Paul Wolfsgruber, an activist from Salzburg, has been hearing the phrase “Don’t stick yourself” lately. Salzburg climate activists and museum directors talk about how far protest can go for them.
SALZBURG. About a week ago, activists blocked traffic routes in several Austrian cities. Students from Austrian universities, including those in Salzburg, have been occupying lecture halls for about three weeks. Actions to draw media attention to the climate crisis are increasing. An incident that heated Austrian spirits in particular: in mid-November, climate activists in Vienna poured oil on the glass pane of a Klimt painting and then glued themselves to it. “It’s just a pane of glass,” say some. “It goes too far when it comes to damaging art,” say the others. The BezirksBlätter have asked both Salzburg’s climate activists and museums how far climate activism can go for them.
“Do you want a cookie?
Around 20 people gathered on a Friday in front of the Salzburg train station building. Some hold home-made posters in their hands. Green banners read: “Climate Justice Now”, translated as “Climate Justice Now”. With a friendly smile, the Salzburg “Fridays for Future” activist Paul Wolfsgruber walks towards the station building with a Tupperware can in his hand.
“Would you like a cookie,” he asks passers-by who are just leaving the station building. “Fridays for Future Salzburg” wants to reward commuters who use the train for their daily journeys with a biscuit, Wolfsgruber explains the campaign. “I always want to stay within the legal framework,” he says. An unwritten statute of the “Fridays for Future” movement is to carry out peaceful actions. The 20-year-old would not soil the glass pane of an important painting.
But he understands activists for whom too little is happening in terms of the climate crisis and who are taking more radical steps. “Art and culture are much more at risk from the climate crisis than from oil on a pane of glass,” he says. Wolfsgruber thinks it’s a shame that everyone is talking about art as a result of the “Klimt Action”, but nobody is talking about the climate crisis.
Climate activist Max, who is currently occupying lecture halls at the University of Salzburg with around 20 other students, is also relying on peaceful protest. “We don’t intend to tape or chain or soil anything,” he says. Similar to Wolfsgruber, however, he understands the urgency of the actions. Both Wolfsgruber and student Max are aware that people develop an aversion to climate activists when, for example, they are stuck in a traffic jam due to a roadblock.
Such radical actions would not necessarily help the climate movement in general. Wolfsgruber always hears the derogatory phrase “Don’t stick to it”. Neither Wolfsgruber nor Max have a clear answer as to how far climate activism can go. The basic idea and the addressee of the action are important. Wolfsgruber thinks it makes more sense to occupy an airport than a main road.
Museums demand creativity
Salzburg’s museum directors find clear words about the “Klimt campaign”. The directors of the DomQuartier, the Museum der Moderne and the Kunstverein understand the urgency, but do not support this form of protest.
“It takes a creative approach to conducting protests that get good press coverage and get the message out there,” says Kunstverein director Séamus Kealy, who used to work for Greenpeace Canada.
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