Festival of civil disobedience

Extinction Rebellion protesters gluing themselves to Picasso painting at the National Gallery of Victoria in Melbourne

The Victorian ‘Spring Rebellion – a festival of civil disobedience’ – opened with an action in Geelong this weekend and continues til 22 October 2022. The Geelong action wasn’t reported by media, but already on the second day, an disobedience action at a art gallery in Melbourne went viral and was reported in all news channels in Australia. Pickings from the social media stream below.

. . .

Fossil fuel executives put us all in the firing line

“Retired teacher Tony Gleeson was one of the two protesters who were arrested by police.

“I am taking this action today because art is one way to connect us to the emotional side of human suffering, and to increase our empathy,” he said in a statement on Sunday.

“This painting represents the suffering of war. We need to be thinking about how this type of suffering will increase and how the societal breakdown that scientists are telling us is coming will eventually put us all in the firing line”.”

→ AAP – 10 October 2022:
Protesters sorry for Picasso glue stunt
“A group of climate change activists behind a stunt that saw protesters glue themselves to a prized Picasso painting in Melbourne has apologised for the incident.”

“They glued on glass. No destruction. In the gallery that is. Now outside, in our climate and environment? That’s a shockingly different story. Our governments are failing our children.”
~ Lady ApaulD commenting on Twitter

“What do you think an artist is? An imbecile who only has eyes, if he is a painter, or ears if he is a musician, or a lyre in every chamber of his heart if he is a poet, or even, if he is a boxer, just his muscles? Far from it: at the same time he is also a political being, constantly aware of the heartbreaking, passionate, or delightful things that happen in the world, shaping himself completely in their image. How could it be possible to feel no interest in other people, and with a cool indifference to detach yourself from the very life which they bring to you so abundantly? No, painting is not done to decorate apartments. It is an instrument of war.”
~ Pablo Picasso

Look, journalists! CNN shows how it can be done

Unusually, in their reporting on the incident, CNN chose to actually report on the issue which the activists wanted to put to the public’s attention. CNN wrote in its article:

“Climate change is on course to transform life on Earth as we know it, and unless global warming is dramatically slowed, billions of people and other species will reach points where they can no longer adapt to the new normal, according to a major UN-backed report released this year. Based on years of research from hundreds of scientists, the report found that the impacts from human-caused climate change were larger than previously thought, with the report’s authors warning these impacts are happening much faster and are more disruptive and widespread than scientists expected 20 years ago. Those who contribute the least to the problem are the worst affected, experts added in the report.”

→ CNN – 10 October 2022:
Extinction Rebellion activists glue themselves to Picasso painting

→ CNN – 6 July 2022:
Activists glue themselves to copy of Leonardo’s ‘The Last Supper,’ adding to string of similar protests

→ Crikey – 11 October 2022:
Extinction Rebellion: art wasn’t entertainment to Picasso — that’s why we used him to highlight the climate crisis
“Waiting for the perfect action that won’t upset anyone is a gamble Extinction Rebellion isn’t willing to take. Pablo Picasso, on the political importance of art, claimed “painting is not done to decorate apartments. It is an instrument of war”.”

“We have to convey that we are headed for climate collapse and that is not just a few more storms and some more hot days. As climate scientist Will Steffen said, in discussion with XR activists, “we are heading for societal collapse, billions of deaths, and before that, hell on earth”. This should be headline news every day, but instead scientists’ voices reach only a tiny percentage.”

Jane Morton, XR Victoria activist


“When Extinction Rebellion activists glued their hands to the perspex cover of a Picasso painting at the National Gallery of Victoria, the predictable result was some short-lived media coverage and a rash of righteous tut-tutting by offended art lovers and media commentators.

It happened only a week ago, but how many people remember — or even knew — what the protest was about?

Using art exhibits to make a political point is becoming increasingly common. In July protesters against the oil industry pasted paper over a Constable painting in London’s National Gallery before gluing themselves to the frame. And last Friday others threw tomato soup at Van Gogh’s Sunflowers in the same gallery and glued themselves to the adjacent wall.”
~ Dr Tony Jaques, editor of the issue and crisis newsletter Managing Outcomes

→ Crikey – 17 October 2022:
Do protest stunts actually work? An issues management expert takes a look
“Activists gluing themselves to a Picasso painting in Melbourne certainly got headlines. But who remembers what the protest was actually about?”

“Van Gogh would be upset to learn that activists today used this masterpiece to get attention for a cause he had never heard about in his lifetime. The protective glass worked, but that doesn’t mean I approve of this act. Like school shootings, terrorists driving trucks through a crowd, or something as innocent as the Ice Bucket Challenge, there is sadly a clear trend that acts that get attention in the media will be followed by others.

Is this effective climate action?

But isn’t the climate crisis so alarming that the importance of one painting is negligible? The activists seemed to think so when they shouted: “Are you more concerned about the protection of a painting or the protection of our planet and people?”

It is the wrong question to ask. These two issues are just as little connected as they have ever been in my writing. If destroying one Van Gogh would save the planet, I would be happy to burn it for you. But leaving the extra emissions aside, after millennia of offerings to the gods, we know by now that climate action requires more than destroying what we love. Climate action is about protecting what we care about.”
~ Alexander Verbeek

→ Medium – 15 October 2022:
Destroying art destroys climate action support

‘Spring Rebellion’ in Australia


More information about the Australian ‘Spring Rebellion’

→ ABC News – 9 October 2022:
Protesters arrested after gluing themselves to Picasso painting at NGV in Melbourne
“Protesters have been arrested after gluing themselves to a Picasso painting at the National Gallery of Victoria in Melbourne’s CBD. Extinction Rebellion has staged demonstrations around the world in response to what the group says is inadequate action on the ecological crisis facing our planet. The group say while their actions are peaceful, they’re nevertheless aiming to disrupt “business as usual” and are prepared to be arrested to send a message.”

Geelong: Stop Viva Energy’s gas project

Media release

8 October 2022

No Viva/Vopak Gas Terminal at Corio Bay, North Geelong – NOT HERE, NOT ANYWHERE      

By Extinction Rebellion Victoria

Kayakers supported by two well-crewed vessels will take to the water today at Corio Bay North Geelong to protest against the planned Viva/Vopak Gas Terminal at Corio Bay, North Geelong.

These teams of dedicated Extinction Rebellion climate activists have come from Geelong, Ballarat, Mornington Peninsula, Gippsland, Melbourne and Warrnambool to express their absolute fear for what lies ahead in a world where fossil fuelindustries continue to dominate the market resulting in the continuing increase in carbon emissions.    

This is an on water action, and we have taken every precaution to conduct this action as safely as possible.  This is a non-violent direct action and all participants have completed Non Violent Direct Action Training and on Water Safety Training.    

Kalpa Goldflam, a Ballarat resident and member of Extinction Rebellion participating today, said:
“We live in a world where rising sea levels, hotter and colder temperatures, unprecedented storms, floods and fires are happening here in Australia and around the world threatening life as we know it. During the 2019-2020 Black Summer fires my partner and I evacuated six times and yet Australia is still supporting new fossil fuel projects. We are in a climate emergency and yet no government is acting like it.”

“Viva, Vopak and any other gas company are not welcome here, or anywhere. They need to pack up their bags, find all their workers stable alternative employment and work for a sustainable future.”

“During the 2019-2020 Black Summer fires, the firies, SES, Police and other Emergency Services all worked together to save lives, homes, businesses and farms … why cant our governments do that now, while there is still hopefully time to avert complete climate and environmental breakdown?”                            

Spring Rebellion 2022
Extinction Rebellion Victoria will be conducting the Spring Rebellion 2022, two weeks of continuous actions from 8 October to 22 October throughout Victoria. This is the first major set of actions XR Victoria have been able to organise since the COVID pandemic began. With a state election coming up in November XR Victoria seeks to highlight two very important issues for Victoria’s environment: the expansion of gas infrastructure and exploration, and the continued logging of native forests.

This event will take place on the stolen lands of the Wadawurrung People. We pay our deepest respects to Elders past and present. Words can never be enough. Always was, always will be Aboriginal Land. It’s time we listened to the experts.

→ Spring Rebellion actions: www.ausrebellion.earth/rebellions

→ Facebook: www.facebook.com/XRVictoria

→ Twitter: www.twitter.com/XR_Vic

Join the Spring Rebellion in Victoria

Related: Other recent actions around the world

United Kingdom: Invest in life instead of oil and gas

“Till the treasury start investing in life instead of oil and gas, young people will continue to break the law.”

Just Stop Oil, on Twitter on 14 June 2022

“Human creativity and brilliance is on show in this gallery, yet our heritage is being destroyed by our Government’s failure to act on the climate and cost of living crisis.”
~ Just Stop Oil

The hashtags “#climatecrisis” and “#VanGogh” have been trending topics on Twitter over the weekend. For the famous painter Van Gogh to suddenly be connected with the climate crisis, all that was needed was two cans of tomato soup:

This video had 50 million views
in the first 48 hours


“Climate change almost never gets on the front pages or trends around the world. If you’re angry about the Van Gogh action then be angry at the media for keeping the public in the dark about what is coming towards us all.”
~ Matthew Todd on Twitter

“If you’re upset about soup on a painting then you should really read up on what’s happening to the earth’s biosphere.”
~ Daniel Bleakley on Twitter


“So, Just Stop Oil temporarily vandalise a painting, and lots of people – people I respect – are outraged. Big Oil are deliberately vandalising our world! In 2022 they’ve destroyed an actual country – thousands are dead and millions face famine in Pakistan. Where is that same outrage?”
~ ClimateDad77 on Twitter

→ ABC News – 15 october 2022:
Two women charged after Just Stop Oil activists throw soup at Vincent van Gogh painting
“Two women have been charged with criminal damage after climate change protesters threw soup over Vincent van Gogh’s Sunflowers painting, police say.”



Austria: Klimt painting attacked


→ The Guardian – 16 November 2022:
Climate activists throw black liquid at Gustav Klimt painting in Vienna
“Pair attack Death and Life painting in Leopold Museum in protest against fossil fuel ‘death sentence’.”

Belgium: Infrastructures of TotalEnergies blocked

Switzerland: IPCC author arrested

“This is a desperate and scientifically grounded cry.”
~ Climate activists from Last Generation about their protest actions


→ The Guardian – 6 November 2022:
Climate activists glue themselves to frames of two Goya paintings in Madrid
“The two protesters did not damage the works but ‘caused their frames slight blemishes’ the Prado museum says.”

Italy: Pea soup attack

→ The New Daily – 5 November 2022:
Climate protesters hurl pea soup at Van Gogh in Italy
“Italian environmental protesters have thrown pea soup over a Vincent Van Gogh painting on display in Rome before gluing themselves to the wall of the gallery.”

Australia: Singers interrupt bank’s Annual General Meeting


→ News 360 – 23 November 2022:
UK court convict activists who damaged Van Gogh painting
“The United Kingdom court has deemed two environmental activists guilty of causing criminal damage to a Van Gogh painting. The pair of Just Stop Oil activists glued their hands to a painting by Dutch painter Vincent van Gogh in a London art gallery as part of a worldwide movement.”