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That Time Art and Activism Met in Antarctica

Climate change and global citizenship come together in Lucy & Jorge Orta’s latest exhibition, 'Antarctica.'

With a grand total of 0 permanent residents and an average winter temperature of --56.2°F, Antarctica is a bit more than your average “no man’s land.” This didn’t deter artist duo Lucy + Jorge Orta, however, who took an expedition to the territory in 2007 on commission from The End of the World Biennale. Nine years later, the duo’s cumulative work created during the program is finally on display in NYC at Jane Lombard Gallery.

Simply titled Antarctica, the exhibition is a complex menagerie of activist artwork. One of the works on display is Antarctic Village – No Borders. Originally manifested as a series of 50 hut-like tents constructed by the duo in Antarctica, the exhibition hosts a single, extracted tent from the project. The tent is covered in the flags of hundreds of countries, a reflection on the politically neutral nature of the territory. Antarctica functions as a political condominium, governed by parties that have have consulting status to the Antarctic Treaty.

Antarctic Village - No Borders, Drop Parachute, 2007-8. Photo by Christine Pan, Courtesy the artists and Jane Lombard Gallery.

“Antarctica is a symbol of the unification of world citizens. The continent’s immaculate environment embodies all the wishes of humanity and spreads a message of hope to future generations,” says Lucy Orta. “Drawing upon this visualization of hope, the project Antarctic Village – No Borders was first developed as a Utopian endeavor through which we could consider the current climate of migration and the refugee status in which many people throughout the world find themselves.”

The Antarctic World Passport Delivery Bureau, another project within the exhibition, expands upon the idea of global unification envisioned through Antarctica. Made entirely of reclaimed wood and other materials, the installation simulates a rudimentary passport issuing office. More than a static work of art,The Antarctic World Passport Delivery Bureau issues editioned “Antarctica World Passports” to visitors, so long as they take a vow of moral fortitude. Lucy explains, “Antarctica World Passports can be delivered to everyone, to become members of a world community without borders, in exchange for an agreement to protect the environment, respect mankind, and fight for peace.”

Antarctic Village - No Borders, Drop Parachute, 2007-8. Photo by Christine Pan, Courtesy the artists and Jane Lombard Gallery.

Beyond the installation, Antarctica World Passport is also an online initiative that functions as an online project database as well as a virtual passport outlet. But the artist duo explains that this is just phase one: “Once we have a critical mass it will be possible to develop a social platform, whereby citizens can choose the actions they wish to engage with.”

Antarctica World Passport, Mobile Delivery Bureau, 2008. Photo by Christine Pan, Courtesy the artists and Jane Lombard Gallery.

Antarctica World Passport Delivery Bureau, 2016. Photo by Christine Pan, Courtesy the artists and Jane Lombard Gallery.

Life Line - Survival Kit, 2008. Photo by Christine Pan, Courtesy the artists and Jane Lombard Gallery.

Antarctica will be on display at Jane Lombard Gallery until February 20, 2016. View more of Lucy & Jorge Orta’s work on their official website.

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