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Nowhereisland | a project by Alex Hartley

November 12, 2009


The project NOWHEREISLAND is a project designed by Alex Hartley for the 2012 Cultural Olympiad. Just yesterday we noticed about other olympic project called The Cloud, seems that we’re going to have many Olympics news this week, but the interesting thing is that NOWHEREISLAND is the winning Artists Taking the Lead project for the South West of England and that’s why we want to talk about it here. The project goes around the idea of bringing Nymark, an island discovered by Hartley in the High Arctic region of Svalbard, to the South West of England.

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Above: Alex Hartley discovering nowhereisland in the High Arctic region of Svalbard in 2004

From the desing statements: “This distant island, comprising rubble and moraine around a small amount of bedrock, was revealed from within the ice of a retreating glacier, and I was the first human to ever stand on it. The island has been recognised by the Norwegian Polar Institute and named and included on all subsequent maps and charts.”

We’re not sure if the project can be done, the idea of “moving islands” is, at least, difficult. It remind us the Study for Floating Island to Travel Around Manhattan by Robert Smithson, Floating Island is the most provocative work of Smithson as this is the most provocative work of Hartley until now. Hartley proposes that the island material will be collected and transported from Svalbard to South West England in 2010, and this material will be transferred onto a barge which will be towed from port to port. The barge will be fabricated to act as a platform to support the irregular topography of the island. After all this movement, the island will apply for micronation status. The new ‘micronation’, nowhereisland, will navigate the entire 702 miles of coast around the South West region, visiting its ports and harbours, accompanied by a travelling embassy support vehicle.


Study for Floating Island to Travel Around Manhattan by Robert Smithson

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Above: Songklabreen Glacier, before nowhereisland was revealed. Image: Norwegian Polar Institute

Hartley says about the project:

“The transportation of this piece of virgin land is intended to create an artwork of epic proportions which will inspire discussion around key questions of national identity, climate change, land-grab and the exploitation of natural resources as well as the romantic associations of an island landscape. This is an artwork that celebrates the pioneer and the explorer, a model of both the individual and the team striving and achieving something impossible. Nowhereisland provides both an inclusive and challenging opportunity for all to engage with the 2012 Cultural Olympiad, embodying a uniquely ambitious vision of the local, national and global.”

Talking about the project viability, it seems that Hartley and the rest of the team [Tania Kovats: Artist Collaborator – Situations, University of the West of England, Bristol: Production and Engagement Programme – David Bickerstaff: Film Director and Bullet: Design and Web development] had established contact with the Governor of Svalbard. As a UK citizen, Hartley has the right to mine on the archipelago, but focused in the Olympic spirit of co-operation between nations, he has sought to gain permission to ‘borrow’ the island and be gifted the material required to make up nowhereisland. This negotiation is at an advanced stage, with the authorities keen to collaborate with the team on the realisation of the project.

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Above: nowhereisland (detail) photographed by Alex Hartley in 2004

The greatest legacy that nowhereisland could achieve is as a platform and exemplum for exploring a sense of place through an epic, nomadic public sculpture never to be forgotten; embodying the spirit and values of the 2012 Cultural Olympiad, excellence, friendship and respect; providing a focus to the global and local debates surrounding climate change; and raising awareness of land-grab and exploitation of the world’s natural resources.

Now, we only have to wait until 2012 to see if this amazing and impressive artwork can be finalized and hope we all can become citizens of the micronation called nowhereisland and exceed the population of at least Monaco (187th largest) and Liechtenstein (186th largest) by the time nowhereisland enters international waters.

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Above: Alex Hartley. Photo: Clint Randall

4 Comments leave one →
  1. mark longly permalink
    November 14, 2009 2:19 pm

    The idea that wasting hundreds of thousands of pounds, not to mention the environmental damage caused by this worthless exercise is beyond belief.

    I’m staggered that someone who claims to be interested in the environment can justify the use of so much fossil fuel to achieve this, utterly pointless folly.

    But then, this grant from the arts council of our money is I suspect the true motivation for the whole thing in the first place, & taking that into the equation I can only commend you on screwing us all over in a royal fashion.

    “Con Artist” springs to mind

    • arkinetblog permalink*
      November 14, 2009 2:45 pm

      hi mark, environmental impact is the first thing that came to mind as well. it is difficult for us as onlookers to be able to assess the figures, but it would certainly seem that the process of such a mission would defeat its purpose, at least in terms of global warming activism. Although it can be a very interesting experiment or proposal in theory (and to a certain degree in practice), we ought to keep such artistic endeavours in check as much as we do everything else that we expect others to account for. Let’s hope tugging this island around amounts to more than just an Ego Trip.
      Thanks for sharing your thoughts…

  2. Terry Fowler permalink
    November 14, 2009 2:53 pm

    Cerne Abbas is vying with 27 other villages for a £400,000 grant to rebuild Cerne Mill and transform it into a working mill. This would be a better use for the money


  1. About MICRONATIONS « arkinet

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