It’s no secret the Canadian energy industry’s pipeline development is rife with controversy. Enbridge, the company behind the Harper-approved Northern Gateway Pipeline and the ever-controversial Line 9, commits an average of 73 hydrocarbon spills per year. An internal memo from Natural Resources Canada conceded that tailing ponds from oil sands production are leaking into Alberta groundwater, while Enbridge’s Line 9 Pipeline has a “high risk of rupture” in its early years.

Many of the proposed or existing pipelines run through, or nearby, protected First Nations’ land—which bears the full environmental and cultural brunt of their construction. Despite being protected by Canadian c​ourts, the federal government continues to issue permits, without consultation, on unsurrender​ed First Nations’ land. And in June 2014, Vancouver police performed an arme​d raid of the home of anti-pipeline Kwakwaka’wakw activists for suspicion of “graffiti vandalism paraphernalia.” Plus, in Alberta, thousands of workers employed by oil companies are facing a housing crisis.

Anti-pipeline movements, like the 700 km march across Canada, indig​enous lawsuits, and encamp​ments that stand directly in the path of pipeline development, are part of a gruelling battle inspiring people across Canada to action. One such Canadian is artist Peter von Tiesenhausen, a sculptor, painter, and video/installation artist based in Demmitt, Alberta, who has managed to keep pipeline developers off his land for 17 years through a combination of art and legal acrobatics.

In 1996, Peter claimed legal copyright over his land as a work of art, forcing pipeline developers to do expensive rerouting around it ever since. To meet with him, he charges land developers $500 an hour. When I heard about Peter’s clever and inspiring pushback against the pipelining giants, I had to know more. So, I reached out to him over the phone to learn what it’s like to beat industry conglomerates at their own bureaucratic game with your art, and where it fits in to the larger picture of the Canadian pipelining conflict.

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