Friday, October 10, 2014
other people's work #93½ +
A Canadian artist, Peter von Tiesenhausen, came up with a radical solution to the problem many landholders have when it comes to having their property invaded by oil developers. What he did was to copyright his entire square mile property in northern Alberta as a work of art. The spread von Tiesenhausen inherited from his parents, a former family farm 80 kilometres west of Grande Prairie, sits atop a natural gas hot spot known as the "deep basin." He accepts that he only owns the surface of his land. The buried treasure belongs to the provincial government. It has rights to sell the resources and make him let companies onto his property to extract them, so long as he is compensated for the disturbance.
What a great idea! Around Von Tiesenhausen's home and studio, his property is studded with artwork such as a 33-metre-long ship sculpted with willow stalks, winter ice forms, nest-like structures in trees, statuesque towers and a "lifeline" or visual autobiography composed as a white picket fence built in annual sections left to weather naturally.
His legal move vastly increased the amount of compensation he is potentially entitled to demand from any oil or pipeline company wanting access to his place, because changing his property would be copyright infringement. "Now instead of maybe $200 a year for crop losses, we'd have to be paid for maybe $600,000 or more in artistic property disturbance."
Lawsuits have been threatened several times, but no oil and gas companies have risked a winner-take-all court case that would attract public attention and start other landowners thinking. Von Tiesenhausen emphasizes his message in the language of corporations - money. Taking a page from the books of business consultants, he demands $500 an hour from companies that want to take up his time talking to him about his land. "I demand $500 an hour. They pay. It keeps the meetings really short and they don't do it nearly as often as they used to." the artist said.
If word of this gets around there may be many more farms listed as artworks.
Goodness knows, if I owned my back yard I'd do it myself.