Using Art to Stop a Pipeline Favorite 



Apr 24 2018



It’s not easy to stop the construction of natural gas pipelines, but several years ago the ecological artist and activist Aviva Rahmani came up with an ingenious idea: what if you could protect threatened landscapes by turning them into art? She’s been taking her sprawling land art projects “The Blued Trees” and “The Blued Trees Symphony” to locations in New York, Virginia, and West Virginia, in hopes that by having them protected by the Visual Artists Rights Act (VARA), she can prevent the use of eminent domain to seize lands where the artworks are situated for pipeline construction.

“Blued Trees” consists of a musical score painted (with nontoxic slurry) onto a series of trees growing on private land that lays in the path of the pipeline. (Trees elsewhere can be painted with a similar design and form part of what Rahmani calls a “Greek Chorus.”) The idea, then, is that in order to complete the pipeline expansion, Spectra would have to destroy the artwork, thus infringing on its moral rights — that is, if the government grants Rahmani her copyright. She and the activist group have enlisted a lawyer to file for it, and they are currently raising money on Indiegogo in anticipation of a long legal process (including attempting to get a preliminary injunction to stop Spectra from moving on the land).

“I regard the legal aspects of ‘Blued Trees’ in the long lineage of social practice and social sculpture art,” Rahmani told Hyperallergic in 2015. “It is about shaping systems, a far more complex idea than protest. The fact that it was designed for pipeline corridors is about culture jamming site specificity in the art world. I’m not just saying ‘no’ to something — I’m suggesting another way of experiencing the world we live in, which includes environmental ethics and our legal system.”

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