Two members of a climate activist group recently threw cans of tomato soup at Vincent Van Gogh’s “Sunflowers.” People around the world reacted in outrage over the supposed destruction of the painting, failing to realize the truth behind the matter.
As a lover of art, the initial news about the incident shocked me; why would climate activists attempt to destroy one of the world’s most beloved and recognizable works of art?
Upon further research into the incident, I feel more enlightened about the topic and more outraged at those who can’t understand why they did it. In a video covering the incident, protestor Phoebe Plummer says, “What is worth more, art or life? Is it worth more than food, worth more than justice?” She goes on to note that the public is more worried about the protection of the painting rather than Earth and its people. The costs of living and oil are connected, she continues, and it has become so dire that many cannot even afford to buy and heat up a can of soup.
While I can understand how many, regardless of the message that Plummer and co-activist Anna Holland are sending, would still be concerned about the painting and the disruptiveness of the action.
The two admitted in a video posted to TikTok that they chose the painting specifically because they knew it had a protective covering. In terms of their destructive actions, they also admit that it seems ridiculous but had to be done to get people’s attention. Art in the modern world has become a way for corporations to fuel their unethical activities and further their agenda under the guise of beneficence. In funding the arts, they gain favour in the eyes of the people while continuing to grow in power and further damage the Earth and its people.
Plummer and Holland also mention matters of justice, particularly in the social and economic sense. Not only are these matters important, but they are intrinsically linked to climate justice. In acknowledging that we cannot have one without the other, it is also brought to our attention that holistic change cannot be possible without rupturing the foundation upon which our modern society has been built. These activists have received a lot of backlash for what first appears to be an outrageous, random act of violence towards a piece of well-loved art. However, their disruption was necessary for those watching around the world to investigate the matter further.
Perhaps throwing soup at a painting of sunflowers might seem a bit odd, but their reasoning behind it begs the public to turn their attention to the more pressing matters at hand: the future of our planet and our people.