Hurling Food at Artwork for Climate Change


Lillian Tullio

Throwing mashed potatoes at a priceless Claude Monet, pea soup at a sacred Van Gogh, a birthday cake at the treasured Mona Lisa…can you imagine it? Gluing your hands to the walls, picture frames or the floors, or screaming “Think of the Earth” after performing such unthinkable acts has become a popular and new way for climate activists to protest. 

This type of protest does not belong under one organization but a few that operate worldwide. While there is no one organizer behind the protests, the “global mastermind” is considered to be a 36 year old physiologist named Margaret Klein Salamon from Brooklyn NY. She is the director of the Climate Emergency Fund and they distribute money to climate organizations around the world to help hire new staff.  Many of her donations come from young wealthy people who care about the environment. Three of the more popular global organizations would be Extinction Rebellion in NY, Just Top Soil in Britain, and Last Generation in Germany.

    These activists feel mainstream media and politicians are not creating the necessary level of concern over serious conditions of the environment. Once videos of these protests were shown on social media most people were shocked by the disrespect and potential destruction of universally treasured artworks. Why artwork? Think about it. The artwork of Monet and Van Gogh are priceless and irreplaceable just as our environment is priceless and will reach a tipping point when it cannot be replaced. While throwing food at art is an act of civil disobedience it has achieved the goal of attracting massive media attention. Suddenly, people are having more thoughtful conversations and asking deeper questions about climate change. Feeling astounded by watching a Van Gogh have food hurled at it gives way to further thoughts about how each of us should feel about climate change. While I was more comfortable knowing there was a glass case protecting each painting, the protesters still glued themselves to the floor and picture frames after throwing the food to extend their message for as long as possible. Attacking a major work of art is an act of Civil Disobedience and will get you arrested. Do you find it interesting that people have gone to such extremes in order to get the general population’s attention about climate change? Time Magazine describes this as, “Society is sleepwalking into a climate catastrophe, a situation best explained by a famous social psychology experiment Salamon often references, in which a room slowly fills with smoke, but the participants don’t do anything about it, because no one else in the room seems alarmed.” 

My initial reaction to this type of protest was shock at the reckless and chilling behavior of the protestors! There is no denying these protests evoked deeper thought about climate change. While I was comforted to know the paintings were protected by glass, it remained ominous for me because of the stark awareness that there is no protective barrier around our environment. Could you protest in this manner? Most people are alarmed by these actions but are generally unfazed by the state of the environment as they see it as someone else’s problem. Disruptive protests like this use shock value to evoke alarm thereby bringing greater media attention to a serious issue. Again, could you protest in this manner? Do you think this type of protest has value in bringing greater attention to climate change or other important issues?