Wouldnt it be sad if nothing really changes?: Tate Modern director Frances Morris on the art world’s pledge to be more green

Culture Declares Emergency's horse and rider enter the Tate Modern Turbine Hall Photo: Ackroyd-&-Harvey

Its now more than a year since Culture Declares Emergency was launched in London by sending a white horse and a procession of bell-ringing artists and workers from across the cultural sectors into Tate Moderns Turbine Hall. The museums director Frances Morris gave this peaceful invasion her full consent and three months later, on 17 July 2019, Tate made the step of formally declaring a climate and ecological emergency.

“It was enormously important that it was artists who called us to account,” Morris says. “Wed been involved in sustainability for years but actually to be pushed to make that declaration was hugely significant because it took us to the next step.” She adds that “one of the most vivid moments of recent years was when that horse walked into the Turbine Hall with that great green grass carpet. To welcome them formally and for Tate then to declare [a climate emergency] was for me a personal commitment.”

More than a thousand individuals and organisations across the cultural sector have since likewise pledged “to tell the truth, take action and seek justice” in the face of the devastation of the planet. These include Somerset House; the British Film Institute; Manchesters Turnpike Gallery; the artists Gavin Turk and Antony Gormley; and the Royal Court, Globe and Bristol Old Vic theatres.

The Tate Modern director Frances Morris Photo: Tate Photography, 2016

But now it is a very different landscape from spring 2019, when Culture Declares Emergency came into existence. In the so-called “new normal”, simply being environmentally conscious is no longer enough. Individuals and organisations are no longer immune from the economic and operational impact of the coronavirus pandemic. And at the same time, the cultural sector at large faces widespread accusations of systemic racism and inequality as the wave of outrage unleashed by the death of George Floyd and the subsequent Black Lives Matter protests demand that organisations put their various houses in order.

This includes the environmental movement, which has long been criticised for its predominantly white membership. In a statement issued to The Art Newspaper, Culture Declares acknowledges that it recognises a need “to create a voice and opportunities for others who must include indigenous and black people and people of colour”. Last week, the organisation announced a restructuring and plans to forge wider allegiances both within and beyond the cultural sector. At the same time it also accepted that its action in this regard may be as much about “standing aside, whilst being as supportive as possible” in order to give a platform to a range of diverse voices and organisations.

“Emerging from our Covid-altered reality, as galleries and museums open their doors again to the public, we cannot close the doors on what we have been shown: systemic life-threatening abuses of both planet and people and worldwide uprising to demand Black Lives Matter,” say the artists Ackroyd and Harvey, who describe themselves as co-initiators of Culture Declares Emergency. The artist duo also call for “unambiguous accountability from ourselves and those who seek to govern us [and] to work unequivocally for social and ecological justice”.

The Culture Declares Emergency launch in Tate Modern's Turbine Hall © Culture Declares Emergency

As Tate Modern plans to re-open later this summer, Frances Morris agrees that ecological concerns must now be addressed in tandem with issues of social justice and that the two are no longer mutually exclusive. “As we come out of the pandemic its really crucial thRead More – Source