Art installation (removal) leads to controversy at Wyoming University

British environmental artist Chris Drury´s art installation Carbon Sink: What Goes Around Comes Around created back in July 2011 on the Wyoming university campus, was originally intended to inspire a conversation about a prevalent environmental problem in the region. Global warming has, so scientists say, led to less pine beetles dying off by below zero temperature and thus more forest infested by the tree-killing beetles.

The sculpture features a 36-foot-wide circle of logs from beetle-killed trees, arranged in a circular pattern around a pile of coal and thus it points at the link between human induced climate change and dead forests. A big contributor to greenhouse gas emissions however is the burning of coal.

Plausible topic for an art installation, but in a state where the fossil fuel industry is a major economic driver as well as a known financial supporter of the University of Wyoming, some toes were bound to be stepped on.

Still, surprisingly the quiet removal of the installation after less than a year by university president Tom Buchanan (it was supposed to stay till it decomposed) was confirmed to be the result of pressure by energy officials and their political allies. This stark display of interference by corporate sponsorship in the curatorial decision-making is just a more public and recent one of many and gives a gloomy outlook on the future of censorship in art institutions.

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