Conversations | Aviva Rahmani’s “Blued Trees Symphony”
“In these perilous times, especially in relation to the ecosystem on which we depend, art that bonds us to the natural world […] could not be more important.” – Aviva Rahmani
Ecological artist Aviva Rahmani’s Blued Trees Symphony – Part of the Gulf to Gulf Project is melodic with a visual presence. Composed of a slurry of ultramarine blue and buttermilk paint, musical notes are swept onto trees located in spaces endangered by corporate proposals of fracked gas pipelines. The overture, once painted, becomes copyrighted under the Visual Artists Rights Act (VARA), where U.S. law protects the ownership and destruction of a work of art, asserting the “moral rights of art.” Aviva’s Blued Trees Symphony becomes a creative interruption to the development of impending gas pipelines and prompts us to ask “What is a work of art?”
Read our interview with Rahmani to learn more about this ongoing NYFA Fiscally Sponsored Project.
NYFA: How did you conceive of the Blued Trees Symphony?
Aviva Rahmani: A small group of anti-fracking activists reached out to artists. They were inspired by the example of Peter von Teisenhausen, who discouraged pipeline corporations by copyrighting his entire ranch in Alberta, Canada. However, that premise had not been tested in any court system. The activists showed me the trajectory of the Constitution Pipeline planned to cross New York State, and I immediately visualized a line of music hundreds of miles long through that corridor, synesthetically articulated by “tree-notes,” the entire length of the proposed expansion.
NYFA: How did you choose the location to paint the trees?
AR: Once we decided to work together, the sites chose us, as people reached out to threatened landowners, and threatened landowners reached out to us in desperation to save their land and its trees.
NYFA: How did you find out about the Visual Artists Rights Act (VARA)?
AR: I took a law class at University of California San Diego in the seventies on copyright, trademark, and patent law. The cases and discussions really stuck in my mind as appropriation and other challenges to the legal system subsequently unfolded.
NYFA: What role did VARA play in shaping the different elements of your project?
AR: I had been thinking for some time about the distinction between site-specific art (which is not covered by VARA), and ecological art, defined as integral to specific ecosystems. The idea of conflating copyright and eminent domain law was a compelling answer to what makes ecological art a distinct genre, whose very form challenges our notions of ownership, capitalism, and anthropocentrism.
NYFA: How can constituents participate in this ongoing project today?
AR: Anyone can become part of the “Greek Chorus” by painting a single tree, photographing it, locating it via GPS, and sending it to me to include under the copyright. The only requirement is that they must have permission to paint the tree, obtain an Entry Agreement from me, and follow the guidelines in the manual that was prepared by previous participants.
NYFA: Why did you choose NYFA Fiscal Sponsorship?
AR: NYFA has prestige and a wonderful support system.
Want to learn more about Aviva Rahmani’s Blued Trees Symphony?
A conversation between Aviva Rahmani and Ray Weil in “Rocks, Radishes, Restoration: On the Relationships Between Clean Water and Healthy Soil,“Field to Palette: Dialogues on Soil and Art in the Anthropocene, Edited by Alexandra Toland, Jay Stratton Noller, and Gerd Wessolek, CRC Press, 2018.
“A Blued Trees Policy,” by Aviva Rahmani in Art, Theory and Practice in the Anthropocene; Edited by Julie Reiss; Vernon Press, Malaga, Spain and Wilmington, Delaware, 2018.
International Conference on Sustainable Development
“Art as Policy: The Blued Trees Symphony”
Session Title: Collaborative Arts & Culture to Help Achieve the SDGs
When: September 26, 2018, 4:15 PM
Where: Lerner 555, Alfred Lerner Hall, 2920 Broadway, Columbia University, New York, NY 10027
Feverish World Symposium, EcoCulture Lab
When: October 20, 2018
Where: Burlington, VT
More Details: TBA
-Interview conducted by Fiscal Sponsorship Staff
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Images from top: Blued Trees with Cows, Robin Scully 2016; and One Tree One Note Date, 2015, Blued Trees Score, 2015, and Blued Trees Overture Destroyed, 2015, Aviva Rahmani, Blued Trees Symphony.