Friday, June 23, 2017

Getting up to speed with "The Blued Trees Symphony"

I haven't posted here in a long time because getting work done has taken precedence over reporting on work done. My biggest news has been the award of a fellowship with A Blade of Grass: http://www.abladeofgrass.org/fellows/aviva-rahmani/.
The easiest way to keep track of my work on a daily basis is to personally friend me on Facebook (FB). Many personal comments are mixed in there with professional announcements, and I would welcome your presence. You may also follow The Blued Trees Symphony FB page. But occasionally there's something really important that's too long for FB. This is one of those occassions: my formal comments to the Federal Regulatory Commission (FERC) in Virginia to save the Blued Trees there. I am posting it below, because I hope that it will bring attention to an entirely new way of thinking about the relationships between art, environmental science, and the legal premises that determine public policy.
For anyone who has followed my work, you may know that The Blued Trees Symphony challenges conventional ideas about copyright law, as defined by the Visual Artists Rights Act (VARA). In Virginia, where over 200 trees have been painted, environmentalists and supporters of this project have just submitted formal comments to oppose the Mountain Valley Pipeline there. There will then be a period of 45- 90 days for "injunctive relief," which means that work on that pipeline could be halted, and would save the Blued Trees in Virginia.

Please find below, the complete text of my formal letter to FERC, which was submitted yesterday.

June 21, 2017

Dear Ms. Bose,

I am writing as the lead artist and producer of The Blued Trees Symphony that is endangered by the path of Mountain Valley Pipeline in Virginia. I attach my cv and a list of venues where you can read further about this work. It has been internationally recognized, with appearances in Korea, the UK and forthcoming, in China. Additionally, I invite you to visit my websites.

In this letter, I want to try to explain the significance, meaning and value of the work I have created and plead for its protection under the 1990 Visual Artists Rights Act (VARA), a division of copyright law. This work is an installation of art that extends across large portions of the landscape of North America, in increments of 1/3 mile each.

Technically, under VARA, this work falls under the category of sculpture, as a new sub-category of copyrightable art: sonified biogeographic sculpture. That is sculpture that is integrally designed to be inseparable from the local biogeographic systems that include the trees, soil and watershed of it’s location. Broadly, this work falls under the genre of ecological art, which is deeply grounded in systems science and has become recognized as a new category of work by art historians and curators.

My PhD is in a crossover field between environmental sciences, technology and studio art. My dissertation developed a theoretical premise: that small sites can be located whose implications for large landscape sustainability and healing is crucial. That original premise is trigger point theory, and the basis for developing The Blued Trees Symphony.

Each increment of this sonified sculpture, termed a “measure,” has been created at the invitation of private landowners for corridors where natural gas pipelines would otherwise devastate habitat and the watersheds that habitat protects. It represents replacing a dysfunction, global warming producing system that threatens the planet, with a system that sustains all life on the plant. The latter system recognizes our interdependence with other species and intact biogeographies.

In each community, local individuals have gathered to paint these trees as a celebration of the natural beauty they cherish, to hear the music of the natural world and to assert their ownership of the land they love. In upper New York State, performers of this work created a manual to instruct people in the painting, to assure that the work would meet the highest aesthetic standards.

The measures follow a template of designated distributions of trees that aerially corresponds to the notes of a reiterated score. Each designated tree becomes a soloist, a tree-note in a synesthetic composition. The trees are designated in their spatial distribution with maps and ground truthing the distancing to accommodate the unique biogeographic elements of each measure. Each painted tree-note in situ is painted by an individual with the sigil of a vertical sine wave whose dimensions are determined by the width of the tree trunk, winding around the tree so that the effect corresponds to the dimensions of the soloist.

Miles of these measures have been painted nationally with an ultramarine blue non-toxic pure pigment mixed with buttermilk to grow moss on the trunks of each tree-note and then copyrighted for protection. The development of this work, as often happens with art, expresses what many believe is a critical mandate for our times: how can art convey the yearnings of communities to feel connected to place, to celebrate the elements of their surroundings, and find hope to survive the extraordinary changes we observe in the Anthropocene era, this era when humans have transformed every living system on earth?

At a time when many people feel a desperate hopelessness and helplessness in the face of indifferent, monolithic corporate power, The Blued Trees Symphony has been a beacon of inspiration and connectivity in the communities where it has been performed and produced.

¥ The Blued Trees Symphony needs to be saved from destruction.
¥ Saving The Blued Trees Symphony means saving the community's environmental rights and cultural aspirations. ¥ This art redefines human relationships to water and the trees that preserve water.
¥ Beauty and health are more important than the corporate profits of multi-national fossil fuel corporations.

I respectfully submit this information you for your consideration and thank you for your attention.

Sincerely yours,

Aviva Rahmani, PhD
Attached: artists biography and cv
List of citations for The Blued Trees Symphony

For those who want to know more about recent work, please visit:


Recent Gulf to Gulf webcasts:
"Creeping Activism" https://vimeo.com/215739440 
"From the Ground Up" https://vimeo.com/222428122

Interview with Aviva Rahmani on the Environmental Art Podcast 

Raped by Monsters; Crossing a Rickety Bridge essay by Aviva Rahmani at: http://www.darkmatterwomenwitnessing.com

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: http://www.humansandnature.org/the-spirit-of-change. 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: http://standwithstandingrock.net.

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: 
http://www.roanoke.com/nrv/community/art-raises-awareness-about-trees-in-pipeline-s-path/article_755ac3ee-a64c-5327-907a-0eacd22f5406.html


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!

http://myemail.constantcontact.com/Aviva-Rahmani-Shares--A-4-Day-Event-for-the-Blued-Trees-Symphony.html?soid=1102470517241&aid=QNZZwXliPHM

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:

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/g-roger-denson/earth-day-ecoart-confront_b_9721354.html


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: https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/blued-trees-new-legal-initiatives#/.