Arctic Island is coming to the South West

Issue date: 22 October 2009

Nowhereisland Nowhereisland Cultural Olympiad project produced by Situations at UWE

An Arctic island that will travel the 702 miles of coastline of south west England in 2012, a collaboration between artist Alex Hartley and the Situations programme at the University of the West of England, has been chosen for Artists taking the lead, one of the major projects for the Cultural Olympiad.

The Cultural Olympiad is four years of cultural celebration leading up to the 2012 Games. Artists taking the lead is Arts Council England's flagship project for the Cultural Olympiad and will feature 12 projects across the country. Alex Hartley's nowhereisland proposal was the winning project out of a total of 239 entries for the South West region.

Alex Hartley will work with Situations, the public art commissioning programme at UWE, to produce this project over the next three years. Situations helped Alex to put together his £500k award winning bid for the Cultural Olympiad and will provide the production and public engagement support to make his project happen.

Alex Hartley said, “nowhereisland will capture people's imagination, engaging local, national and international audiences. The island addresses the most significant global issue of our time, namely how we can respond to the urgent issue of climate change together. This project embodies the spirit of international cooperation that is at the heart of the Olympic ideal.”

Situations Director, Claire Doherty, said, “We are delighted to be working with such an outstanding artist on this commission. Alex approached us with this extraordinary idea and it has captured the imagination of so many people already. As an international public art commissioning programme, Situations has long experience of realising logistically complex projects outside conventional gallery or museum contexts, but this remarkable project will be far the most ambitious we have ever produced.”

Alex Hartley will bring an island he discovered in the High Arctic to the south west of England. The island is about the size of a football pitch and was revealed from within the melting ice of a retreating glacier. Alex was the first person ever to stand on it. The island has been recognised by the Norwegian Polar Institute and is now included on all maps and charts. The project explores issues of climate change, land ownership, national identity and the exploitation of the earth's remaining natural resources.

A portion of the island will be transported to south west England through international waters and whilst en route will apply for micronation status. The new micronation, nowhereisland, will navigate the entire 702 miles of the coast of the south west region, visiting its ports and harbours accompanied by a travelling embassy and support vehicle.

Almost 400 people have already signed up for citizenship of the island, and nowhereisland aims to surpass the population total of the Vatican, the smallest country in the world, by Friday (23 October). Before 2012, he hopes to exceed 34,000 citizens – greater than the populations of Liechtenstein and Monaco, to become at least the world's 8th smallest country and the 186th largest country.

Professor Steve West, UWE Vice Chancellor, said, “This fantastic project puts UWE's artistic collaborations on the international map quite literally. It is a coup for Alex Hartley and for Situations at UWE to capture the spirit of the Cultural Olympiad and to win this prestigious bid to the Arts Council England. As a university we are wholly committed to sustainability and some of the issues that the island will bring to the fore resonate with UWE's research strengths around climate change. We're absolutely thrilled for the team.”

Arts Council England, South West Executive Director Chris Humphrey said:
'nowhereisland is an extraordinary project. The sight of an island approaching the shore will be an amazing spectacle for the people who are fortunate enough to experience it. This project has a strong connection with the south west region and its coast and yet the opportunities it offers extend far beyond our shores. Huge numbers of people will be able to get involved with the island and the ideas behind it. Nowhereisland will provoke thought, create excitement and will help us to fulfil our ambition to make great art available for everyone.'

Nowhereisland will be transported from the Arctic during the summer next year and will tour the south west coast in 2012, starting in Poole in mid July and ending in Bristol in October 2012. The island will be in Weymouth and Portland during the last days of July and first weeks of August for all the Olympic sailing events. At the end of the Olympic year, the island will return to the Arctic to be made whole again.


Editors notes:

For further information about Artists taking the lead and the Cultural Olympiad, contact Gillian Taylor 01392 229207 or 07989 430881. Website
Situations is a commissioning and research programme based at the University of the West of England (UWE) in Bristol. Dedicated to the commissioning of outstanding artists' projects, often outside conventional gallery or museum contexts, which open up new forms of public engagement with contemporary art. Situations is also committed to placing its own projects within a wider international context through the development and dissemination of internationally significant research in contemporary art and commissioning.

Situations was initiated in October 2003 by Claire Doherty. From the start, the programme's guiding principles have been to combine a commissioning agency model with the rigour of an academic research programme.

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