Antarctica World Passport Delivery Bureau, COP21 Grand Palais

Date: 2015
Ref: 5079.05
Materials: Bureau construction in reclaimed materials, chairs, various found objects, Antarctica World Passports, iPads, passport stamps, ink pads
Dimensions: 300 x 315 x 450 cm
Exhibition history: 2015 COP21 Grand Palais, Paris, France
Courtesy: Lucy + Jorge Orta

Antarctica World Passport sums up the powerful participatory nature of the artists' work and couldn’t have been a timelier project for the UN Climate Summit in Paris. Faced with the increasing numbers of refugees displaced because of climate induced disasters, and the predictions of yet more horrific conflicts due to the scarcity of resources, it was evident that the COP21 was the perfect forum to act at a truly cooperative global level.

Unlike the borders, frontiers and bureaucracy of passport offices around the world, especially draconian under present circumstances, the process of application for an Antarctica World Citizenship takes just a few minutes and no one is turned away. The bureau is constructed with reclaimed wood and found objects including suitcases, water buckets, toys, life jackets and row boats that tower and bulge over the rudimentary architecture. A passport officer stationed at the bureau’s welcome desk collects data from visitors at the click of an iPad, via the online application. The recipient simply has to agree to the passport obligations. The citizen traverses thorough a small wooden passageway and is greeted by a second passport officer, who stamps and signs the unique edition of the passport, authenticating both the artwork and the citizenship. The symbolic transferal of one’s individual national identity, to that of the collective world citizen, is part of the artwork’s overarching meaning. 

There are currently three passport editions totalling 55,000 examples, and the website boasts tens of thousands of citizens across the world, including some from the hardest hit catastrophe zones, like the Interior Ministers of the Philippines, Alaska, Somalia, Iraq and Afghanistan. All the passport citizens populate the Citizen Map, a simple visualisation portraying the strength of the project; it’s potential to unite and mobilise people around the world with common values. During the COP21, the Studio Orta team engaged with each visitor, one by one, signing up family members, militants, indigenous peoples, business men, entrepreneurs, activists, artists, government ministers, negotiators, journalists, layers, to name but a few.

Amongst some of the inspirational conversations were with scientists working in the Arctic and Antarctic, the engineer of the Antarctic schooner recently purchased by fashion designer Agnès B and her son, to further scientific and artistic research across the oceans of the planet, as well as the director of the Cousteau Society who pledged to support a voyage to Antarctica for a lucky Antarctic citizen; but most of all it was the visit by great grand-daughter of the famous Antarctic explorer, Captain Scott, that most humbled. On arrival at the Antarctica World Passport Bureau, she broke-down into tears. Of amongst all the pioneering, fearless, intrepid, visionary, ingenious, downright crazy of explorers, it is the will to succeed against all odds that Robin Falcon Scott sums up the results of this Climate Summit and its historic moment in the call for world-unity.

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