what is the criteria for the nominees?
our initial focus was on the largest polluters with data released by the clean energy regulator in 2019 listing australia’s top ten carbon emitters. as the award was to be delivered in perth, we looked to perth based mining companies who sponsor the arts. in 2020 the people’s poll listed 3 options to choose from with an accompanying rap sheet of findings on each company.
the project hopes to open up a difficult conversation and discussion about what the future of arts funding and sponsorship might look like.
how do the arts wean themselves off unethical sponsorship sources at a time when government arts funding has reached a critical low point? what are the alternative sources of income available? do mining companies latch onto a better reputation by association with the arts? given that we are all complicit in this situation, how can we work together towards a more sustainable future for us all?
what is a ‘social license to operate’?
fossil fuel companies cultivate arts and culture sponsorship relationships to help create a ‘social licence to operate’. this provides the appearance of legitimacy and support from arts and cultural institutions which enables the mining industries to continue to expand their operations, finance government lobbying and stifle serious debate on the impact their polluting activities are having on frontline communities and the climate.
has this tactic worked previously?
following the who ban on tobacco advertising in the 1970s, the tobacco industry began to look for “corporate sponsorships” with museums, major cultural and sporting events and individual artists. corporate sponsorship became a strategic marketing tool for tobacco companies to advertise their company without directly advertising their products.
historically, arts sponsorships come with strings attached: grantees are required to put the company’s name on advertisements, websites, promotional materials and sometimes naming rights on venues and festivals.
from our perspective, audiences [particularly those more environmentally aware and socially active] are questioning why their much loved festivals, venues, sporting and cultural events are sponsored by the very organisations they are taking to the streets to protest about.
why poke the bear?
this is not a finger pointing exercise, but an attempt to generate an informed public debate through our artwork. we acknowledge that raising questions about the historical relationship our cultural institutions have with mining companies is deeply problematic and uncomfortable for us all, because we are all complicit in some way, as audiences, artists and institutions, particularly in wa.
by ‘poking the bear’ in creative, humorous ways, hopefully we can collectively strengthen attempts already being made by climate activists, schools strikers, green lobbyists and many others to hold the fossil fuel industry to account for the willful destruction of the planet.
has pvi received money from the mining industry?
short answer: no, but…
proper answer: pvi have received grant monies from minderoo foundation and spinifex trust collaboration. minderoo do a lot of good things, but we understand minderoo has a 33% shareholding in fortescue metals group and uses income from dividends to pursue its philanthropic endeavours. we realise this is putting ourselves in the firing line for criticism and that is ok. the goal was never to point fingers at arts organisations and festivals. as a small arts organisation, we understand completely the financial pressures that result in these relationships.
what do you hope to achieve?
we’re keen to see increased monetary support for the arts sector in ways that empower artists and companies to choose bedfellows they align with. most critically, we want the mining and resource extraction industries to step up to the climate crisis with actions that fast track their timelines for going carbon neutral. this will improve their reputations (renew their social licences) not via the current artwash strategies, but through genuine and permanent investment in renewables.
about the award:
seeded out of pvi collective’s tiny revolutions project in 2019, the inaugural award was created in response to a submission received from a member of the public expressing concern over mining industries’ funding of art institutions in australia and the impact their visibility has on audiences and arts organisations. the intention of the project is to refocus the attention away from the arts and cultural institutions back to the mining sector.
pvi hand delivered a custom-made trophy to renowned arts sponsor darling, chevron, who at the time were believed to be the “biggest emissions polluter in western australia”. moving forward, pvi decided to run the award annually and conduct a people’s poll to source the winner and open up the debate each year.
artwash: big oil and the arts. mel evans. pluto books.
take the money and run. jane trowell, platform london.
maps of gratitude, cones of silence and lumps of coal. gabrielle de vietri. 2019.