When I first gazed on the creamsicle orange of British Petroleum oil floating to the surface of the murky blue Gulf Coast of Louisiana, this particular color contrast reminded me instantly of Matisse's goldfish swimming in a bowl of blue water and the colors on Monet's series of the Houses of Parliament. Such are the abstract familiarities of beauty which even the ugliest works of man can inculcate from a certain detached perspective.
The 24-hour video of deep pressure bellows of toxic muck put a quick end to that reverie, but also reminded me of the "green" television commercials with which BP bombarded us a few years back. BP's logo is a sun surrounded by green petals in the shape of a flower. The text of the spots consisted of phony actor testimonials from young people about certain environmental breakthroughs, followed by the surprising tag that the benevolent outfit behind these "green" advances was British Petroleum.
Testimony before the Coast Guard/MMS commission in Kenner, La., last week revealed that British Petroleum had been cited by the Department of the Interior for 270 recent violations on its offshore U.S. rigs, as against nine for the next highest offender, Exxon Mobil. Nevertheless, BP continues to run cute cartoon commercial for its retail gas station business, with kids in a car celebrating the secret ingredient added to BP gasoline, something the company calls "Invigorate."
I don't know about you but I feel invigorated by the oil spill. Invigorated to question why the First Amendment must continue to protect the lies and propaganda promoting bogus environmentalism. Shouldn't there be a stiff retrospective penalty on BP for polluting our minds in the midst of televised sports and soap operas?
Well, the Roberts Court doesn't agree, as witnessed by the Supreme Court’s recent decision allowing corporations to spend unlimited money in elections under the banner of First Amendment rights, a decision successfully argued before the Court by New York Times First Amendment legend Floyd Abrams of Pentagon Papers fame.
The only recourse in the fight against corporate propaganda lies with artists, yet there have been so few (Hans Haacke) who have made this cause their calling, precisely because the purveyors of propaganda are the major funders of our cultural elites. The first New York museum director who kicks one of these corporate monsters off their board (hello Lowry! greetings Weinberg!) gets a dinner and a column full of hosannas from your not-so-humble scribe. In the meantime, let them drink oil.
CHARLIE FINCH is co-author of Most Art Sucks: Five Years of Coagula (Smart Art Press).