Climate Art: The Longitudinal Installation

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by Xavier Cortada
posted Mar 10, 2008
Miami artist Xavier Cortada purchased 12 identical pairs of black shoes and shipped them to Antarctica.
Cortada also captured newspaper quotes from people across the 24 time zones about the impact of climate change on their lives.

In Antarctica, Cortada painted the approximate longitudes of the country in which the quote originated inside 24 shoes (so that in the South Pole each could be aligned with the longitude corresponding to the location on Earth where the voices originated).

To paint the shoes, Cortada mixed acrylic paint with soil samples from the Dry Valleys in Antarctica, one of the places on Earth most susceptible to climate change.
Cortada then flew to the South Pole and placed the 24 shoes inches apart in a circle along the South Pole, each aligned with its corresponding longitude as it converged on the South Pole.

The artist then walked to the 0 degree longitude, the prime meridian, and walked clockwise around the pole, stopping at each shoe to recite each of the following quotes:

  • 30E Zimbabwe spacer “We used to be able to grow everything we want but that has all changed.” —Matsapi Nyathi, Grandmother.
  • 60E Iran spacer “More than 90 percent of our wetlands have completely dried up.” —Alamdar Alamdari, environmental researcher, Fars Province.
  • 180 Tuvalu spacer “Tuvalu is the first victim of global warming.” —Koloa Talake, former prime minister.
  • 150W Alaska (USA) spacer “We are at a crossroads… Is it practical to stand and fight our Mother Ocean? Or do we surrender and move?” —Shishmaref Mayor Edith Vorderstrasse.
  • 45W Brazil spacer “I am very frightened. One thing goes wrong, and the entire system follows.” —Jair Souto, Mayor of Manaquiri.
  • 30W Greenland spacer “They tell us that we must not eat mattak [whale blubber], but this is all we know. Eating Inughuit food makes us who we are, and anyway we have nothing else to eat!” —Tekummeq, Town of Qaanaaq.

Read all 24 quotes

“Placing the shoes next to each other as a proxy for people across the globe, I conceptually diminish the distance between them. We are one global community.”

Creating this installation in a continent with no borders, the artist aims to diminish the man-made barriers in the world above it. Voices simultaneously stand in their place (longitude) around the world and inches away from one another.

Map of quotes in the Longitudinal Installation by Xavier Cortada.

Map of quotes in the Longitudinal Installation by Xavier Cortada.

DOWNLOAD: a PDF poster mapping the 24 quotes in the Installation.
Xavier Cortada was born in Albany, New York and was raised and lives in Miami. The Cuban-American artist holds three degrees from the University of Miami. His work has been shown across four continents and is in the permanent collection of The World Bank. Major collaborative art projects include International AIDS murals in Switzerland and South Africa, peace murals in Northern Ireland and Cyprus and child welfare murals in Bolivia and Panama.

Read the Artist’s statement.

The above resources accompany the March 2008 YES! Education Connection Newsletter

READ NEWSLETTER: How to Teach Climate Change Solutionsed0308_NewsSnapshot

Download pdf poster
of the Longitudinal Installation.