Children of men is a masterpiece. Visionary and frightening, absurd and realistic. One of the best scenes in the film is when Theo pays a visit to his cousin Nigel, a minister in government and last of the art collectors. Society is coming to an end and Nigel collects art by rescuing it from all around the falling world, populating what he calls “The Ark of Arts,” a mutilated biblical reference in which no one ferries anything anywhere.
Nigel the collector is kind and polite, and his action of preserving art from the end of the world would seem at first glance to be the action of a noble soul. At the end of the scene, sipping red wine between Picasso’s Guernica and Pink Floyd’s Flying Pig, Theo asks: “You kill me. A hundred years from now there won’t be one sad fuck to look at any of this. What keeps you going?” Nigel replies, “I just don´t think about it”.
If you look at the scene with the appropriate eye, at some point you’ll hopefuly realise that Nigel is not part of the solution: he is part of the problem. And most importantly, the fact that he is portrayed almost as a hero perfectly paints our society.
This year for the first time in decades humanity is consciously and actively trying to decrease fossil fuel consumption. Are we doing this because we have become aware of the catastrophe it causes? No.
Are we doing it because environmental accidents-storms, hurricanes, floods, droughts-are now a weekly occurrence? No.
Do we do this because temperature in Spain at the end of October 2022 are predicted to be reaching 35C? No. No. No.
We do it because a reprisal of war has raised the price of gas. We actually do it for money and only for money. We are all aware that fossil fuel is at the base of our happiness just as heroin is at the base of a junkie’s. But as long as the problem doesn’t hit our wallets, like Nigel, “we just don’t think about it.“
Quite frankly: seeing someone react as those two girls did yesterday on Van Gogh’s sunflowers, makes me feel less alone. It reminds that no, I am not hallucinating. The world truly is sleepwalking into catastrophe. Yes, a glass obviously protected that painting and it was unharmed after all, but had it been no glass in front of it I think I am reaching such a point of helplessness that I would have understood their desperation anyway.
An ironic note about Just Stop Oil is that among the founders is Aileen Getty, the inside rebel of the Getty family: the Getty family of oil richness and fame, and the Getty family that is among the greatest collectors of art in the world.
We often forget that art is almost never in the object itself, but in the gesture that created it and in what this latter represents.