Oct. 2002, the government’s Foreign Office Middle East director noted, “Shell and BP could not afford not to have a stake in Iraq for the sake of their long-term future. We were determined to get a fair slice of the action for UK companies in a post-Saddam Iraq.” Indeed, after the war, BP was awarded 20-year contracts on some of the largest of Iraq’s oil fields containing upwards of 60 billion barrels of oil.

Here the reader should be reminded that in a 2007 interview in the Los Angeles Times, LACMA Director Michael Govan offered a truly laughable justification for taking BP’s millions - he cited the oil giant’s “commitment to sustainable energy.” Since then Mr. Govan has fallen silent regarding the matter of BP sponsorship of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. One must ask why in all these years the Los Angeles Times has published only a single article that questions the wisdom of LACMA taking money from BP. Art critic Christopher Knight offered a mild rebuke of Govan in his May 18, 2010 article, BP Grand Entrance at LACMA looking not-quite-so-grand, but the article was hardly an in-depth critique that offered solid details on BP’s terrible record.

A protestor from the U.K. activist group, Liberate Tate, stages an intervention titled "Human Cost" at the Tate Britain on Wednesday April 20, 2011. Photo: anonymous.

A protestor from the U.K. activist group, Liberate Tate, stages an intervention titled "Human Cost" at the Tate Britain on April 20, 2011. Photo: anonymous.

Also occurring on the one year anniversary of the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, artists from the U.K. activist group, Liberate Tate, staged an intervention they titled “Human Cost” at the Tate Britain.

On Wednesday April 20, 2011, a number of silent figures peacefully entered Duveens Hall of the Tate where the exhibit Single Form: The Body in Sculpture from Rodin to Hepworth was on display; the exhibit is part of a series of “BP British Art Displays” staged throughout the Tate.

A nude member of the Liberate Tate group assumed a fetal position on the floor in the middle of the room, while veiled comrades dressed in black poured what appeared to be oil over him from containers emblazoned with BP logos (the substance was actually ground charcoal and sunflower oil).

The motionless naked man, slick with viscous black goo, looked as if he were trapped in the globs of crude oil dumped into the Gulf of Mexico by BP exactly one year ago. Eventually museum security directed  museum goers out of the room, placing a screen around the area to hide the action from public view. In due course the protestors left the museum and a clean-up crew dealt with the aftermath. To my knowledge there were no arrests. England’s Channel 4 also broadcast coverage of the event.

Sandra Paige, a participant in the intervention/performance, said the following about her group’s action; “It’s astonishing that Nick Serota and other Tate executives can be so blind to the horrific social and environmental impacts that BP is responsible for around the world. From the destruction of fisher folks’ livelihoods in the Gulf of Mexico, to the indigenous communities in Canada fearing for their very survival – the human cost of BP’s oil extraction is staggering.”

Terry Taylor of the Liberate Tate group said of the April 20 intervention; “Many important cultural institutions have been the victim of the government’s cuts in arts funding recently. The fact that many organizations will be actively looking for new funding means that the debate around the ethics of corporate sponsorship is more important than ever. Oil companies like BP are responsible for environmental and social controversy all over the world, and we can’t let their sponsorship of institutions like Tate detract from that fact.”

Flash mob "Sleep-In" protestors occupying the Tate Modern on Sunday, April 17, 2011. Screen-shot from the video shot by "You and I Films".

Flash mob "Sleep-In" protestors occupying the Tate Modern on April 17, 2011. Screen-shot from the video shot by "You and I Films".

April 20 was the culmination of a BP Week Of Action called by U.K. groups Liberate Tate, Art Not Oil, Climate Camp London, UK Tar Sands Network, Climate Rush, Indigenous Environmental Network, and London Rising Tide. Under the slogan of “BP and culture: time to break it off”, the groups held a number of public campaigns, the most amusing of which was an April 17 mass flash mob occupation and sleep-in at the Tate Modern, where some 100 protestors with BP-branded blankets, pillows, pajamas, teddy bears, and alarm clocks held a sleep-in among the art works. A video documenting the Great BP Sponsored Tate Modern Sleep In can be viewed on YouTube.

"Sleep-In" protestor at the Tate Modern - Sunday, April 17, 2011. Screen-shot from the video shot by "You and I Films".

"Sleep-In" protestor at the Tate Modern - Sunday, April 17, 2011. Screen-shot from the video shot by "You and I Films".

Gallery visitors were told that BP sponsorship of the arts was “sleep walking us into climate crisis” and “BP’s relationship with this gallery is one of the ways that BP buys our acceptance - it tries to distract us from the crimes against people, from the crimes against the environment, that they are currently conducting around the world. We are here because we believe that sponsorship is part of the massive PR offensive that BP is engaged in all the time.”

In reporting on the April 20 “Human Cost” intervention at Tate Britain, Channel 4’s Matthew Cain said the following; “An over-reliance on corporate funding of any description can lead to a climate of creative caution and conservatism, and at worst, fear.  There’s evidence of this in the US but, although our model of arts funding is slowly moving closer to the American model, so far there doesn’t seem to be any evidence of it here.”

Matthew’s comments are certainly stinging, and it pains me that here in the United States - where BP virtually destroyed the Gulf of Mexico - there are no mass protests marking the one year anniversary of America’s largest ecological disaster. This makes the signing of the Guardian protest letter by American artists that much more noteworthy. I am proud to stand with all those calling for an end to oil company sponsorship of the arts. Hopefully the April 20th actions in the UK will be an inspiring preamble to similar events in the United States.

Libya, BP, & LACMA

Map of Libya showing oil fields under exploration by BP. Graphic from the BP website.

Map of Libya showing oil fields under exploration by BP. The oil giant struck a $900 million deal with Gaddafi's Libya in 2007. Illustration/BP.

The regime of Muammar Gaddafi is fighting to crush a popular uprising that has taken control over much of Libya; it appears the Gaddafi government rules only in the capital of Tripoli.

As of this writing it is alleged that some 1,000 Libyans have been killed by Gaddafi’s soldiers who have used tanks, aircraft, and mercenary troops in their attempt to quash the rebellion.

But this article is not about the violence now sweeping the North African country, nor is it about the reign of Gaddafi, rather, it is about those who have helped sustain him. As world leaders and the international press rush to condemn Gaddafi, few mention the support his government has received from Western oil companies since 2004, when the U.S. and the United Kingdom lifted commercial sanctions against Libya. One oil giant that invested heavily in Gaddafi’s Libya was BP (British Petroleum).

In May of 2007, BP signed an agreement with Libya worth $900 million. The deal was signed in Sirt, Libya, by BP’s then chief executive Tony Hayward and the chairman of the National Oil Company of Libya, Shokri Ghanem. The Prime Minister of the United Kingdom at the time, Tony Blair, attended the signing. The official BP web site published a report detailing the agreement, even publishing a special online edition with the unintended prescient title of “Libya Rising.” A jubilant Tony Haywood would utter the following at the signing, words that should haunt BP until the end of time:

“We are delighted to be working with the National Oil Company of Libya to develop their natural resources for domestic and international markets. Our agreement is the start of an enduring, long-term and mutually beneficial partnership with Libya. With its potentially large resources of gas, favourable geographic location and improving investment climate, Libya has an enormous opportunity to be a source of cleaner energy for the world. This is a welcome return to the country for BP after more than 30 years and represents a significant opportunity for both BP and Libya to deliver our long term growth aspirations. It is BP’s single biggest exploration commitment. The agreement reached today is a great success for Libya, the NOC and also for BP.”

The 2007 deal allows BP to explore for oil and natural gas, offshore as well as onshore, giving the company access to three of Libya’s most promising but unexplored tracts - one area alone is the size of Kuwait. According to the agreement, BP will invest a minimum of $2 billion in Libya in the coming years, with expectations of boosting the nation’s oil production from the current 1.8 million barrels a day, to 3.5 million barrels a day by 2020.

As part of its pact with the Gaddafi regime, BP is preparing to sink an oil well in the Gulf of Sidra, around 125 miles from the coastal city of Benghazi. Despite BP’s liability for the Gulf of Mexico’s Deepwater Horizon oil rig disaster - the biggest environmental accident in world history - BP is slated to begin drilling in the Gulf of Sidra by June 2011. The undersea well will be drilled into the seabed at a depth of 1700 meters, making the Sidra well 200 meters deeper than the blown-out Gulf of Mexico well. It was the depth of the Deepwater Horizon well that made it next to impossible to repair or close, leading to hundreds of millions of gallons of crude gushing into the ocean. One can only imagine the environmental repercussions to the Mediterranean Sea if a comparable accident where to take place at BP’s Gulf of Sidra well.

BP plans to build at least five deep water drilling platforms in the Gulf of Sidra. In August of 2010, Italy’s environment minister, Stefania Prestigiacomo, expressed opposition to BP’s drilling in the Mediterranean, saying “A moratorium could be a right approach for potentially dangerous drilling.” The chairman of the Italian Senate’s environment commission, Antonio D’Alli, said he was “very worried” about BP’s plans. Mr. D’Alì said, “The problem is not BP or Libya. The sea has no boundaries and when accidents happen, in national or international waters, effects are felt in the whole Mediterranean. Considering it is already one of the most oil-polluted seas in the world, the impact of a major spill could be irreversible.”

Archaeologists and historians are fearful of what might happen to Libya’s archaeological treasures if a major accident takes place at the Sidra well. Innumerable ships have sunk in the Gulf of Sidra over millennia, and the shipwrecks would suffer incalculable damage in the event of a spill. The ancient city sites that dot the coastline of the Gulf would also be devastated by such a spill; the city of Apollonia being a prime example. Founded in the 7th century by Greeks, Apollonia became a major Roman city, and its ruins are some of the most well-preserved examples of Roman architecture to be found anywhere in the world. Most of the city has not been excavated, and the site extends right into the ocean, with the larger part of it laying beneath the sea as a result of an earthquake in 365 AD. In the event of a spill, crude oil would accumulate on the seafloor, covering ancient artifacts and underwater city ruins. Oily waves washing-up onshore would seep into the porous stone and be impossible to clean off.

BP is not the only foreign oil company in Libya; U.S. corporations like Exxon Mobil, Occidental Petroleum, Conoco Phillips, Marathon Oil, Hess Corp., and Halliburton all run profitable operations there. European nations are also well represented by Eni SpA (Italy: the largest foreign producer), Total S.A. (France: one of the six largest oil companies in the world), OMV AG (Austria), Repsol YPF SA (Spain’s largest oil company), Royal Dutch Shell (Netherlands), Statoil (Netherlands), BG Group (U.K.), Wintershall (Germany). China’s largest oil producer, CNPC, also drill for oil in Libya. Most if not all foreign companies are shutting down their Libyan operations for the moment. The chief executive for Eni said that his company will cut production “because of difficulty loading the tankers to export the oil,” inconvenient difficulties like Gaddafi’s army mowing down the Libyan people with machine gun fire.

Alternative BP logo - Anonymous. Submission from the BP "Logo Makeover" contest sponsored by Greenpeace UK in May of 2010. © All rights reserved/Greenpeace UK.

Alternative BP logo - Anonymous. Submission from the BP "Logo Makeover" contest sponsored by Greenpeace UK in May of 2010. © All rights reserved/Greenpeace UK.

The plans BP had to exploit Libyan oil have of course been interrupted by the Libyan people’s revolution, part of the wave of pro-democracy movements sweeping across the Arab world.

BP made the decision to “suspend” oil exploration in Libya on Feb. 21., and company spokesman David Nicholas said that all non-essential staff would be evacuated from the Libyan desert. The company has around 140 staff in Libya, most of which are Libyans. BP’s 40 expatriate personnel have been evacuated.

BP chief executive Bob Dudley would only say that “We have some people there. Dependents have left the country but we remain committed to doing business there.” There were no statements concerning the deplorable violence engulfing the nation, nor comments regarding the safety and welfare of the Libyan people, just an affirmation of wanting to conduct “business”.

I have been writing about the relationship the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) maintains with BP since March 14, 2007, when it was first announced the museum accepted $25 million dollars from the multinational oil company. It would only be two months later that BP would arrange its May 2007 deal with Muammar Gaddafi. LACMA used BP’s millions to renovate and expand its campus, and the museum constructed a new entry gate and pavilion it christened, the “BP Grand Entrance.”

At the time LACMA’s Director Michael Goven billed BP as a “green” company, saying: “What was convincing to me was their commitment to sustainable energy.” One does not need to imagine what the Gaddafi regime did with the initial $900 million BP bestowed upon it, or if by chance it survives, what it would do with the billions BP has agreed to invest in Libya. As far as having a “commitment to sustainable energy,” just think of BP’s projected goal of raising Libyan crude output to 3.5 million barrels a day by 2020.

Tony Hayward, the bungling multi-millionaire former CEO of BP, has so far been remembered for complaining about the disruption the 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil disaster had on his personal life, saying at the time, “I would like my life back.” With Colonel Gaddafi presently drowning Libya in blood, Haywood and BP should instead be remembered for cutting a major oil and gas deal with Gaddafi - and gloating about it.

Art Contest: BP Logo Redesign

BP: Broken Promises – Logo design submitted by Foye. 2010. The artist had the following to say about the design, "'Back to Black' is a term aimed at maximum brand damage – BP have spent hundreds of millions re-branding themselves as the good green oil company. The helios in this image is fading, petals falling to the ground – creating a sense of behind the brand image."

BP: Broken Promises – Logo design by Foye. 2010. The artist said the following about the design, "'Back to Black' is a term aimed at maximum brand damage – BP have spent hundreds of millions re-branding themselves as the good green oil company. The helios in this image is fading, petals falling to the ground – creating a sense of behind the brand image."

As BP’s broken underwater oil well in the Gulf of Mexico continues to gush over 100,000 barrels of oil per day into the fragile ecosystem, and as sheets of the thick sticky crude start to fill the delicate marsh lands of the Mississippi Delta – Greenpeace UK has launched an art competition to redesign the BP corporate logo.

The contest is open to professional and non-professional artists from around the world. Greenpeace UK says that the current corporate logo needs “a makeover to better suit a company that invests in tar sands and other unconventional oil sources like deep water oil,” and that a redesigned logo should better reflect BP’s “dirty business.”

Starting on May 20, 2010, the design contest will run for six weeks, ending on June 28, 2010. The environmental group says the winning logo design will be “used by us in innovative and exciting ways as part of our international campaign against the oil company,” and will be placed in high profile locations, as well as featured in newspaper and magazine advertisements. Entries will be judged by a panel of artists from the design and marketing professions, whose identities will be revealed as the competition draws to a close.

Submitted artworks can be created in any media, the only criteria being that the re-worked logo adheres to the concept of exposing BP, and that the logo is easy to comprehend and reproduce. Non-professional artists and students are encouraged to submit their ideas and concepts, as Greenpeace UK will provide such a contest winner “a day with a top graphic designer to transform your idea into a final product.”

BP: Bitumen Pilferers – Anonymous. 2010. The designer turned BP’s radiant green sunflower icon into a dead flower dripping with oil. Bitumen of course is the hydrocarbon obtained by the distillation of petroleum or coal; the substance commonly being used as a component of tar and asphalt.

BP: Bitumen Pilferers – Anonymous. 2010. The designer turned BP’s green sunflower icon into a dead flower dripping with oil. Bitumen of course is the hydrocarbon obtained by distilling petroleum or coal; the substance is commonly used as a component of tar and asphalt.

John Sauven, the Executive Director of Greenpeace UK, said the following regarding the launch of the logo competition; “BP’s famous green logo is there to distract us from what this company really stands for. This company has chosen to extract the last drops of oil from deep sea wells and the tar sands of Canada, instead of developing the clean technologies that can actually help beat climate change. That’s why we’re calling in the experts. We’re hoping that the design community and the public will help us come up with a logo that will actually reflect BP’s obsession with dirty oil. This is a competition with a difference, because we’re planning to use the winning entry all over Britain in a high profile Greenpeace campaign that the company will find impossible to spin.”

Complete details on the competition and how to submit an entry, are available on the Greenpeace website, at: www.greenpeace.org.uk

It should be noted that Greenpeace UK launched the design competition by simultaneously deploying trained climbers to scale the front entrance of BP’s London headquarters, where the Greenpeace activists replaced BP’s large corporate flag with a redesigned banner of their own.

Greenpeace UK released the following statement to the public regarding the event; “Our climbers have scaled the front of BP’s London HQ to present them with a logo that we think might suit them a little better. Our logo has been ‘improved’ with the addition of a bit of oil and a tagline that reads ‘British polluters.’ It’s an OK effort, but we’re sure you can do much better. So today we’re launching a competition to get you to redesign BP’s logo to suit a company that’s investing in unconventional oil like the Canadian tar sands.”

Accelerated Decay – Logo design submitted by Frank. 2010. The artist had the following to say about his design, "My approach shows both the tarnishing of the BP brand itself and the accelerated decay certain practices of it may cause the globe. While to many the damage may seem as though it's minimal or not impacting them, the ultimate destination is the witherment of life."

Accelerated Decay – Logo design submitted by Frank. 2010. The artist said the following about his design, "My approach shows both the tarnishing of the BP brand itself and the accelerated decay certain practices of it may cause the globe. While to many the damage may seem as though it's minimal or not impacting them, the ultimate destination is the witherment of life."

One of the Greenpeace climbers, Ben Stewart, made the following statement;

“The oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico can be traced back to decisions made in this building. Under Tony Hayward’s leadership (the company’s chief executive) BP has taken huge risks to pump oil from ever more remote places, while slashing investment in the clean energy projects that could actually help reduce our dependence on oil and beat climate change.

BP’s bright green logo is a pathetic attempt to distract our attention from the reality of what this company is doing, both in the Gulf of Mexico but also in places like the tar sands of Canada. Tony Hayward’s reckless approach will cause more disasters unless action is taken to stop him.”

On a related note, at last someone aside from me has bothered to mention the financial relationship between BP and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA), which I have been writing about in great detail since March 2007.

In his brief May 18, 2010 article, BP Grand Entrance at LACMA looking not-quite-so-grand, Los Angeles Times art critic Christopher Knight noted the ongoing “epic environmental tragedy” caused in the Gulf by BP, and playfully suggested that “LACMA might want to think about commissioning a work of art that would be apt for the BP Grand Entrance.”

An architectural design for a "BP Grand Entrance" at LACMA more in keeping with the oil company’s terrible record of environmental destruction. First proposed by this writer in October 2007.

An architectural design for a "BP Grand Entrance" at LACMA more in keeping with the oil company’s terrible record of environmental destruction. First proposed by this writer in October 2007.

Of course, in October of 2007 I had proposed just such an artwork in my article, Another Oil Slick at LACMA, which detailed BP having to “pay a whopping $373 million in an out of court settlement designed to stop U.S. Justice Department criminal indictments against the global energy giant’s law-breaking in the United States.” In that piece I proposed an architectural design (shown at right) for a “BP Grand Entrance” at LACMA more in keeping with the oil company’s terrible record of environmental destruction.

But Knight’s article also mentioned that BP funded the creation of an exhibit at the Aquarium of the Pacific in Long Beach, which has officially been dubbed, the “BP Sea Otter Habitat.” Now that is a concept difficult to imagine.

Four years ago BP gave a $1 million “donation” to the Aquarium of the Pacific, which used the petro dollars to build its new BP Sea Otter Habitat, an attraction that “transports visitors to California’s Central Coast,” providing a recreation of a rocky coastline where visitors can “peer underwater and discover the busy world of sea otters as they swim and interact amongst kelp and fish.” The BP Sea Otter Habitat presents an accurate peek at the pristine environment of California’s Central Coast, with its crystalline waters and giant kelp beds filled with mollusks, crustaceans, and innumerable fish. As a former scuba diver, that ecosystem is well familiar to me, and it has long been a source of constant inspiration and awe. But that unspoiled natural beauty is a far cry from the “Dead Zone” now being created in the Gulf of Mexico by BP.

The Louisiana governor's office released this aerial photograph showing thick streams of heavy crude oil as it penetrates the marsh lands of the Louisiana coastline at the Pass a Loutre Wildlife Management Area. Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal toured the Mississippi Delta by boat on Wednesday, May 19,saying of the BP spill; "This is serious - this is the heavy oil that everyone has been fearing. It is hear now. This is one of the oldest wildlife mangagement areas here in Louisiana, and now it is covered in oil."

The Louisiana governor's office released this aerial photograph showing thick streams of heavy crude oil as it penetrates the marsh lands of the Louisiana coastline at the Pass a Loutre Wildlife Management Area. Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal toured the Mississippi Delta by boat on Wednesday, May 19, saying of the BP spill; "This is serious - this is the heavy oil that everyone has been fearing. It is here now. This is one of the oldest wildlife mangagement areas here in Louisiana, and now it is covered in oil."

While sea otters do not live in the Gulf of Mexico, Louisiana’s Department of Wildlife and Fisheries says that 600 animal species are directly imperiled by BP’s ongoing ecological disaster; 445 species of fish, 45 mammals, 32 reptiles and amphibians, and 134 bird species.

On May 20, biologists of the Breton National Wildlife Refuge found the first oil covered brown pelican to have died from exposure to BP’s massive oil spill – and there are some 4,500 pelicans nesting at the refuge; which brings me back to the BP Sea Otter Habitat at the Aquarium of the Pacific.

To launch its new BP exhibit, the Aquarium of the Pacific announced its “Sea Otter Poetry Contest.” Commencing May 20, 2010, and running until August 15, 2010, contestants worldwide are being asked to submit a poem no longer than 300 words on the theme of sea otters. Poems are to be judged in two categories: those penned by writers’ ages 13 through 20, and those written by authors over 21. All entries must be submitted digitally or by mail, by midnight Aug. 15, 2010. First Prize winners will have their works published in the Aquarium’s magazine and on the Aquarium’s website, plus assorted prizes for Second and Third Prize winners. The Aquarium of the Pacific will announce the winners on October 27, 2010. Details on entering the BP sponsored Poetry Contest can be found on the Aquarium’s website.

Poetry has always provided a means to touch the heart as well as the intellect, and many a poet has dedicated verse and rhyme to excoriate the evils of the day, using the evocative language of poetry as social protest – the BP sponsored Aquarium of the Pacific’s Sea Otter Poetry Contest presents no less an opportunity. I believe that every lover of the written word should submit a poem to this contest, as it is a creative way to denounce BP’s role in destroying our planet, as well as expressing our vision of humanity truly at peace with the natural world.

Though sea otters do not live in the Gulf of Mexico, creative writers will no doubt be able to pen verse that connects the aquatic mammal with the crimes against nature being committed by BP. For those who wish to submit a poem of outrage to the Sea Otter Poetry Contest, but hesitate to do so out of concern that the BP sponsored Aquarium will simply ignore the entry, simply “CC” an e-mail copy of your poem to Art For A Change – where I will post the best submissions on October 27, 2010, the very day the winners of the BP sponsored Poetry Contest are announced by the Aquarium of the Pacific.