On June 14th, another well-known picture was vandalised at the National Museum in Stockholm, Sweden. Two climate activists smeared red paint on a Monet painting and attached their hands to the glass that protected it. Yet, it has been determined that no damage was done to the picture. The Artist’s Garden of Giverny was on loan from the Musee d’Orsay in Paris, however, these persistent protests regarding the vandalism of artwork are becoming an increased talking point.
The organisation called Återställ Våtmarker (Restore Wetlands), whose logo was spotted on the protester’s shirts claimed responsibility for the revolt. They argued in an interview with the AFP that the ‘gorgeous gardens like those in Monet’s painting will soon be a distant memory’. This justification in which the means for protesting by destroying landscape artwork to mirror the destruction of real-life landscapes is an interesting concept. The environmental issue that this particular organisation is advocating for is the urgent need to reduce the emissions of greenhouse gases. They want the restoration of Sweden’s peat meadows where due to the damage they are leaking ‘11.6 million tonnes of CO2e each year, which corresponds to 25% of Sweden’s territorial emissions’. These emissions are ‘more than all of Sweden’s total passenger car traffic’ and are therefore causing catastrophic damage to the environment, damage that will soon be irreversible.
one must question whether the way these activists go about enforcing change is actually more of a hindrance to their beliefs
The two demonstrators, identified as Emma and Maj on name tags, a nurse and a student nurse, were detained and charged with inflicting substantial damage. The vandalism was videotaped and aired on YouTube, and the two ladies responded with a brief statement. “The pandemic was nothing compared to the climate collapse,” Maj said, stating, “Ban peat mining and restore the wetlands,” while Emma added, “The very basis of health is under threat.”
After the incident, terställ Vtmarker posted numerous clips on their Instagram profile, including brief interviews with the climate protesters themselves. Emma said in one of the films, “We are in a climate catastrophe, the worst health crisis we’ve seen.” Emissions continue to rise. This entails never-before-seen diseases that our already-struggling healthcare system cannot handle, as well as the “Wet Bulb Effect,” a mix of heat and humidity that boils a person to death in 6 hours.” This direct relationship between the environment and health is becoming a problem that concerns the global human population. Therefore, a call for help from healthcare professionals is a voice that should be heard and heeded by everybody.
However, despite the reasons for protesting against climate change being supported by the majority of the population, one must question whether the way these activists go about enforcing change is actually more of a hindrance to their beliefs. The objective of acclaimed pieces of art is in no doubt the way to catch the attention of the world much like the vandalism of Van Gogh’s Sunflowers back in October. But simply because activism has become a topical subject does not result in a direct relation to the forward progression of the issues being addressed. Instead one could argue that the type of protesting that vandalises the work of Monet would cause more angst towards the protester in which their motives are lost and no longer become the focus of the media.
Despite masses of attention being directed towards the vandalism rather than the cause, the message has also been spread widely with an article by Peter Fällmar Andersson being quoted on Återställ Våtmarker’s instagram page in which he stated that “The painting is coming along nicely. Too bad the motive is dying day by day.”