Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Preparing for Ruthlessness in "Blued Trees"

I will add to this post over the next few days. It is November 25, the day before Thanksgiving, and I have much to be grateful for in the progress of Blued Trees, starting with how many people have "gotten it," that art and law can contest the mindless proliferation of toxic fossil fuel and natural gas infrastructures. Yesterday, I was enormously heartened when the Blued Trees crowdfunding site received a donation of $100., a day after I had visited the site of the overture, in Peekskill, New York, where I witnessed how Algonquin-Spectra had wreaked utter, devastating destruction. They ignored the danger of creating a high velocity (42") pipeline, cheek by jowl with the local nuclear plant, 30 miles from NYC. They ignored thousands of local citizens petitioning for protection from the dangers. They dismissed the cease and desist notification I had filed.

This is a detail of the overture that was destroyed by Algonquin- Spectra, shot my Erik McGregor days before.

I now know far more about Blued Trees than when I began. I know, for example, that the ruthlessness that fossil fuel companies have employed in South America, has reached North America, They act with impunity because many officials are on their team, not the team of local citizens or the welfare of the planet. It took me a while to grasp how utterly indifferent they are to consequences, such as climate change, wrapped in oodles of money as they are. I will add to this blog post this weekend, with urls for new articles, pictures and information about a manual we are completing for painters.  

I was unprepared  for ruthlessness." I didn't have the war chest, the right lawyers, or the emotional fortitude to accept the intense grief and rage when that some battles are lost so we can win the war. I am, however, learning, and intend to pass along all I learn. We now have a manual designed by Coni Porter, and other participants, for all new participants.

This is the new film from Erik McGregor about resistance that includes a collage of images from Blued Trees:

This is the url to donate to developing the legal theory to umbrella every Blued Trees site internationally:

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Painting like my life depends upon it, by Robin Boucher with Suzi Gablik

I am painting trees as if my life depends on it. I often feel like the world is so full of blind cowards these days, people who are unwilling to connect with their emotions and properly react. Denial is a survival mechanism, however, when it comes to denying the facts surrounding continued use of fossil fuels, there is no survival associated with it.

I started painting trees back in late August when Carolyn Deck, an artist from Floyd County, Virginia sent information to a group I’m in touch with about Aviva Rahmanis community based, eco-art project titled Blued Trees. Rahmanis straightforward and doable eco-art project, designed to stop a pipeline in New York state, was inspiring and more approachable than a resistance art project I had planned to launch on my own. As the Mountain Valley Pipeline proposal gathered steam in our region, and the powers that be at EQT/Next Era, the company overseeing the development of the MVP project, continued to “mess with our heads” by proposing a fourth “better” alternative through our community, I realized that it was now or never that I needed to do something.

Many people would probably call me a “tree-hugger.” But really I’m more than a tree hugger. Looking back two generations, half of my family were farmers, and another quarter lived off the rocky land of southern Italy. All I say and do revolves around how I can be a better steward of the land through my daily choices...a direct evolution from the deep genetic connection my ancestors had to place.

As the product of a mid-twentieth century upwardly mobile family, moving from city to city was a common occurrence. By the time I was 10 I had moved 9 times and was happy when we finally landed in my grandparents’ hometown along a lovely slice of land on Sarah’s Creek, a tributary of the York River, which flows into the Chesapeake Bay. Living there for multiple years afforded me the privilege of watching small trees grow. One tree I jumped over every day after school, until one day, I couldn’t anymore because it had grown too tall. There were oaks all around our home, and the sound of acorns falling on the roof in the fall meant that it was a good year for squirrels. I began to connect to place.

When I was in my teens the riparian landscapes along Sarah’s Creek were developed with condominiums, docks, and the subsequent watercraft that followed this type of building. Our sweet little estuaries were gone. Lost were the trees and secret places my sister and I would row to in our wooden boat, hand built by my grandfather. After that happened, I realized my placehad thus changed beyond recognition and I needed to seek connection elsewhere.

Backpacking throughout the Blue Ridge and Shenandoah Valley helped me to find the center of my world again. It was on these trips as a young woman that I realized that all I really needed was in the forest. Eventually I landed in the Alleghany Mountains of Virginia on a heavily wooded little hill at the base of Brush Mountain. Chinkapin Hill was so named because in the 1950’s and 1960’s people throughout the community came here to pick the Alleghany chinkapin, a close relative to the American chestnut, but less susceptible to blight. It is here I built my home by hand, created a permaculture landscape, grew organic vegetables, raised my babies, taught scores of children about connecting with the environment through art, painted the landscape, and lived among a mixed hardwood forest that has grown older along with me.
The Mountain Valley Pipeline is not the first time I’ve encountered proposed destruction within our region. In the 1990’s I helped to spearhead resistance against an interstate, and a 765 kV powerline. The two years of intense work on these projects helped me cut my teeth as a community activist. What I learned was that there was always going to be sacrifice, and that no one initially won when you were trying to shift paradigms. But I also know in hindsight, that if you can live the life you want to support then the shift does happen...but it often takes decades.

But we don’t have decades anymore.

Suzi Gablik wrote about what artists can do, what we MUST do to aid in paradigm shifts within our community, ecology, and morality in her seminal book The Reenchantment of Art (Thames and Hudson, 1992). According to Suzi,

Art moved by empathic attunement, not tied to an art-historical logic but orienting us to the cycles of life, helps us to recognize that we are part of an interconnected web that ultimately we cannot dominate. Such art begins to offer a completely different way of looking at the world(p. 88).

I was studying for my M.F.A. in visual art when I first heard Suzi speak, and it was her words and her writing which inspired me to shift focus from my studio work to community work. And it was during a regional fight against an interstate highway project that I met Suzi and had the privilege of continuing the dialogue she began in her book. And even more fortuitous, Suzi moved to our community and we have been friends for two decades. Through this friendship I have had the chance to build on her writings, with our conversations.

During our last meeting she asked me how things were going with the pipeline resistance. I told her about all of the lies we have been fed from EQT/NextEra, and how helpless so many feel in being able to enact any change.

When I asked her about her thoughts on the pipeline project and what it meant for our community she became grave. “Even though we’ve past the tipping point, saving what’s left of the Earth remains our utmost responsibility and the task of our conscience. Faced with the impossible, our conscience requires that we continue to work at it the best we can. It’s like reparations after war, we owe this to the world that we have so devastated and harmed.”

Building a pipeline that transports fracked fossil fuels is both unsustainable and ultimately devastating. It perpetuates a mythology that we can have everything we want whenever we want it. That the price the earth pays, what we pay... is worth we can have everything and more.

We need to redefine everythingas a society. 

Building a 42 inch natural gas pipeline through steep mountainous terrains, wilderness areas, national forests, historical communities, groundwater recharge regions, cave conservancies, neighborhoods, contiguous unbroken forest lands, agricultural areas, scenic rivers, and national byways, is happening throughout Virginia and throughout the world. Its not just our commonwealth that will lose if these pipelines are built, but the world.

Remember, all backyards are connected.

So I am painting trees because my family’s life depends on the cool, clean, fresh water which we get from our well. I am painting trees because the people who have chosen to live in this community, enjoy breathing clean air and seeing the Milky Way on clear nights. I am painting trees to remind the world that solar power is a transitional power source that should be heavily focused on in this new world we are entering. I am painting trees for all of the people who have fracking wells in their communities.
I am painting trees because it is an act of beauty in the face of defiance. A reminder that we don’t have to trash our landscape in order to live well.

I am painting trees because doing so creates a visual connection to the places we will lose should a bulldozer come over our ridges and plough through our valleys.

Painting trees is meditative and permits deep connection to place. Painting trees allows me to breath in the face of grief, and ultimately to visualize the change that must happen.

And as my good friend Lauren said, “painting trees is like painting protective prayers in our forests.” And right now, our forests, our land, our world certainly could use a good prayer. Surely there is no harm in using prayers when faced with a seemingly an insurmountable task.

Robin Scully Boucher, Chinkapin Hill, Blacksburg, Virginia 

Friday, November 13, 2015

Showing of the Second Movement of Blued Trees Opens Tonight

There will be a viewing of the second movement work-in-progress of the Blued Trees symphony. I have composed a statement for ISCP Open Studio event beginning tonight at 1040 Metropolitan Avenue, Bushwick, Brooklyn, and continuing tomorrow from 1:-8: PM:
     "Blued Trees," is a five part operatic symphonic installation that began June 21, 2015 with an overture in Peekskill, New York and will conclude with a coda during the American presidential Election in 2016. 
    The overture was accompanied by an international Greek Chorus at twenty additional sites. 
     Peekskill was chosen because it is the site of a proposed natural gas pipeline expansion within 105’ of a failing nuclear facility, 30 miles from New York City.
     The first movement is taking places in six states in America so far, as a series of 1/3 mile “measures,” of a score that is simultaneously spatial and acoustic. The score corresponds to a pattern that prevents the movement of heavy machinery through corridors for proposed natural gas pipelines. Each note of the score is indicated as a vertical sine wave with a non-toxic slurry of ultramarine blue and buttermilk to grow moss.
The site of each of the installations for the overture and first movement are in various stages of copyright filing, registration and notices of cease and desist against violations of the Visual Artists Rights Act (VARA). The goal is to litigate this premise first in the United States Supreme Court, and then at the United Nations, as an Earth Rights issue.
The immediate goal in the Untied States is to contest the abuse of eminent domain law by fossil fuel corporations, with the sword of copyright law. Success will depend on engaging the mainstream in a conversation about what is public good, and the process of fundraising to support the litigation process at each site.
The second movement, developing at ISCP, compares the Newtown Creek superfund site to what will happen to the entire state of New York, should proposed natural gas infrastructure continue to proliferate. It will culminate with a performance of the first three movements December 15, 2015. The music of the symphony is being developed as both a matter of local ambient sound and as classical repertoire with bel canto and other conventional instrumentation.
The variations in the movements are based on an iterative score created for the overture. The painted trees are the soloists for this work, and due to the corruption of the legal process, should we fail, will also become martyrs to the cause of freedom. The process for all concerned, especially the trees, is exhausting.

Sunday, November 1, 2015

"Blued Trees" symphony continues to unfold nationally!

Another 1/3 mile measure of "Blued Trees" is being painted today in Nassau County, New York. This is the sixth location nationally to install "Blued Trees" as a full 1/3 mile measure in the path of proposed natural gas pipeline expansions. 
I sent the painters some last minute comments and instructions:
We are experimenting with some radical ideas with what activism and art can be and how it might work. you are on the cutting edge.
Everyone participating is a courageous hero fighting the Goliaths of our times with your own cleverness.
Success will be in how the idea spreads: that art has power, that individuals working collectively can effect change.
That setbacks can spur us to even greater heroism.
Paint like your life depends upon it, because it does.
Make great art.
Get the best possible documentation.