German Museums’ Unexpected New Gambit to Stop Climate Activists From Attacking Their Art? Inviting Them to Drop By

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These days, when you read the words “climate activists” and “museums” together, it’s going to conjure the image of some sort of attack on an artwork, whether that is tomato soup being flung at Van Gogh’s sunflowers, activists gluing themselves to the ancient sculpture or any number of other such attention-grabbing stunts.

Though the museum is clearly a compelling context for protestors, and much debate has arisen regarding the efficacy of these exhibit-endangering events, few alternatives have been proposed. But now, a German activist group is asking, could they collaborate with the institutions to establish a new form activism? The group Letzte Generation (Last Generation) tested out the idea as a performance art piece at eight locations across the country on Sunday, according to a report in .

At the Hamburger Kunsthalle, activists took over the foyer for a non-violent resistance in the form of a “permanent reading.” The peaceful protestors shared scientific evidence about the climate crisis, including a speech UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres about what the future might look like if we fail to act quickly enough. The participants also welcomed conversation with museum visitors.

Similar essays and statements were read out at the Ludwig Museum in Cologne, the Museum of Ethnology in Leipzig, the Zeppelin Museum in Friedrichshafen, the Rostock art gallery, the European Hansemuseum in Lübeck and the Museum for Communication in Nuremberg.

“It’s a very valuable step for us to work with the museums,” said the Last Generation activist Irma Trommer, who confirmed that the group had been invited by the institutions. “The hope is that people will get to know us and see this has nothing to do with terrorism.”

It is not yet clear whether this new approach is intended to replace or complement Last Generation’s other protest methods. Earlier this year, Trommer was arrested by the police for taking part in a road blockade that brought traffic in central Berlin to a standstill. She was trialled in court but, nonetheless, vowed to continue with similar actions in the future, according to .

“Of course it’s about everybody being for the same thing—the only question is which measures to take,” said a spokeswoman for the Museum Ludwig. “We’re more in favor of dialogue.”

The performance was organized in collaboration with the German National Committee of the International Museum Council (ICOM) and Museums For Future Germany, and took place on International Museum Day, which happened on May 21 in Germany.

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