Category: BP Grand Entrance

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.

Oil, Museums, & Arts Funding

On June 23, 2010, I wrote a missive regarding the financial ties the Los Angeles County Museum of Art maintains with the U.K. oil company, BP (British Petroleum). My tongue-in-cheek piece sarcastically incriminated Freewaves, the L.A.-based new media arts organization, for displaying videos at LACMA’s so-called “BP Grand Entrance” in an official LACMA program on June 26, 2010. My remarks apparently touched a nerve, and I received an e-mail from the Executive Director of Freewaves, Anne Bray, who claimed Freewaves was “sympathetic” to my position. Intrigued, I offered Ms. Bray the opportunity to submit a written rebuttal to my article, and that I would consider publishing her commentary for the sake of open dialog in the arts community. Ms. Bray indeed sent an editorial piece to me on 6/25/2010 that was co-authored by Freewaves Marketing Intern Saira Fazli. I publish their statement here in full:

Dear Mr. Vallen

We are grateful for your concern regarding our event. We agree with you – BP has done a terrible thing that reflects this society’s harrowing addiction to oil, which is the real issue. The most constructive thing we can do is to decrease our dependence on oil, not just hate BP. BP only exists to supply our thirst. Another constructive thing we can do, which Freewaves does, is to embrace activist art. We screen videos that are deemed too challenging for mainstream media. We are aware of the fact that our medium, video art, is not a green one. But we have been showing eco-friendly and eco-themed works since 1990.

We are anything but an institution or a corporation. We are a community. In fact, we have only two permanent employees. Everyone else who has worked with us has been a friend of Freewaves who decided to work with us because they believe in us. Everything we’ve done in our 20+ year history has been an attempt to subvert the way that corporations have framed mass media. We have consistently worked tirelessly to fairly and justly give underrepresented groups the attention they can’t get anywhere else. We haven’t stopped yet, and we’re not going to stop now.

The $10 per person ticket price is not excess money that we greedily collect because we sadistically celebrate seagull fatalities. LACMA is receiving all of the income from the event. Most Freewaves events are actually free. In fact, unlike other festivals, we choose to use the funding that we have to pay our artists. We care about making sure that artists understand how much we value their creativity.

We sell our books and DVDs at a small portion of production costs. We are, at our core, a small nonprofit arts organization. We are not about, and have  never been about, money.

We don’t need to waste our time giving BP extra publicity. But if you want to be constructive and help us make a dent in the world, then join us. Contribute your ideas and help us make a change. Come to our event and protest BP if you have to. Talk to everyone you meet about how much the situation disgusts you. Mobilize! The most unhelpful thing you can do is stay home by yourself and write blogs about why we suck.

We’re not going to stop fighting. Are you?


Anne Bray, Executive Director
Saira Fazli, Marketing Intern

I am afraid that Bray and Fazli have missed my point entirely. My objection is not that BP has “done a terrible thing,” but that LACMA’s director Michael Govan has turned the museum into a marketing arm of BP. In 2007 Mr. Govan accepted $25 million from the oil company and in return the museum built the so-called “BP Grand Entrance” on the LACMA campus. Every time an artist or arts group presents works beneath the BP Grand Entrance, it lends authority, respectability, and quiet approval to the machinations of one of the world’s biggest polluters; even if that presentation is of a “challenging” nature – it nonetheless enables BP to present itself as a generous and “socially responsible” supporter of the arts. As one must pass through the BP Grand Entrance in order to enter the LACMA museum complex, BP has succeeded in placing its imprimatur upon every LACMA exhibit, not to mention its entire collection.

In a brief interview that appeared on the Flavorpill website just prior to Freewaves’ presentation at the BP Grand Entrance, Ms. Bray asserted that the videos to be shown would “assess art’s role in challenging racism, sexism and classism.” In the statement Bray and Fazli submitted to me, they insisted that in the 20 plus years of Freewaves’ history, the group has endeavored to “subvert the way that corporations have framed mass media.” I do commend Freewaves for having such an illustrious track record, but one thing puzzles me. How is it that a collection of apolitical mainstream Pop Stars comprised of mega-celebrities like Lady Gaga, the Backstreet Boys, Ryan Seacrest, Justin Bieber, Cameron Diaz and dozens of others, can call for and help organize a boycott in denunciation of BP – but Freewaves, which purports to “embrace activist art,” cannot?

There are many talented artists who have worked with Freewaves, and undoubtedly the group and its associates have contributed much in helping to build and sustain a new contentious art – but at this time there is a pressing need for all artists and arts organizations to think through their positions regarding oil company sponsorship of the arts. In the spirit of the familiar axiom, “think globally – act locally,” this means artists in L.A. should be opposing BP’s funding of LACMA. Around twenty years ago some of the largest corporate sponsors of the arts were tobacco companies, yet who would collaborate with, or take money from, tobacco companies today? If the idea of a “Philip Morris Tobacco Company Grand Entrance” at LACMA sounds like an outrage, then why is the “BP Grand Entrance” acceptable – especially in light of today’s ongoing cataclysm in the Gulf of Mexico?

I have put my name to a petition published in the letters section of Britain’s Guardian on June 28, 2010, an appeal signed by 170 other international arts professionals including Hans Haacke and Lucy R. Lippard. The petition, which demands an end to oil company sponsorship of the arts, was described by Artinfo as an “Army of Art-World Protestors Against BP Funding,” The petition was meant to coincide with the 20th anniversary of BP “support” for Britain’s Tate Modern, National Portrait Gallery, and other major cultural institutions – sponsorship that has been denounced, protested, picketed, and disrupted by a wide alliance of arts professionals, activists, and environmentalists in the U.K. It is time for the arts community in the United States to carry out its own efforts.

LACMA: Video on the Loose

BP’s video entry – live streaming video of ecocide in progress.

BP’s video entry – live streaming video of ecocide in progress.

Video on the Loose: Freewaves and 20 Years of Media Art, is an evening of postmodern video presentations that the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) will be mounting outdoors at its “BP Grand Entrance” on Sat., June 26, 2010.

The event is being promoted as a  20th anniversary celebration of Freewaves, the L.A.-based new media arts organization. According to a LACMA press release, the videos “will animate the BP Grand Entrance and North Piazza with an international selection of video from the past two decades.”

Over twenty unique videos by some 30 different video artists will be shown, and according to a Freewaves press release, “The videos span perspectives from the identity politics of the 1990s to post-9/11 reality checks, from deep inside the mass media landscape to observations from media makers in Africa, Asia and Latin America.” Reality checks indeed. Freewaves touts that “each of the 20+ videos will be looping continuously on separate monitors,” one presumes in the same way BP spokespersons constantly assure the public of the oil company’s commitment to clean and sustainable energy. The only videos that should be looping continuously at LACMA’s obscene BP Grand Entrance are of those showing the thousands of heavily oiled sea birds dying en masse in the Gulf of Mexico dead zone created by BP.

The evening’s video display at LACMA includes four programs organized under the titles of Squirm, Trouble, Pop Cop, and Dual/Duel. Freewaves purports that their Pop Cop program consists of videos that are “critical responses to television ads, news, and authorities,” but it is a safe bet the video presentation at the BP Grand Entrance will be completely devoid of troublesome images from BP’s ecocide in the Gulf.

On June 23, just three days before LACMA’s video fest, BP was busy preparing its own video extravaganza. The oil company announced it had to remove the so-called “containment cap” it had lowered over the gushing underwater oil well, because one of its robotic submarines had damaged the cap in a collision. Of course that means the massive flow of oil streaming into the ocean has been greatly increased – to an estimated 2.5 million gallons of crude oil a day! It is all being captured live in streaming video from camera’s BP set up at the broken well. BP’s experimentation with new media is certainly captivating, one would think it qualifies as the type of “innovative” and “relevant” video Freewaves claims to champion. If Freewaves really stands for “uncensored independent new media,” then perhaps someone from the organization will have a twinge of social consciousness and hook up a live video feed of BP’s erupting oil volcano.

Tickets for the “ostrich-with-head-in-sand” affair can be purchased at, yes – the BP Grand Entrance at LACMA. Ticket prices are $10 per person, and no, the money will not be donated to help rescue, clean-up, and nurse back to health, those thousands of oiled sea birds in the Gulf of Mexico.

[Update – June 24: BP has repositioned its “containment cap” over the blown-out well, and has resumed siphoning oil from the broken pipeline. BP placed the containment cap over its ruptured pipe after all other attempts to shut off the flow ended in failure; the cap has not plugged the gushing pipe, it just allows for the capture of a certain amount of oil. BP claims of siphoning off up to 16,000 barrels a day are controversial, given that the oil company previously said 5,000 barrels a day were leaking. BP has promised to stop the leak by August, when two relief wells presently being drilled will supposedly cut off the oil by filling the well with heavy cement. There are no assurances the plan will succeed, and until then well over 60,000 barrels of crude oil will gush into the ocean every day for two months.]