Thursday, February 2, 2017

Archives of Early Work

I will be adding to and editing this archive post from a previous website that was dedicated to my earlier work. Currently, it is a fairly indiscriminate data dump. That will change soon. Some of this material is also represented elsewhere on the present site because the folder has not yet been adequately edited. When this post is complete, it will help people understand some of what has brought me to my present convictions about what my trigger point theory as aesthetic activism might be, and how it has become The Blued Trees Symphony. I encourage my visitors to do a quick scroll thru and find early performance and painterly works that may be intriguing. Meanwhile, here is a spectacular shot of my installation just completed for KRICT, South Korea, about 20'x30'up till May 31, 2017 in their new gallery.

Sunday, November 27, 2016

The Blued Trees Symphony update

From April 2016 until late November 2016, I juggled dealing with surgery, chemotherapy and adjusting to long term medications, while moving The Blued Trees Symphony project forward. I blogged extensively on FB about my journey, making analogies between what I was experiencing and how the whole ecosystem was struggling to adjust to pollution, fragmentation and climate change, and was pleased to have a chance to write about the broader context I see for this work: Thanks to Betsy Damon, Kate Cummings and Jeremy Ohmes.

The Blued Trees Symphony carried on. Under the direction of Robin Boucher, curator of Perspective Gallery at Virginia Tech, students and other volunteers painted almost 200 trees in Blacksburg, Virginia to resist natural gas pipelines there that would devastate local habitat and endanger the water system, and installed an indoor version of the material.

Trees painted on Chinkapin Hill, VA. November 11, 2016 for The Blued Trees Symphony

String quartet performing November 11, 2016 in the installation of the Blued Trees Coda
at Perspective Gallery, Virginia Tech.

Now under the direction of Anita Stewart, The Blued Trees Symphony is expanding along the Sabal Trail in Florida. Activists against the pipelines there have encountered serious opposition, allege extensive public corruption, and have seen inadequate investigative reporting.

In recent weeks, my attention was consumed by the drama of the American Election, and the horrors of assaults on Native peoples defending water rights at Standing Rock. I am still very focused on the travesties of justice being witnessed there, where the sitting governor and pipeline corporations complain that the Water Protectors are standing in the way of their ill-gotten gains from ignoring treaties and destroying habitat, not to mention, threatening life. It has been heartening to see the attention build to this disgusting display of greed and tyranny. While recently attending the American Studies Association conference in Denver, I had the great privilege of meeting and speaking with some of the amazing women from Oceti Sakowin. I found them very inspiring. 

This is where donations can be made:

My task as an artist is to continue the project as an artwork, and to continue to build the standing for legal arguments when and if we can launch a test case in the courts.

The Coda to the raw material for the symphony was intended to be gathered Nov. 8, with the Election. My intention was contain the experience, and it was performed at the Perspective Gallery, at Virginia Tech the following Nov. 11, 2016.  The genesis of the show was covered in the Roanoke Times:

Detail of installation at the Perspective Gallery, Virginia Tech

But it has turned out that post-Election events continue to unravel, and now I don't know how the resolutions will be expressed. What I do know, is that the symphony continues to evolve, along with national resistance to the voracious greed of natural gas companies, and the parodies of justice and good governance that abet and defend that greed. I know that art, like the prayer of those at Standing Rock, has an ineffable power of its own, and I intend to continue to yield it.

Sunday, October 16, 2016

How to make a coda

The Coda for The Blued Trees Symphony has been a work in progress since October 1, 2016. It follows the third movement of the Symphony, which was about the legal framework of the project, and began the first of the year, January 1, 2016. an excerpt from that movement was recently performed at White Box Gallery.

The entire third movement unfolded as I was also coming to terms with a cancer diagnosis and the treatment, which I am still enduring. I experienced that as an internalization of the same degradation we are inflicting on our entire ecosystem, and most recently, on our culture and the very basis of civilization, in the form of the populist challenge Donald Trump and his followers represent.

Any symphonic coda is intended to resolve previous themes in the sonata form. In the case of Blued Trees, those themes include the need for the ecosystem that supports human life, and the manifold threats to that ecosystem, in these times, in the form of ruthless fossil fuel expansions. This coda will end on the American Election Day, Nov. 8, 2016, for the next President of the United Sates. As Trump's polls have fallen, he has encouraged his followers to stage a violent coup d'etat should he lose the election. The United States has never before face such a crisis.

In the next months, the project will travel to many venues, including George Mason University, Virginia Tech, the ASA conference, KRICT in Korea, and the 2017 College Art Association conference. At each venue, I will be presenting segments of the whole work, while I will be becoming to assemble the arts into a whole work for future venues. I will also be, with the rest of the world, watching this political debacle play itself out, and monitoring myself personally for a recurrence of cancer and tolerance for the meds I've been prescribed.

There are three weeks left to complete this coda, with stem semblance of coherence. Will the tempo be temp, like a series of jagged events and emotions? Or largo, as we all step back in a search for sanity and equilibrium? Will it be a waltz, as though death and life are dancing together? I shall see.

Sunday, July 24, 2016

On Defiance, Uncertainty, and Empathy

Photograph by Joe Gaffney

Shortly after my last post on this site, I began chemotherapy for breast cancer. I am now halfway through that grueling treatment protocol. Meanwhile, Blued Trees was awarded a 2016 Fellowship from the New York Foundation for the Arts in the category of Architecture/ Environmental Structures/ Design, and a wonderful new article was published in the Village Voice on Blued Trees, by Audrea Lim, which included this quote:

"Michael Royce, editorial director of the New York Foundation for the Arts, says there's a strong case to be made that Blued Trees"expands the boundaries of traditional sculpture installations and symphonic orchestration by allowing for a fluid interplay of music and physical experience...with the viewer as participant or observer."

The article makes clear, that in Peekskill, New York, the site of the 2015 overture launch of Blued Trees, the Spectra Corporation defied both good public policy, and legal constraints, to place their corporate profits above safety for millions of people. On the other hand, the article also made clear, that an idea cannot be killed. 

As I negotiate the private process of surviving the medical protocols for cancer treatment, in the midst of creating the Coda movement which will culminate Blued Trees on the American Election Day, November 8, 2016, I am reminded of all the ways humans must publically negotiate uncertainty in the Anthropocene era.

A central thesis in my dissertation, "Trigger Point Theory as Aesthetic Activism," circled around the implications for the second law of thermodynamics, of James Clerk Maxwell's nineteenth century idea model, Maxwell's Demon, which posited that the work of sorting information, is a form of entropy. The implications I saw for environmental triage, were that the correct information can effect surprising change, in even the most apparently hopeless situations. In an era of unprecedented uncertainty and risk, the need for clean habitat for life on earth supersedes the disruptive impacts of greed.

In the case of the Blued Trees Symphony, which evolved out of Blued Trees, the surprising information is in the resilience and power of beauty, and empathy, in the face of destruction and greed. Effecting that surprise is the task of art. It is the mission of the Blued Trees Symphony. One tree,  one note in our continental music. One person's struggle to defy despair, is all of our struggle to hold onto hope. That is how I would define empathy.

We now have the legal framework to resist the proliferation of fossil fuel infrastructure poisoning the earth, thanks to the work of the legal team of Gale Elston, and Michael Gentlesk. It will be made available to the Blued Trees painters.

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

The Blued Trees Symphony, an anniversary event

We are pleased to announce a new article about Blued Trees, by Nancy Averret, as we anticipate more painting the weekend of June 18, 2016, the anniversary of the Blued Trees overture.

You are invited to keep track with Facebook, on The Blued Trees Symphony public page. Join us!

Thursday, April 21, 2016

New Press on "Blued Trees Symphony"

Detail of a Blued Tree before destruction by Spectra Corporation to install natural gas pipelines in Peekskill, New York Photo by Erik R. McGregor
There is some amazing new press on the Blued Trees Symphony:

This afternoon, April 21, 2016, thanks to a generous grant from the Ethelwyn Doolittle Justice and Outreach Fund from the Community Church of New York Unitarian Universalist. we will be meeting with our lawyers to create a legal framework that would umbrella all the Blued Trees sites!

Please consider donating to this project:

Sunday, February 28, 2016

Methane Is: shale gas methane emissions contribute substantial greenhouse gases, by Ruth Hardinger

I invited my friend and fellow activist artist, Ruth Hardinger to guest blog on methane emissions. The dangers of these emissions is one of the most serious motivators for the Blued Trees Symphony. I am happy to post this on the day after the arrest of eleven Resist AIM Pipeline defenders who chained themselves to an access gate to halt Hudson River drilling for the Algonquin Incremental Market (AIM)- the Spectra Corporation Pipeline. The site of their arrests was not far from where Spectra destroyed the Blued Trees overture   Thanksgiving weekend 2015. On the same day, Governor Cuomo sent a letter to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) to halt construction on the AIM, and New York State Senators Liz Krueger and Felix Ortiz demanded pension fund fossil fuel divestments from Albany. It is a companion piece to the previous post, "After the Ph.D.," on environmental research work from artists. - Aviva Rahmani

Activists blocking Spectra work before arrests. Screenshot from FB of Photo by Erik R. McGregor

The short-lived climate pollutants [like methane] that we emit from human activities are basically controlling how fast the warming occurs, she said. This is because they are very powerful at absorbing radiation."[1]

Methane is CH4.  It is a powerful greenhouse gas. It degrades over 8 to 12 years in the atmosphere, as it converts into carbon dioxide (CO2).  There are three different sources of methane gas including thermogenic (from deep geology), anthropogenic (from human activities) or biogenic  (from living organisms ) methane[2].   “Natural” gas is composed of 85 to 99% methane, mostly thermogenic methane. 

The global warming potential of CH4 has been upgraded by IPCC to at least 86 times stronger than CO2 during a 20 year time frame of this gas, and 105 times stronger over a 10 year time frame.  Methane, grouped with other near-term climate forcers such as black carbon, hydrofluorocarbon and aerosols, is the most likely greenhouse gas escalating the planetary heat now, because there is so much of it being released.  There have been few measurements of gas leakage from gas wells and pipelines.  The measurements that have been made have found substantial concentrations of methane in the atmosphere.  Further, the EPA comparison of methane to CO2 on the 100 year time frame claims methane is 25 times stronger than CO2, hiding the real impact of CH4’s near-term presence.  Simply, the 100 year time frame does not acknowledge methane’s impact. 

The current atmospheric concentrations of CO2, methane and nitrous oxide have levels unprecedented in the last 800,000 years.[3]  There is great concern about the absence of data collected of actual measurements of emissions.   Fugitive methane emissions have been measured in only a few cities: San Francisco CA, Manhattan, NY[4], Washington DC, Boston MA, and several small towns. The urgency to address climate change should be based on the actual impacts of this potent GHG.  Bryce Payne, PHD and two other scientists wrote to the White House and State Department that the GWP (global warming potential) of methane needs be positioned even shorter than 20 years, it should be a 10 year time frame.  This will allow us to understand what we are facing and to act appropriately to reduce the changing of our planet’s climate.

Methane leakage impacts arise from man-made sources that include natural gas pipeline leakage, leakage and venting of upgrading pipelines, abandoned old wells, new wells, gas or oil storage fields (these are highly pressurized for example near Porter Ranch), migration underground that rises to the surface, and emissions from waste water disposal and earthquakes, venting methane in oil well fields, and more.  This is happening in the US and in other countries. Evidence of leakage can be seen in the images attached here.[5]  Damascus Citizens for Sustainability (DCS) has conducted methane emissions measurements in rural areas where methane escaped and has travelled beyond the target production zone underground, connected existing faults and fractures allowing gas to migrate to aquifers and the surface. 
Figure 5.  Image created by Bob Ackley, and Bryce Payne, Ph.D GasSafetyUSA 
The 3-4 June 2013 Towenda-Wyalusing Ambient Air Methane Survey.
Relative methane levels indicated in red (highest peak in the image = 3.9ppm)
Blue and orange markers indicate the Paradise Road and Sugar Run methane migration
impact areas (4-mile) designated in 16 May 2011 Pa DEP Consent Order.

Wyalusing area showing elevated methane (geological leakage) over a wide area in Susquehanna County, PA along the Susquehanna River  This is data obtained with a Picarro CRDS machine which produces very accurate measurements of methane to 1/2 ppm.  Chesapeake, the gas driller in the area, was fined $900, Pennsylvania DEP for causing gas migration. The area picture is detailed in the May 16 PA DEP Consent Order (post damage arrangement) which has the maps that are made by the yellow and blue points in the image. At least one lawsuit was settled there for $1.6 million and there are many more filed.

Image created by Bob Ackley, and Bryce Payne, Ph.D GasSafetyUSA 

Results of methane survey of parts of Manhattan and rural areas to the East on 27-30 November and December 2012.

DCS reported on fugitive emissions of Manhattan in 2012 and in New York City Gas Safety Inc. in 2015 determined that at least 6.6% of the total delivered gas is leaking although likely much more. [6]

Natural gas brings substantial and devastating health impacts.  DCS has participated in a compendium of health impacts from fracking.[7] Methane is an indicator gas for the mixture that is natural gas.  The mixture includes radon, endocrine disruptors, benzene toluene VETX , and more. Methane creates asthma from ozone and burning the gas emits ultrafine particulate matter, under 2.5 microns–these are like breathing someone else’s tobacco, an impact that it is overlooked.[8]  Global health agencies have encouraged awareness of air pollution-related diseases that causes over 6 million deaths every year. [9]

A quote from Bryce Payne, PhD  [10]
"It is essential that all UNFCCC (Cop 21) Parties and the global citizenry be as clearly informed as possible with respect to potential climate change and what is being done to mitigate anthropogenic forcing of the climate compared to what is actually necessary if disruptive climate change is to be minimized. If climate change mitigation efforts are to be effective, the short-term impacts of potent, short-lived greenhouse gases, especially methane, must be considered. In the near term, methane emissions due to human activity have a stronger global warming impact than the much larger emissions of carbon dioxide. Current greenhouse gas inventory and reporting rules of the UNFCCC are causing the climate impacts of greenhouse gases such as methane to be effectively ignored."


Ruth Hardinger is an artist and a Board and Steering Committee member with Damascus Citizens for Sustainability (DCS) since 2009.  DCS is a 501-C3 organization that stands for clean water, air and land as basic human rights.   She initiated the fugitive emissions measurements and studies in Manhattan for DCS with Rebecca Smith, and Barbara Arrindell (DCS Director).  In recent art installation exhibitions, Hardinger has used abstraction from the methane measurement work for The Basement Rocks and The Basement Rocks – LOUDER.  The materials and sensitivity of constructions encourage awareness of the underground.  These exhibitions are accompanied with “Grounding” a sound of the underground, by rock musician Andy Chase, and letters for the visitors to take that convey her conversations with scientist, Bryce Payne, PhD and professor Ron Bishop, PhD regarding damage that is happening to the underground, the place of the most biomass in our planet.