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13 October 2011

Carl Gardner reflects on the expedition on the Without Prejudice blog

Carl Gardner interviewed on Without Prejudice podcast

Listen to the podcast here

7 October 2011

Vidal Sassoon

Vidal Sassoon, this week's Radio 4's Desert Island castaway, will be the Nowhereisland Resident Thinker for the week starting 16th October. Here's a taster!

Video: David Bickerstaff

5 October 2011

Claire Doherty: Nowhereisland from here

Photo: Kim Tilbrook

From the Arctic High Seas caught in the tail-end of Hurricane Katia to the red-top headlines back in the UK, there seems to have been a lot of ‘rockin’ going on in the first days of Nowhereisland. Since Alex Hartley first imagined an Arctic island travelling south as a new nation during the London 2012 Olympics, his idea has flourished from an act of claiming sovereignty (exemplified by the archive images of the artist in mountaineering gear in 2004) to a collective, collaborative process of exchange, hospitality and belonging. The Arctic island, journeying from the Jurassic Coast to the Bristol Channel in summer 2012, will always form the visual heart of this project. It is that filmic image of a floating island – an alien landscape moving around another more familiar landscape – with which I was first hooked. But even though the logistical challenges of engineering this epic sculpture are still ahead, we’ve begun to see how Nowhereisland is sparking a series of ideas beyond simply its sculptural form.

The best contemporary public art projects challenge us through unexpected forms. They invariably unsettle and provoke. They rarely conform to preconceived ideas about what scale, materials, location or form a public artwork should take. But if we've learnt anything over the past eight years of producing and researching such projects at Situations, it is that a successful public artwork rarely results from the arrogant, ill-informed parachuting of an artwork into a specific location. Whether producing 24-hr public sculptures in New Zealand or permanently-sited works in Bristol, the team here at Situations recognise the necessity of a real sensitivity to local conditions, of listening more than talking, and of working through existing networks on the ground, and that informs the way in which we're developing Nowhereisland.

Nowhereisland exemplifies the durational and collaborative way of working which has come to represent the best of commissioning contemporary art in the UK. Two-years in the making (so far), this project has seen us working with partners in seven towns and cities across south west England who are helping us to shape the host programme of events and activities set to reach 250,000 people next summer (just imagine what the Mevagissey Male Voice Choir will do!); five schools are using Nowhereisland as a catalyst for teaching on citizenship, geography and politics over the next 12 months (and helping us to write some barn-storming online educational resources); the Nowhereisland Embassy is already bursting with objects, maps, documents, books and music tracks collated by the team in the Arctic and these will go into the mobile museum currently being fabricated and will form the basis of the online Embassy; 52 thinkers across the globe are sitting down to compose their Letters to Nowhereisland (where else would you find 60s icon Vidal Sassoon, comedian Natalie Haynes and Eden Project founder Tim Smit together - other than a truly great night out)? And today we surpassed 2,600 citizens, many of whom are champing at the bit to contribute ideas to the new nation.

I spoke in an earlier logbook entry of my thoughts on the Arctic voyage – the privilege to witness at first hand the remains of prospecting, the contemporary reality of the world’s most northernmost miners, the politicisation of the seas and the self-evident and shocking impact of climate change. But ours is not the first expedition to undertake to witness such things. The research scientists at Ny-Ålesund, the world’s most northerly community, are clearly far better equipped to provide us with the evidence the world needs to tell this story and Cape Farewell’s eminent programme of expeditions have provided exceptional cultural outcomes over the past ten years. So why did Nowhereisland take this expedition team and what does this have to do with the UK programme?

Our expedition team members were asked to join the Nowhereisland voyage to help to begin to think about the implications of forming a new nation and to build an exceptional resource of ideas and materials to form the year-long programme about the origins of Nowhereisland. These 16 individuals agreed to participate in a hot-house of discussions in the Arctic which would inform the conversations we’ve already established with other artists, community groups, schools and citizens, and to contribute to the Embassy archive and collection. You can find out more about their responses to the journey in a series of video interviews about to be uploaded onto the Journey section.

1 October 2011

Penny Red returns

Photo: Max McClure

An excerpt from Laurie Penny's blog on returning from the Arctic. "For me, this trip was partly about what can and should be salvaged from the liberal project, as it rummages through what's left of its selfhood after decades of neo-liberal capitulation. I discovered, gradually, that just because people are fortunate and insulated doesn't mean that they can't have good, brave and noble instincts that are worth hearing. I discovered that the world is full of bright, decent people doing important, beautiful things, and because of that, it might not be too late to build a better one. I also discovered that Geography professors CAN dance to dubstep". Read more.

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Nowhereisland is a Situations project led by artist Alex Hartley, one of 12 Artist Taking the Lead projects for the London 2012 Cultural Olympiad funded by Arts Council England. We also gratefully acknowledge the support of the University of the West of England, Bristol; Bloomberg; Nicky Wilson Jupiter Artland; the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs; the Royal Norwegian Embassy and Yellowbrick Tracking.

Identity designed by Fraser Muggeridge studio and Wolfram Wiedner, website by Wolfram Wiedner.