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.

16 comments:

  1. For years corporations have been twisting, bending when not actually breaking the law. They are masters at finding loopholes. It's about time one individual turned the tables on them. Good on him.

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    1. It's very cool to know that even just one person figured out how to beat them at their own game.

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  2. It seems von Tiesenhausen’s copyright registration is more to do with mounting an ambit claim in tune with community support than possibly any substance under the law –as I doubt it would hold up in any court. But it signals to me he may have some very good legal advisors who will ensure any court case becomes the subject of widespread empathetic public concern to which you have alluded – the last thing the companies concerned want to see amplified in a blaze of publicity? Is this political expressionist art power?
    Best wishes

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    1. He seems to be well aware that he'd be unlikely to win in court but, as an artist, he knows how to put on a good show. People love to support the underdog.

      I was reminded of the tactic used by the Yippies against the Vietnam War when they gathered thousands of people to surround and attempt to levitate the Pentagon through sheer collective willpower. That didn't work either but lots more attention got focused on American involvement.

      Best wishes, Lindsay

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    2. Abbie Hoffman.....yeah, remember that. They chanted "Ommmm...Ommmm" didn't work, but what the hell. What a time that was.

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    3. Maybe one more Ommm would have done it. Always worth a try :)

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  3. What a fabulous and creative idea! Maybe we could all make and place art along the proposed pipeline routes and the sea ports to stop Big Oil from damaging our forests, rivers and sea? The First Nations have territorial rights to much of those areas in BC so we could join hands with them in this way.

    You do find such great struff, Susan. Enjoy this Thanksgiving weekend!

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    1. Of everyone I know I was expecting you to say you were familiar with Peter von Tiesenhausen's artwork. He's had some pretty major shows and ten years or so ago his half dozen eight foot tall charred statues traveled all over the country. There's a nice little piece on him here and some of his own thoughts about art vs money grubbing capitalism. I think you'd enjoy reading it too.

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  4. In the face of austerity and invasion of one's property, one needs to be creative. Thanks for the story about someone who is.

    Blesssings and Bear hugs, susan! Regard to Crow.

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    1. Hi Rob! This story was just too good to miss. I'm glad you came by to read it.

      All the best from both of us. Crow's gone out dancing.

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  5. Genius! Go him... I hope this catches on down here but don't hold out much hope. Farmers in the dakotas who've scraped by for generations can hardly believe their luck... sigh...........

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    1. It was a brilliant strategy. Hey, he's an artist :)

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