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Land art against fracking


Writing in the Village Voice, Audrea Lim documents a clever art project designed to block the construction of a fracking pipeline in upstate New York, where such pipelines are rapidly proliferating despite strong local opposition. The project, entitled Blued Trees, involves the painting of trees that are on land slated for the pipeline. Once the tress are painted, the artist, Aviva Rahmani, attempts to copyright the artwork, thus protecting the trees from destruction and thwarting the pipeline installation. Here’s an excerpt from the article:

The idea for Blued Trees originated in the Canadian tar sands. Two decades ago, pipeline companies were knocking at the door of the land artist Peter von Tiesenhausen, seeking permission to traverse his northwestern Alberta farm. He responded by copyrighting his land as a work of art and charging $500 per hour to speak with developers. Faced with what promised to be a colossal nuisance, they backed off. To this day, they haven’t returned.

The story caught the eye of Gusti Bogok and her activist group Frackbusters, which for years had been working to fend off several new gas pipelines set to crisscross the state. (None would be covered under New York State’s ban on fracking: They all traversed state boundaries, placing them under the jurisdiction of FERC, which has rejected very few pipelines in its history.)

Bogok tapped Rahmani, an old acquaintance, to create a project similar to von Tiesenhausen’s. Maybe they could copyright some trees along one of the pipeline routes? Rahmani was intrigued. She’d long used art to intervene at “trigger points” where local communities were already beginning to agitate, including a Maine project called Blue Rocks that drew attention to the tidal blockage created by a causeway. Blued Trees was a natural next step — although she nixed the idea of copyrighting trees; it too closely echoed Monsanto’s copyrighting of seeds. Instead, she copyrighted the artwork as a whole.

Image of Blued Trees via the Brooklyn Rail.