A summer-long contemporary art exhibit at Brock University’s Rodman Hall about water is heading into its final month. And so is your chance to become a citizen of Antarctica by getting your hands on an Antarctica World Passport at the art centre.
The Source: Rethinking Water Through Contemporary Art, which opened at Congress 2014 “Borders without Boundaries” at Brock this past spring, examines the many social and cultural facets of this vital resource that is such an integral part of our daily lives.
“The subject of water is very topical, people are thinking about their relationship to this essential resource,” says Stuart Reid, director of Rodman Hall who also curated the four-month exhibit that runs until Sept. 28.
“It’s also a meta-topic in that it’s hard to be specific about it, but it encompasses so many aspects of contemporary life,” he says. “Contemplating water leads us to confront our frail relationship with the natural world.”
The origins of the project go back to 2011, when three of the artists from the group exhibit were awarded a SSHRC grant to bring together an initial group of contemporary artists from different cultural backgrounds to look at issues around water and how that was reflected in their own creative practices.
Artists participating in the exhibition include, Nadine Bariteau, Raymond Boisjoly, Elizabeth Chitty, Soheila Esfahani, Gautam Garoo, Patrick Mahon, Colin Miner, Lucy + Jorge Orta, and Gu Xiong. The artistic research group, named Immersion Emergencies and Possible Worlds, held creative residencies in Niagara in 2012 and Banff, Alberta in 2013 to plan for the creation of the project, which aimed to engage water as both culture and resource.
Reid, who was part of both meetings, notes, “the exhibition has been a wonderful springboard for the artists to create new works. The group show has some strong Niagara content that I think people are very interested in and that local focus links beautifully to the international scope of the exhibition.”
One aspect of The Source exhibit at Rodman Hall, which has generated a lot of interest and discussion, is the on-site Antarctica World Passport office created by internationally-renowned artists Jorge + Lucy Orta.
The idea dates back to 2007 when the Orta’s were invited, as part of the Biennial of the End of the World in Ushuaia, Tierra del Fuego at the southern tip of South America, to make a trip to Antarctica aboard the Hercules KC130 flight.
It was during this show that they installed their provisional work of art on the continent, Antarctica Village, which was a series of tent structures hand-made from nation flags, fragments of clothing and silkscreen prints. They also raised the first Antarctic Flag, which is currently on display outside Rodman Hall, as a tribute to the Antarctic Treaty signed in 1959 by Argentina, Australia, Belgium, Chile, the United States, France, the UK, Japan, Norway, New Zealand, South Africa and the USSR.
The Treaty, which entered into force in 1961, also provides that any member of the United Nations can accede to it. It now has 50 signatory nations and membership continues to grow.
The Antarctic Treaty states that the sixth continent is a common territory, open to all peaceful peoples and to cultural and scientific cooperation. The passport created by the Ortas is a symbolic proposal for a new nation of humanity based upon the foundation of the 2007 Antarctic Village.
“The Ortas’ experience of Antarctica has been fodder for a whole body of work. Antarctica is governed by a treaty that is a powerful document setting out a kind of utopian state,” explains Reid. “The treaty forbids mining or any kind of military activity and upholds the continent as a place of peace and co-operation.”
The passport may be issued to any person wishing to become a citizen of the world allowing them to travel freely. On deliverance, it requests in return that citizens take responsibility for their actions and dedicate themselves to combat all acts of barbarity, to fight against intimidation and poverty, to support social progress, to protect the environment and endangered species, to safeguard human dignity and to defend the inalienable rights to liberty, justice and peace in the world.
“The artists recognize the importance of the ideals stated in the treaty and, through the issuance of passports, are mobilizing peoples’ awareness of Antarctica as a beacon of hope for people of earth,” adds Reid.
“The passport office is a provocative site where the audience engages in a performance of sorts. People come into the gallery and go into our passport office, which looks like a regular bureaucratic hole-in-the-wall office, and sit down and take a pledge to support the tenets of the Antarctica treaty.”
To date, a couple hundred passports have been administered to visitors at Rodman Hall, and the online database the Ortas established to record and track all of the citizens of Antarctica has more than 10,000 names in it.
“In the end, recipients have an art object that looks very much like a real passport that would probably confound any customs official if you actually tried to use it at an airport or border crossing,” says Reid.
The gallery’s Antarctica World Passport office is open Tuesday to Friday from 2 to 4 p.m., by appointment on weekends, and at special events. To book a visit, call 905-684-2925. It takes five minutes to apply and passports are $5.
Upcoming events related to The Source exhibit at Rodman Hall:
- Thursday, Sept. 11, 7 p.m.
Guest Lecture: “Water & Hope: Facing Fact and Inspiring Optimism in a Declining Era” by Robert Sandford, EPCOR Chair of the Canadian Partnership Initiative in support of United Nations “Water for Life” Decade. Presented in conjunction with Brock’s Environmental Sustainability Research Centre.
- Saturday, Sept. 27, 2 p.m.
Exhibition tours with Nadine Bariteau and curator Stuart Reid. Presented in conjunction with the pan-Canada celebration of Culture Days 2014
- Sunday, Sept. 28, 1 to 4 p.m.
“Drawing Water”- an artists’ presentation and workshop with Patrick Mahon and Gautam Garoo. Presented in conjunction with the pan-Canada celebration of Culture Days 2014
More about the Antarctic Treaty
The Treaty, which applies to the area south of 60° South latitude, is surprisingly short, but remarkably effective. Through this agreement, the countries active in Antarctica consult on the uses of a whole continent, with a commitment that it should not become the scene or object of international discord. In its fourteen articles the Treaty:
- stipulates that Antarctica should be used exclusively for peaceful purposes, military activities, such as the establishment of military bases or weapons testing, are specifically prohibited;
- guarantees continued freedom to conduct scientific research, as enjoyed during the IGY;
- promotes international scientific cooperation including the exchange of research plans and personnel, and requires that results of research be made freely available;
- sets aside the potential for sovereignty disputes between Treaty parties by providing that no activities will enhance or diminish previously asserted positions with respect to territorial claims, provides that no new or enlarged claims can be made, and makes rules relating to jurisdiction;
- prohibits nuclear explosions and the disposal of radioactive waste;
- provides for inspection by observers, designated by any party, of ships, stations and equipment in Antarctica to ensure the observance of, and compliance with, the Treaty;
- requires parties to give advance notice of their expeditions; provides for the parties to meet periodically to discuss measures to further the objectives of the Treaty; and
- puts in place a dispute settlement procedure and a mechanism by which the Treaty can be modified.