Fishbowler

I make art in strange places and blog about it.

Legaleze

While the rest of camp is questioning when their departure date will be and discussing how clean we can leave this land once the spring flooding starts, it occurred to me that the legal team will still be defending our people in North Dakota courts long after most of us have moved on from Standing Rock. It could take years for them. This seems to be at least part of the state system’s plan to break us, the waiting game is common and a lot of our people are feeling the brunt of this powerlessness. “[Our water protectors] are right to be livid,” explained Sarah Hogarth, communications director for the legal team.

Over 570 water protectors have been arrested since our conflict with DAPL & state started last summer and this is why our water protector legal collective has grown to 80 volunteers working in civil and criminal with a paid staff of seven. Formerly called Red Owl, they operate on a collective model. I wanted to connect the hotline number sharpied up my arm with some faces. I got to speak with a handful of them.

At camp, under the cloak of night the dome had filled with smoke, electricity was out, and the post meeting drumming had begun. Headlamps were in order and I had to find the legal team by this method. The people started to file out and legal team member conducting a lot of meetings at camp, Angela Bibens, remained to answer questions. Introductions came and we hopped in a little 4 wheel drive to transfer ourselves to Rosebud camp where the team’s brand new tan arctic tent resides along the frozen shoreline of Cannonball River so we could gather some thoughts and pick up some legal forms for use in court the next day in defense of water protectors in the battle engaged with a federal grand jury regarding the case of Sophia who lost her arm in an explosion in a tangle with “the law” on Backwater Bridge, November 20th.

The civil rights violations and abuses on the ground are so prevalent it would make a mob boss cringe and in the court room they can’t disallow fair & neutral defenses like the governmental bodies seem to be working to do. It’s complexity of the highest order working in these conditions bridging the worlds of 20 below zero sleeping bags and federal court subpoenas.

“I know these folks are getting inadequate council. They don’t even get phone calls and can’t say beforehand what their public defender looks like.The sheriff tainted his own case with their Facebook page. He’s so confident about never getting caught, it’s suspect.” said Redford-Hall.

All members of the legal team I’ve spoken with have reiterated the view that this legal contest outdoes any protest that has come before it stressing the challenges in dealing with mass arrests and the environmental battle, not to mention apparent collusion between DAPL and law enforcement. Legal’s tent in Rosebud with wood stove is only one outpost for the team in their efforts to survive here. They keep a comfy room at the casino for appointments and also have a town office close to courtroom action where the townsfolk are none too nice to us. Anyone defending water protectors generally won’t find support. According to one story a local was heard addressing one of our people: “Stuck in the snow? If you’re with them water protectors you can stay stuck.” North Dakota is harsh and the weather is only part of that harshness.

Anne Redford-Hall, a senior member of the collective who had a conversation with me in legal’s room at the casino offered, “They’re playing hardball at all levels.” How many levels? 1st: county (Morton) 2nd: state (North Dakota) and 3rd: federal (U.S.) and believe it or not our legal team is even fighting at a fourth (4th) legal venue which is the Federal Grand Jury from where the subpoena was issued. And criminal court is one thing while civil is another fight. Examples of civil court are the people bitten by guard dogs and then there’s the legal battle over the closure of Highway 1806. The declarations signed by many of us regarding police brutality are for the civil case. Basically all harm done to our people falls into the category of civil. I’m told even federal court cases are easier to fight than the civil considering who it is being charged: government instead of citizens.

‘Pro hac vice’ means “on this occasion” and that’s the name of the motion our people are pushing for with the North Dakota Supreme Court. The deadline for the letters in support of this motion was December 30th and our team collected over 120 signed letters in support including one from Amnesty International found here: http://www.amnestyusa.org/pdfs/Choice_of_lawyer_comments_to_NDSC.pdf. We await the state’s decision.

It’s been proven we can gather the criminal defense but in this state these attorneys can’t practice without this pro hac vice granted. “Other states have less restrictive procedures for out of state lawyers to practice. With so many defendants we’ve simply hit our max,” explained Angela Bibens.

Our defense lawyers certainly have a lot on their plate. Just the pro hac vice process involves first informally requesting the temporary change from the state supreme court, then litigation against the state, and then the public comment period is open for organizations & lawyers to weigh in which gained us backing from 200 law professors and step 4: we wait for the state’s decision.

Legal even supports our defendants needing plane tickets to get back home. See: www.waterprotectorlegal.org. Like with so many things in life there’s a lot to take into account. I’m glad I got to take this ride.

Pro-Test Not Con-Test

The most advanced form of protest is to grow beyond a need, not to reject it but to forget about it. The future is built. We can lead the future instead of follow it.

This camp shows us over and over that the missing link is human involvement. Good things are not easy, they take maintenance and discipline. We’ve gotten very used to having everything done for us. We don’t look dinner in the eye before it dies anymore, machines do that now before wrapping dinner in plastic for the miles it will travel to us. The appreciation we have can only extend so far, gratitude comes from familiarity. It’s best to know intimately what I’m devouring and respect comes from such an understanding, which in turn leads to less devouring. Today patience is too often not seen as a virtue. Our throw-away culture eschews patience. We don’t even take the time to actually know the things we detest. We don’t spend the time to understand much.

Here at this camp, Oceti Sakowin we sit on contested land. Government says it belongs to the Army Corps of Engineers since the 1950’s when they appropriated it and the Sioux nation says it’s been theirs since the Laramie Treaty of 1851. Hmm.. Here we sit and here we protest because the fact is this pipeline is death and death should not be by this river or any river which are our lifeline, everyone’s lifeline. It’s like an engine block made of plastic–it won’t last. It’s like a go car that has gears made for a semi truck,  it’s like a toothbrush for babies or clothing for the wrong climate. Petroleum and water should never mingle and pipelines burst almost daily. We protest this wrong system and call ourselves water protectors.

Yes, mankind is on a continual pattern of continual outgrowth, a plant, a vine, an invasive species perhaps, but some want to call us a virus–I take words seriously, I’m no virus. We train ourselves with our words and with our mindset we apply to daily life what can be a manipulation toward good living if we work consciously. Downsizing is a move toward personal harmony with one’s environment because the ‘take’ is lessened. It’s not even an attempt to address the ‘give’ here because if the ‘take’ is lessened, that IS giving.

Our deficit is the question. One’s personal balance in the world is the question here. We can live a life quite out of balance if not careful. My footprint is my check sheet. Carbon is the currency of exchange and so whatever ability one has to lessen his carbon footprint we can do it. Such is the way of the environmental warrior. The war is with the self. the war is one against personal waste.

It’s easy to see what a wasteful society we’re a part of but it’s hard to implement personal sacrifice to the aid of that society if we fail to respect that society. At all levels of society we can operate in ways that unify our methods into one strong push toward health. In other words it takes all kinds to drive a ship but first the unity of that ship gets made real by a manifest. A mission is revealed and those on board live by these words and thoughts become made real.

In terms of the environment we know what needs done, there are plenty of ideas spread freely already and ‘carbon footprint’ says it all but the real challenge–the singular mission–is in finding the personal strength to downsize all aspects of consumption. Community takes care of alot without wasteful redundancy. From the personal point of view, the dependent individual grows into the independent individual but it’s in thinking about how interdependence works that our mission will be made real. How many cars do 12 cohabiting people really need? Cel phones?

The most advanced form of protest is to grow beyond a need. Imagine.

 

Protester photo by Tom Jefferson

I’m Akíčhita, A Warrior

 

Perhaps hers is the very story that inspired you to pay attention to the situation in Standing Rock. On November 20th, 2016, Vanessa Dundon, 31, , of the Navajo tribe, a.k.a. Dine, lost the use of her right eye. When a flaming hot canister of tear gas was shot she expected the blast to arc well into the sky 50 to 100 feet up as would be appropriate but instead the security soldier shot direct at her face, a result that breaks and fractures bones usually. Her eye sustained trauma. In Bismarck, Sanford Medical Center’s delayed actions are the subject of a pending lawsuit. “I was under insured. My healthcare failed me. I had to accept my fate” Says Dundon as she relayed further stories of horrible treatment there, most likely based on a prejudice against water protectors.

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photo by Adam Johansson

Vanessa told me that Facebook images of the young girl who was mauled by police dogs here at Standing Rock inspired her to hitchhike part of the way to get here. These martyrs bring attention to our situation and serious actions ensue as the world looks on.
It could be noted that comfort is our enemy. Comfort addiction is what has gotten us into this place we’re in right now suckin’ on the oil teat without thinking and it’s that mindless adherence to the petro-status quo that is our suicide ticket ride.

The gravity of this event is substantial, grave in fact, with a serious and a soft side as it’s coupled with the group hug mentality of hippies and wellness counselors. When I first got to camp, our practice was direct action training which put the words ‘snatch & grab’ first onto my tongue and the tactics of hand to hand interaction with aggressive paramilitary cops and security forces came to the forefront of my mind. Then came sitting in Allies meetings for the non-indigenous among us and Decolonization groups. It was then that I realized what kind of balance would have to be struck at Standing Rock. This moment is a clash of cultures from various angles. Members from 300 Native American tribes have come together here with their allies. We’re all here to fight the petro-corporatocracy and the alliance between cultures is tantamount. There is some cultural trauma to heal and so far this co-habitation is advancing our respective alliances.

We lined up and faced each other like a football exercise but instead we played the part of frontline protectors against cops and the game was to keep our people from being snatched off to jail­­­—or worse. Instructions for gas masks were offered as well as information concerning our eye protection. Ears, arms, and legs were shown to be fragile items never to be left unguarded. These parts might get us into trouble if we were to get sloppy. The number for our legal assistance, 605-519-8180, became a permanent series inked up my forearm just in case I end up in jail somehow which seems to be an easy thing to accomplish. Over 500 of us have gone jail so far. The jailers are giving our people no respect and their civil rights violations such as inappropriate strip searches and dog cage confinement are being investigated. We’re not even being able to look up a phone number once jailed, hence the inked arm.

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photo by Destiny Rivas

Vanessa expressed the importance of personal online coverage—­­the citizen media. Directly after the fateful moment of destruction she saw that an idea as repulsive as a photograph taken at a moment like this was critical to our mission and purpose here. We get the word out showing what’s really happening here at Standing Rock with the DAPL pipeline. The term citizen journalism holds much weight here.

I heard “Makya po, Makya po!”, “help me! help me!” over the walkie talkie and I came running to the frontline. You see, I’m akíčhita, a warrior. Vanessa likes to go by Sioux Z Dezbah—lady going to war—and she says when she gets back to Arizona it’ll be Nanabah—lady home from war.

I asked Sioux Z “What’s to come from all this?” She’d like to see better healthcare for indigenous peoples and she wants to see the jobs retained. This pipeline is taking jobs from railroad workers and truck drivers. “Don’t take away the jobs. It’s not just the water, it’s the jobs, our economic world is at stake.”

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If You Don’t Like My Fire

“It’s not over yet” is the message spread by the youth of this camp and they’re not alone, the beat goes on. The sacred fire is our center of camp out here. I sat at the new fire, the “people’s fire” which replaced our sacred fire of the seven councils which had been extinguished by 2 tribal elders. Some might say that art is symbolic ideas played out to obsessive ends and I see the attendance to the fire as an art of its own, it’s a symbol. I sat at the new fire, the People’s Fire, which goes by other names.

Sometimes snow falls so gently there’s no sound and barely a feel on the feet. Eskimo language has many words for snow, not just one. It only makes sense when you consider how many variations there are in terms of its dryness and differing qualities of the precipitation material. And no, North Dakota is not Eskimo territory -even though it might seem like it.

I feel that I have the best sleeping bag ever. It’s a bag rated for 20 degrees below zero. The way I acquired it was a sort of accident or mistake. A man showed up at the dome to deliver it and other warm items such as a wool blanket with it. He asked for a girl named Adare and I realized her absence would lead to my personal boon. She had already left camp but this guy seemed to be determined to please her. Sorry guy, been there. He dropped it off anyway. The dome was like a bus station then. At this point it’s more like a meeting hall slash refugee camp with wood burning stoves and rumors of wifi. I’m so sick of the cel phones though. Here we are in the snow storm-survival mode-and all these people can think about is their damn phone.

11 composting toilets might not sound like a cause for celebration to you but for us it is. We’re down to 687 people. That number is down from 11,000. In the latest meetings we’ve discussed with sanitation just how many we can support with this system. It’s a subject of humility. There is no glory. As the light gets lighter, I consider the leadership we have at this camp. I find my own strength. I’m a hollowed stump ready for the filling. On the one hand this is a war, a battle at the front line. on the other hand this is the birth of a city. Destruction and creation work hand in hand.

The youth of this camp are reining in a spiritual revolution. The indigenous lead here in many ways and their leadership is invited by the non-natives. They also seem to complain alot. What I’m learning is that this “complaining” or pleading is more of a stylistic difference, a native way of speaking, call it a cadence. Racist thinking seems to be an accepted way with them at least in speech and this is understandable in a situation of ongoing oppression and occupation. I might end up that way too if I were Indian.

In the absence of television and mindless mass media, sports logos still proliferate here on camp. As long as the clothing adorned is quality warmth apparel, what harm could there be? No, here the more common subjects of discussion are wool, cotton and nylon.

Mindfulness involves being present in the moment and television acts as an antithesis to mindfulness. Its purpose is to distract. Daily life and its obligations of responsibilities can present the need for distraction for the use of relaxation from that mental taxation.

Mercenaries have been fighting the fight for the robber barons of oil’s industry. Their lack of military logos are the single indicator that alerts us to the nature of this fight. A private war.

I can’t tell you which military it was that has been shooting our people with rubber bullets and electro shock zaps, tazing, and blasting freezing water cannons. I’m not sure if those were the private soldiers or the tax funded ones. Either way those calling ourselves water protectors have been targeted by non-lethal force at the behest of a toxic industry that we’ve all supported deeply for 100 years. The irony has not been lost on our water protectors drinking from plastic bottles which release a toxic chemical reaction once frozen and thawed.

Those protecting oil receive a salary. Those protecting water volunteer, risk injury and go to jail for the cause. Envisioning a future for this camp and my own place in it brings me comfort each evening in my giant plastic and steel dome. Active creation invokes ideas which invoke more creation. Our fight is against a faceless and consequently heartless–facet of modern society, the corporate model.

Water is Life, Mni Wiconi

Tears turn to ice in the pre dawn in the snowy season in North Dakota. NoDAPL is a peaceful protest at Standing Rock. Our numbers are in the thousands, 11,000 at one point, I’m told but many coming and going for months now. Now when I say peaceful I mean prayer based on the Lakota way and this morning our prayers started before dark. 700 people came to the Sacred Fire for a cup of coffee and prayer, lovely prayer.

Water is sacred, as the main motto here says “Water is Life” or in the Lakota “Mni Wiconi which sounded great from my slightly screechy winter voice. This morning’s ceremony was for the purpose of blessing the water with positive intention, loving harmony and marching across camp to the river to pour water from copper mugs into it. Sorry I can’t explain the reason for the copper. Google it? Lemme know? The ceremony took over 2 hours and we joined in singing, also repeating “water is life” in about 10 languages, led by a wide variety of people with love in their eyes. The men and the women had differing jobs and the elders were treated with reverence. Dogs run free and traditional wisdom centered around family and nature reflected a culture that we all might relate to, usually involving grandma and/or church/temple/mass/service.

the frozen path down the river bank was slippery dangerous and the men lined its sides with hands out for the stabilizing of the procession of women in their descent to the river’s edge. After the ladies, of course, came the men and we all tossed a pinch of tobacco into the waters. The tobacco was charged with our loving intentions and a person silent prayer. This was the offering. The singing was my favorite offering and my favorite song consisted of only 2 or 3 syllables arranged and re-arranged, “hay” and “ya”. By the end as Father Sun came to warm Mother Earth, a miraculous synchronicity converged with our final prayer as the cloud departed. With the iced over silver snake at our feet, the glorious whiteness drifted over every detail of ground cover to single out the reason we all came here as water protectors. Standing Rock is a bucolic pocket, a charming valley of water way and I feel home, especially jumping through snow banks like a husky or a loner child.

Most shocking might be the expanse that are the Dakotas. This pin point location is the nastiest battle site I’ve seen. It’s the most drastic contrast I could imagine. Many people have been injured here but the nastiest is what corporate oil, as a shameful industry has brought here, as it has done worldwide. Such a pure and pristine setting jarringly hosts this ongoing conflict. Two bombed out vehicles still sit at the bridge, highway 1806 where our front line stands. A flock of geese built up steam and angled around to buzz us today in the afternoon during a stand off at the bridge but the Hum V military trucks and soldiers loading assault weapons disgusted them before the birds could reach us. It’s a hard to believe but the cars were lit on fire by the oppressors, not the protesting water protectors. A video can prove this. There were no Molotov cocktails thrown. The corporation building this pipeline is Energy Transfer Partners out of Texas and we’re happy to report their investors have decided to shit on them even if the geese wouldn’t.

(photo by Ernesto Spotted Wolf)

I’m getting ahead of myself. I wanted to tell you about the first full day I experienced here, which was a Sunday. We are here to fight back and our hearts are in one place. We fight with love and nothing else. We aspire to fight as one.

I am camped with some veterans who’ve organized to bring attention to the situation. We’re here in solidarity with 300 indigenous peoples which is the most togetherness natives have ever seen. It’s been an in-pouring of water protectors from all points of the globe and I think I’ve seen all races represented. I’ve also seen the world’s media here represented here. Finally, as if the seal was broken, this occupation has elicited full international media attention . I’m told even CNN is here. We’ll see if that’s true. It’s like a tide that turns to reveal support that was previously hidden. I’ve attended the non-violent direct action meeting twice so far because non-violence can be difficult when thuggish bullies and scared boys in uniforms suppress. Tensions are high and the law enforcement has shown the worst disregard, overwhelmingly unscrupulous.

To be continued….

The Lost Comic Debacle

This comic book was not going to draw itself so Laurence and I took up the job about ten months ago. It’s a sci-fi story about aliens taking over. 3075 is the year it takes place so maybe it’s an optimistic sci fi then. The planet (and mankind) survived. We call ourselves Mad Monk.

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Blood sweat and gel inks have us cross hatched into a hopeful bliss and this fuels us each night to draw more. We’re making something good. Twenty one pages finished means it’s just five more to go. We’ve slaved over the details, keeping it all low tech and high in love. Black and white is as pure as we could make it. Our name together is Mad Monk. This is an art book. We draw together on the couch in the artists’ lofts overlooking the river at the center of town.

I hadn’t even gotten the pages home yet. Kind of priceless really and it’s a safe assumption to say most artists would guard it like gold. It’s not something I own, it’s something I’ve created, with Laurence, we did. I should have been more careful. They fell out of my bag by the river. I’ve traced my steps three times and  a few people told me it hasn’t come their way. Homeless people don’t want to talk to me. They “don’t know nothin’ about no papers,” or another guy gave a swat of the hand and swoosh.. “I’m busy”.

I did, however, get to speak with a few folks. I got the word out that it’s worth ten bucks for anyone who found it. One lady showed me her tits and that was fun. Another guy pulled me aside for something that seemed to be something related to advice. There was alot of bumping of wings. What I call elbows he calls wings. There was a little laughing in the places where I couldn’t understand him and soon after I’d hear words like “That ain’t funny huh.” As long as eye contact is kept guys like this stay manageable.

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By the way, a homeless friend, who I met over this, got hit in the head, popped with a 2×4 last night (hospital stapled him up) and before that he spent 3 days in jail over ‘jaywalking’. Truly, what is jaywalking? Reno’s bringin’ down the Nazi hammer on the homeless and I’m not in agreement with this forced ‘relocation’ program of theirs.

Anyhoo, these are two pages that will be redrawn. Much more fortunate would have been to find the drawings at the coffee shop with the cute girl behind the counter.

I’m goin’ into the Fishbowl tomorrow for 40 days. Laurence will be visiting so you’ll have to tune in to see what we’re working on. And bring me some food!
A glimpse of Laurence a year earlier:

Dippin’ Toes in the Fishbowl

 

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Dark Night of the Sole (fish) starts Monday and tonight I’m playin’ with cameras.
Camera 1, camera 2, Camera 1, camera 2, Camera 1…

I’ll be living in my studio, painting oils on canvas and lookin’ out the window.
I’m looking to visit. I want you to feed me.
Come for an interview, talk about your own stuff, feed me. Simple. Hit me.

Monday Nov. 7th will be my Opening Transparemony at 9am. Stay tuned here for updates.

A Night in the Studio..

You’ll wanna fast forward..
unless you’re a glutton of some kind. This one’s long like an hour.
Pick a shorter one fer godsakes. I should finish this one sometime. It sustained an injury since it was painted but it’s time to put the brush to it again. Nov. 7th thru Dec. 17th I’m fishbowling. That’s 40 days in my studio. Wanna’ bring me some food please?

 

Ron Paul Burns 2016

The Sex Magic of Self Motivation

At 5:33 the morning hung, still dark, as I came to a waking state. I like the mattress low, right on the floor, and that’s where I awoke to a hollow sound that did not echo, my windows were all open and it was the only sound on the ranch. It was my desire, humming. It’s not always there but today I was ready to go make art. Now, how to get coffee before 6:30? That’s my question. It’s a new rule up at the ranch house.

I might be some kind of sun worshipper. I’m afraid of the sun. Trust me, you don’t wanna’ see him pissed off. The sun’s wrath motivates me. I get out of bed before he can boil me and lately noon has been the stopping point for my morning shift. It’s just too hot after that to be enjoyable.

The art behind the art is motivation–the art of motivation–and it’s an ongoing balance with the sun playing a pivotal role, affecting my motivation. Art’s parent is motivation but from where does motivation come? Maybe I have an internal sun spewing rays of motivation. Do we wait for inspiration or create it?

I have to trick myself like a stoner surfer dude into history class sometimes. “Hey there’s no birthday cake here!” Using the ego to make art well is part of that motivational art form. Like tricking the Sun into hiding behind clouds, it’s about atonement or overcoming the ego. We create to get past the self. If I can make something I’m in awe of, this puts me in a humble spot. I’m thankful.

These moments of victorious struggle or perfect harmony fuel me, past the ego and onward toward bliss. I see it as sex magic because it all springs from my creative center. I suppose it’s a tantric ritual of my own. I cultivate this creation into being. There’s ego but it’s gone beyond, beyond itself. Not resistance, acceptance instead, and it leads into transcendence. I’m here to make something that’s bigger than myself.

Leonardo Me

Leonardo DaVinci drew and painted horses. I recalled the image of their labored execution, so I looked them up. I can’t believe I hadn’t looked up his horses before now, and fer god’s sakes now that I’m looking at his I see that one of his horses had inspired me without even knowing it. I had it lodged in my head, this twisted horse, that or I like the same challenges he does–or in fact I’m just Leonardo reincarnated. Maybe I shouldn’t joke about things like that.

These Containers Won’t Paint Themselves

My new wireless headphones have been a godsend in terms of allowing me to float away. There’s the art but there’s the environment which allows for that art. We create the perfect art making environment, that’s the idea. Art making is an escape, it’s the great escape, and one’s unique fantasy environment should be created for the artist’s own freedom. This notion I’ve become more and more attached to. Now I’m completely convinced that it’s a need for the artist to have his environment just so, just to the artist’s own liking. Results are best this way. Facilitating this space is important. I’m learning how important it is to stand my ground for my creative space.

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