Xavier Cortada’s Longitudinal Installation is a ritualistic performance that presents the effects of climate change from both a global and personal perspective. In this performance, Cortada recites quotes from twenty-four different people across twenty-four time zones that describe personal impacts of climate change. Each quote is recited above a shoe, painted with an acrylic mix of soil samples from the Dry Valleys in Antarctica, that is representative of its specific time zone – the twenty-four shoes arranged in a circle, each aligned with its corresponding longitude as they all converge on the South Pole.The first iteration of the project took place in 2007 at the South Pole, where Cortada installed the work as part of his fellowship through the National Science Foundation Antarctic Artists and Writers Program. The following year saw the installation of the work at the North Pole, as part of “90N,” a New York Foundation for the Arts sponsored artist project.
The site-specificity of the North and South Poles is an integral aspect of Longitudinal Installation, as it allows for a perception of global scale that is drastically minimized. Placing each shoe in accordance with a physical marker, such as a line of longitude, allows for a sense of reality to permeate into the performance. This is a reality that presents itself globally across twenty-four time zones yet its presentation is remarkably small in scale. A comprehension of the closeness of the global community can be drawn from this, an apt stage to present an outlook on something as universally important as climate change. The recital of quotes from different people around the world presents climate change as an issue that affects everyone, requiring individual action and cooperation to meaningfully address it.
The intention of Longitudinal Installation is to initiate engagement between people in response to climate change. This is seen not only in the physical installations, but also within the participatory processes. Longitudinal Installation is meant to be performed by anyone by following the project’s instructions and uploading a quote as the “25th” participant. This interaction allows for the work to function as an archival performance, one that tracks and documents the stories of all who participate.