Alex Hartley / Nowhereisland

Aug 3, 2012

High Arctic

An Arctic island will journey south this summer to arrive for the UK’s hosting of the Olympic Games as a visiting island nation. On its journey, the island passed through International Waters and was declared a new nation with citizenship open to all.

Nowhereisland is conceived by artist Alex Hartley as a nomadic public artwork—as one landscape moving through another and a symbolic territory representing thousands of citizens across the world.

The urge to seek out and possess the remote and unfamiliar landscapes at the ‘edges’ of the world has been an enduring creative impulse for artists and writers. Hartley discovered the island in the High Arctic in 2004 and was the first person to set foot on this territory. From Hartley’s act of attempted colonization to secede the island from Norway in 2004–6 emerged a multi-faceted artwork — Nowhereisland — conceived specifically for the context of the UK’s hosting of the Olympic Games in 2012.

Accompanied by its mobile embassy, the island will voyage 500-nautical miles around England’s southwest coast this summer, hosted by eight ports and harbours.

Nowhereisland is a work of land art for our times. Its simple narrative premise—the journey of a small migrant island—acts as the nation’s emblematic back-story. And yet, Nowhereisland is not simply a story. It is above all sculptural—a provocative act of material displacement by the artist. If national boundaries shift, if peoples are displaced, if territorial rights are contested, Hartley asks, why should landscape itself not move, and what are the implications of this island’s journey in 2012?