Xavier Cortada landed at the South Pole on the 50th anniversary of its first permanent settlement. He commemorated the occasion by planting 51 different colored flags, each 10 meters apart and marking the position on the ice where the South Pole stood during each of the past 50 years. (The Pole stays in place as the ice sheet atop it moves.)
Each flag displays the coordinates of a location where a transformative human event occurred that year. (For example, 1963 marked the March on Washington culminating in Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech.) The markers invite us to “see” human timeframes in geologic terms and to recognize anew our responsibility to the future.
My work aims to challenge us to find deeper meaning in our present lives by exploring the paths of those who came before us and our relationship to the natural world.
In 2007, as a National Science Foundation Antarctic Artist and Writers program award recipient, I used the moving ice sheet that blankets the South Pole as an instrument to mark time, juxtaposing important events in human history with events that occur in broader geologic timeframes. In addition to “The Markers,” I planted an ice replica of a mangrove seedling in the moving ice sheet. Embedded in the ice, the seedling will move 10 meters a year; in 150,000 years, it will arrive at the coastline and (theoretically) set its roots.
My work reaffirms the notion that we are simply custodians of the planet who should learn to live in harmony with nature. Today, the biggest threat we face is a lack of connection to one another and to our natural world. We have the capacity to liberate ourselves from this alienation. Our early ancestors found a way to become a part of natural balance as they populated the planet. Today, we are destroying that balance by our attempt to use and control nature for our benefit.
Artist’s website: www.cortada.com
See: http://www.xaviercortada.com/?Ant_Markers to read the list of historic events that moved the world forward during the past five decades.
See: http://www.cortada.com/antarctica/journey/ to learn more about the mangrove seedling’s 150,000 mile journey.