Nowhereisland comes to London

Posted filed underEngland, Installations, Public Art.

Nowhereisland is a public art project conceived by artist Alex Hartley. It is one of 12 arts projects across the UK, funded by the Arts Council of England, which will form part of the Cultural Olympiad in summer 2012.

Imagine an Arctic island travelling south – a landscape on the move. After leaving the Kingdom of Norway, the island enters international waters and is declared a new island nation – Nowhereisland. This new nation continues its journey to the south west coast of England, where it opens its embassy and participates in the London 2012 Cultural Olympiad.

This is the idea of Alex Hartley, an artist known for his photographic and sculptural depictions of remote landscapes. Alex’s proposal, made for the Cultural Olympiad, is on an epic scale and reflects the ambition and endeavor of the Olympic spirit.

Furzy Cliff in Weymouth is the site of the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic sailing events. On the 25th July 2012 Nowhereisland will be floating off-shore, accompanied by its land based Embassy and where it will begin a six-week journey around the south west coast of England, finishing in Bristol on the 9th September 2012.

This idea began back in 2004, when, Alex visited the High Arctic with the climate change organization, Cape Farewell. The artist explored the northernmost polar landmass – a landscape shaped by the rapidly receding ice cap and marked by a human history of prospecting and exploration. Here explorers have attempted extraordinary feats of endurance and many have failed. This is a place over which nations have fiercely debated their territorial and mining rights and an area to which migrants have flocked in search of a place to belong. And it is here that Alex Hartley discovered a new island.

In the autumn of 2011, he returned to the Arctic and with the permission of the Norwegian government, sailed a portion of this island territory north beyond the jurisdiction of the Kingdom of Norway.

Just above the 80th parallel, the territory reached international waters, where it was declared a new island nation – Nowhereisland. Joining Alex on the expedition were a team of young people and specialists in international law, environmental and political campaigning, human migration, anthropology and psychology, who worked together to produce a programme of ideas and resources to be used in the year-long schools and education programme

Nowhereisland has already come to represent the possibilities for thinking about our values and beliefs as citizens. 52 Resident Thinkers from around the world are contributing to a year-long programme of Letters to Nowhereisland. Over 4000 people have already signed up to become citizens of Nowhereisland and will begin collectively writing the island’s constitution from January 2012.

This is a real place on the move. But it belongs to nowhere. It is an island nation that has come from a place that is deeply implicated by global decisions. It offers us the chance to reflect on where we belong and what nationhood means, and, in a time of global crisis, it opens up an opportunity to debate and consider important global questions that affect us all.

Above all, it allows us to reflect on Alex Hartley’s original question – if we were to create a new nation, how might we begin?

The Nowhereisland programme is already in full swing. We are working with 20 community organisations in seven towns and cities across south west England to shape the host programme of events and activities set to reach 250,000 people. Schools are using Nowhereisland as a catalyst for teaching on citizenship, geography and politics over the next 12 months and 52 thinkers across the globe are sitting down to compose their Letters to Nowhereisland.

The Nowhereisland Embassy will exist in two forms – online and as a mobile museum accompanying Nowhereisland’s sea journey on land. The Embassy will be packed full of information and activities about the many different ideas inspired by the project from the origins of the island in the Arctic, to nationhood, citizenship, land grab, cllimate change and hospitality. The mobile museum will be staffed and parked up at a vantage point for Nowhereisland so that anyone can find out more, ask questions and get involved in activities. It will also be the site for events such as welcome ceremonies, expert talks and workshops.

More videos from the project on Vimeo.