A century ago, the Endurance Expedition to Antarctica was stranded on the remote, frigid continent, their ship shattered and hope for rescue slim. Led by explorer Ernest Shackleton, the expedition crew managed to survive through an 800-mile journey on a small 22-foot ship. The experience is considered the end of the Heroic Age of Antarctic Exploration, which included international competitions to reach the South Pole, and work across country borders to research the unexplored landmass.
Antarctica remains a powerful place of international collaboration for survival in one of the planet’s most extreme environments. To encourage public awareness of the ongoing role of Antarctica in global cooperation, especially in the scientific research on climate change (this is where the Ozone Hole was discovered), in 2008 France-based artist duo Lucy and Jorge Orta launched the mobile Antarctica World Passport Delivery Bureau, where anyone can pledge citizenship to the southernmost continent. The Bureau is currently in operation at Jane Lombard Gallery in conjunction with Antarctica, their first New York City solo show. (You can also request a virtual passport online.)
You don’t actually need a passport to visit Antarctica, as the 1959 Antarctic Treaty, now signed by 53 nation states, affirmed it as a peaceful territory free from country ownership. The Antarctica World Passport is completely symbolic, an advocacy tool to engage people around the world in the importance of a remote place most of us will never visit. Before Jane Lombard Gallery, the Bureau was at the Grand Palais in Paris alongside December’s COP21 UN Climate Summit.
Lucy and Jorge Orta made their own expedition to Antarctica in 2007 for the first End of the World Biennial, a collaboration between the Patagonia Arte y Desafío Foundation and the Parlamento Latinoamericano of San Pablo Memorial Foundation in Ushuaia, Argentina, considered the world’s southernmost city. Much of the Antarctica exhibition focuses on the temporary “Antarctic Village – No Borders” they constructed on that expedition, including one of the 50 dome tents adorned with the flags of nations that signed the Antarctic Treaty. During the 2007 journey, the Ortas raised an “Antarctica Flag” designed with all these vibrant flags merged together.
There are also preparatory drawings for the “village” and colorful “survival kits” from 2008, with life vests adorned with objects like water flasks, children’s shoes, cooking utensils, and various other survival items. There isn’t much explanation for their meaning alongside the less conceptual passports, but they feel like totems of the same optimism driving that project. If you peek at the purple striped canoe on the assemblage “OrtaWater – Antarctica” (2006), you’ll discover a model of a human heart is riding in the vessel.
In the utopic vision of the Ortas, Antarctica is a last refuge from global conflict and its rigid borders, where anyone can belong, and the only way to survive is through collaboration. Come 2048, the 1991 Madrid Protocol that prohibits mining in Antarctica will be up for review, and the resources buried beneath the icy surface may be too enticing for corporations. Climate change, like this distant, southern tip of our world, can often feel abstract, but Lucy and Jorge Orta are hoping to engage people with its importance, one passport at a time.
Lucy + Jorge Orta: Antarctica continues at Jane Lombard Gallery (518 West 19th Street, Chelsea, Manhattan) through February 20.
MTV’s The Exhibit Is Back With an Inflatable Dolphin
Episode four, in which artists tackled themes of justice and injustice, was the most lifeless of the reality TV show so far.
Florida Principal Ousted Over “Pornographic” Michelangelo Sculpture
Parents complained that the famous sculpture was shown to their sixth graders.
The Milton Resnick and Pat Passlof Foundation Presents The Feminine in Abstract Painting
Curated by Jennifer Samet and Andrea Belag, this group exhibition in NYC explores the feminine through aesthetics, as opposed to identity or gender.
Tickets to Sold-Out Vermeer Show Are Going for Hundreds
The online resale market for the Rijksmuseum’s smash exhibition is booming, with tickets selling on eBay for over $2K.
NYU Steinhardt Opens 2023 MFA Thesis Exhibitions
Taking place at 80WSE Gallery in New York’s Greenwich Village, Part I is on view from late March through April while Part II opens in May.
Miniature Worlds: Joseph Cornell, Ray Johnson, Yayoi Kusama
Through small-scale works, this exhibition at the Katonah Museum of Art in New York examines Cornell’s prominent role in the lives and careers of Johnson and Kusama.
Three Looted Antiquities at the Met Repatriated to Turkey
Nine other repatriated works were seized from Met Trustee Shelby White, whose collection was subject to a criminal investigation.
This week, the world’s lightest paint, Pakistan’s feminist movement, World Puppy Day, and were some of Vermeer’s paintings created by his daughter?
The Wider World and Scrimshaw
On March 28, join the New Bedford Whaling Museum online and in-person for a symposium on global carving traditions from across the Pacific Rim.
Who Will Decide on the Future of a Miami Native Burial Ground?
Native activists say sacred remains and objects dug up from a Brickell construction site should remain there, but mega-developer Jorge Pérez is pushing back.
How Can a Curator Approach South Asian Futurisms?
How do I acknowledge my shortcomings while reckoning with obscured histories and the exclusion of subaltern narratives in the fine art landscape? A working checklist for curators.
MCA Chicago Presents On Stage: Frictions
Will Rawls, Shamel Pitts | TRIBE, and Barak adé Soleil explore Blackness, queerness, movement, and dance in performances at the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago.
The Complicated Legacy of Camilo Egas
The Ecuadorian painter, a leading figure of Latin America’s Indigenismo art movement, has been both praised and scorned for his representation of Indigenous peoples.
Tom Jones Zeroes in on Ho-Chunk Visibility
“I think about the young kids, the teenagers, and I think being able to see yourself represented in art is so powerful,” says the artist.
As a recently-returned participant in the National Science Foundation’s Antarctic Artists and Writers Program, I hate to sound like a curmudgeon, but the objects they’ve created for this show look like a theme park version of Antarctica that trivializes its significance. The actual shelters and implements I encountered at the base station and in the field camps are infinitely more interesting: gritty, weathered surfaces and textures, and wonderfully quirky and ingenious, testifying to the adaptability of human beings under extreme weather conditions. I’m all in favor of raising awareness of Antarctica and encouraging preservation, and generally enjoy humor and playfulness, but this cutesy presentation leaves me, um, cold. If you want a feeling for what it’s like to live there that goes deeper, I recommend the work of other AAWP grantees Shaun O’Boyle, whose time in Antarctica overlapped with mine (see his entire blog Portraits of Place in Antarctica, and make sure you don’t miss 11/27/15 “Inventory by Mustache”) and Elise Engler (http://www.eliseengler.com/travel-drawings-and-paintings/antarctica/1). Or check out my Antarctic blog at http://blog.helenglazer.com.
Comments are closed.