For years the nationalized Venezuelan oil company has owned the 292-acre land mass, Petty's Island, and used it as a fuel storage facility. Last year Chavez offered to donate the island, which is contaminated by toxic waste, to the state of New Jersey as a wildlife preserve. Now, in an open letter to the Venezuelan president published in the Huffington Post, Riley has entered the fray as "a liaison for the Laird Kingdom Liberation Army" — a faction he assembled in honor of a man named Ralston Laird who lived on the island in the 19th century as its "king," before being driven from his home by conspiracy and alleged arson. As part of the project, the artist has tracked down Laird's descendants and given them a set of commemorative plates bearing their "royal" images.
In his letter, Riley makes clear that "Laird Kingdom is a peaceful kingdom; they seek no compensation for their losses, nor do they wish any harm to you [or] the people of Venezuela." Instead, he demands of Chavez only "public or written acknowledgment of the Laird Kingdom," a monument to the late king, and that the nature preserve be given to the city of Philadelphia instead of New Jersey (for hilarious reasons). Riley has offered to travel to Venezula to conduct diplomatic proceeding in person. As of press time, Caracas had not responded to the overture.