Planting for Life

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November 9, 2006

Culture Surge – Artburst
By Anne Tschida

Xavier Cortada’s been up to some interesting social actions lately.

First off, at the Science Museum (which sometimes falls under the arts radar, and it shouldn’t), the Cubamian with the big heart has a quirky installation commemorating, of all things, 50 years of a U.S. presence on the South Pole. “The Markers” is a set of 50 differently colored flags, each one relating to an important event of every year of the last half century.

Actually, according to the artist, the flags “mark the passage of time by exploring important events that have moved the world forward.”

“Move” is the critical word here, as Cortada is going to take the markers in January to …. the South Pole. He’ll place them exactly where the Pole stood each year—it moves 9.9 meters annually, in the same direction. That’s life on a glacier.

His flags will note things such as Sputnik’s orbit of the earth (1957); the election of the first woman to lead the world’s biggest democracy – Indira Gandhi (1966); the discovery of our earliest ancestor, Lucy (1974); the year Prozac was put on the market (1987); and the year Spain banned all discrimination based on sexual orientation (2005).

And how can the tropical trooper afford such an icy excursion? As an award recipient of the — yes you’re reading this right — National  Science Foundation Antarctic Artist and Writer Program. [In conjunction with this show, the Science Museum is showing photography from the region, including awe-inspiring images of the otherworldly landscape and the creatures that inhabit it – penguins and U.S. scientists both.]

Back on our peninsula, Cortada is highlighting more native movement, with his “Reclamation Project.” He is “planting” mangrove shoots, in clear cups with water, all over South Beach in a symbolic effort to
take the concrete land back to its original state. (It’s his Art Basel project.) As Cortada relates, a 1915 photograph was one inspiration, showing as it did Miami Beach founder Carl Fisher posing with Rosie the Elephant, clearing the “swamps” to pave the way for Lincoln Road.

Mangrove forests helped keep the sandy earth in place, as well as sustain a healthy eco-system, and he wants his project “to remind us we must learn to coexist with nature in our urban settings, instead of relegating it to nature preserves.”

Then he will take this show on the road. The 2,600 mangrove seedlings, through an effort of an all-volunteer eco-army, will be shipped over to Key Biscayne starting mid-December and really planted as part of a reforestation plan. Behind this excursion are Citizens for a Better Florida and DERM, among others.

Wanna do some planting? Contact coordinator@reclamationproject .net

“The Markers” will be planted at the Miami Museum of Science and Planetarium through Dec. 11, 3280 South Miami Ave., Miami. “The Reclamation Project” will be planted around South Beach from mid-November through Dec. 17.