Antarctica World Passport Office (Frieze Projects)

Date: 2017
Ref: 5085
Materials: Part 1: Reconditioned military trailor, painted steel, glass, 9 steel bedframes, 9 bivouacs, diverse fabrics, canteens, felt blankets, various objects / Part 2: Reconditioned military trailor, painted steel, glass, wood, canteens, linens, various objects, Antarctica flag, Antarctica World Passports, stamps
Dimensions: Part 1: 300h x 150 x 280 cm / Part 2: 334h x 150 x 330 cm
Exhibition history: 2017 Frieze Projects, London, UK curated by Raphael Gygax
Courtesy: Lucy + Jorge Orta

Lucy + Jorge Orta's Antarctica project addresses issues relating to the environment, politics, autonomy, habitat, mobility and relationships among peoples. The Antarctic continent has the earth's most hostile climatic conditions, its ice-desert is the world's largest and temperatures can drop as low as -80° C. Yet, it is an immense nature reserve whose glaciers contain 70% of the planet's fresh water, today this unique ecosystem in serious danger due to global warming. No permanent human settlements exist and there is no native population and it's the only politically neutral region on earth not claimed by any country. The governing Antarctic Treaty, which unites over 50 nations, has decreed Antarctica a continent dedicated to scientific research with common pacific aims: to protect the environment and to encourage international cooperation. For the artists, Antarctica embodies Utopia: a continent whose extreme climate imposes mutual aid and solidarity, freedom of research, of sharing, and collaboration for the good of the planet. The immaculate ice landscape is a filter for the kaleidoscope that make up our nations and identities, concentrating the colours into the sum of light and the purity of a hope.

The Antarctica World Passport project is a powerful participatory and engaging element of Antarctica, which poses all kinds of tricky questions: what does it mean to be a world citizen today? In the age of cross-frontier communication why are nationalist tendencies on the rise, why are we building walls and closing off borders around the world?

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 obtaining a passport –the participatory performative experience– takes just a few minutes. The applicant is requested to agree to a set of passport obligations presented by the passport officers. Personal data is entered into the application porthole and for each passport registered, a unique identification number (UIN) is automatically generated to authenticate the passport edition. The UIN is inscribed on the 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 'no-borders' world map, a potent visualisation portraying the 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. World Map

Five passport editions have been printed, totaling 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).

The Frieze Projects Antartica World Passport Office was installed in Lonodn from October 4-8, 2017, with a record distribution of 5,000 passports.

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