Miami artist Xavier Cortada planted a replica of a mangrove seedling in the South Pole.* The mangrove “seedling” was planted on the 3 km thick glacial ice sheet that blankets the South Pole.
Embedded in the moving glacier, the “seedling” is now sliding downhill (9.9 meters every year) in the direction of the Weddell Sea, 1,400 km away. The “seedling” has thus begun its 150,000-year journey towards the seashore, where it can eventually (theoretically) set its roots.
The 150,000-year Journey uses the terrain of the South Pole to address a sociological concern of the artist: the travails of an immigrant’s journey — the displacement, the solitude, the struggle to simply integrate oneself into society.
In a more universal way, the 150,000-year Journey explores humankind as it evolves through time.
It will take almost 150,000 years for this art piece to be completed. What will our world look like then? Will humans still be focused on race and ethnicity by the time this mangrove seedling lands in the sea? Will our world be dramatically different, will the polar caps have melted? How much will such melting shorten the journey?
Through the 150,000-year Journey, the artist also invites viewers to reflect on our role as humans on this planet. Juxtaposing Antarctic time frames with human time frames (see The Markers project) reaffirms the notion that we are simply custodians of the planet who should learn to live in harmony with nature.
(* The seedling will be a replica because exotic species can not be introduced into the continent. As such, the artist will create an ice sculpture made using a mold made from an actual Miami mangrove seedling. Water from a deep South Pole well –that makes water by melting ice created back when Shakespeare was writing Hamlet– will be poured into the mold, where it will freeze into ice.)