Antarctica World Passport Office - COP21 Paris / Geneva

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

Antarctica World Passport is a limited edition artwork created by the artists Lucy + Jorge Orta. It forms part of the artists' research project 'Antarctica', which explores topics relating to the environment, politics, autonomy, habitat, mobility and relationships among peoples. For the artists, Antarctica represents Utopia: a continent whose extreme climate imposes mutual aid and solidarity, to research and collaborate together. The immaculate ice landscape is a filter for the kaleidoscope that make up our nations and multi-ethnic identities, concentrating the colours, races and creeds into the sum of light, and the purity of Hope.

The first passport office was presented at Lucy + Jorge Orta's survey exhibition at the Pirelli Hangar Bicocca in Milan (2008). It now exists in different sculptural formats and the participatory action of delivering passports is re-activated each time. The passport offices are generally constructed with reclaimed wood and found objects including boats, water recipients, suitcases, toys, that tower and bulge over rudimentary structures synonymous with the shanty town and border crossings that artists have traversed in some of remotest corners of the planet. 

The process of application for a passport - the participatory performative experience - takes just a few minutes. The passport office is manned by passport officers trained to mediate with the general public and to distribute the passport edition. The applicant (audience) is requested to agree to a set of passport obligations that are presented by the passport officers and their personal data is entered into an application pothole. For each passport registered, a unique identification number (UIN) is automatically generated to authenticate the edition. The UIN is inscribed on each passport and stamped by the officer. The symbolic transferal of one's individual national identity, to that of the collective world citizen, is part of the artwork's performative element and embodies the notion of Operational Aesthetics, by inciting the general public to take action.

The registered passport citizens populate a new interconnected world map, a potent visualisation portraying the ‘no-borders’ mass-mobilization across the globe, from Europe to the hardest hit environmental and political catastrophe zones including the Solomon Islands, Philippines, Alaska, Somalia, Iraq and Afghanistan.

Passport editions total 57,000 copies: Ed. 10,000 Hangar Bicocca Milan (2008); Ed. 30,000 Southbank Centre London (2012); Ed. 10,000 La Villette Paris (2014); Ed 5,000 Frieze Projects London (2017); Ed 2,000 Migration Week Marrakesh (2018).

This passport office was first presented at the Nansen Initiative in Geneva and the COP21 UN Climate Summit in Paris (December 2015). 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 Nansen Iniative and the COP21 were the perfect forums to mobilise citizens.