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Are you a citizen of Antarctica? The answer has to be “no.” Antarctica’s not a country. It’s a continent. It will never be a nation. But that’s not a big deal. That’s what Lucy and Jorge Orta say. They are artists. They are giving out passports. The passports are for Antarctica. That's according to Allison Meier. She was reporting for Hyperallergic.
There are 53 countries are privy to the Antarctic Treaty. In 1959, it spelled out that the southernmost continent “shall continue forever to be used exclusively for peaceful purposes. It shall not become the scene or object of international discord.” But the Ortas don’t see that as a barrier. They still issue passports. These are for the chilly, barren continent. Their art is inspired by Antarctica. It is inspired by peaceful possibilities of the continent. It is a continent devoted to scientific research. It is also devoted to human accord.
Meier writes that the Ortas have developed a program. It is called the Antarctica World Passport. It is meant to be “an advocacy tool to engage people around the world in the importance of a remote place most of us will never visit.”
People commit to certain beliefs. These include sustainability. It includes peace. And in includes equality. People who follow these can request a virtual passport online. Or they visit the couple’s “Antarctic World Passport Delivery Bureau.” It is at their exhibitions.
The couple was tasked to create the passport program. They were also asked to create their arts and awareness exhibition. It honors the continent. This happened at the 2007 End of the World Biennial. It is an art event. It brought artists from all over the world. They celebrated Earth’s southernmost climes.
The Ortas traveled to Antarctica later that year. They went to raise their “Antarctic Flag.” It is a kaleidoscopic flag. It combines the flags of all nations. It represents the coexistence of all world identities. Their trip to Antarctica also included the construction of 50 handmade dwellings. They were stitched from national flags. They were stitched from clothing. And other objects were also used. They symbolized Antarctica’s borderless possibilities.
The artists’ website calls their passport a “universal passport for a continent without borders, common good of humanity.” An official passport to Antarctica is still impossible. At least it is for now. So this passport seems like a good option. So far, more than 12,000 people have received their own.
What if the passport was real? Would it take away an owner’s United States citizenship? Perhaps. People sometimes apply for foreign nationalities. They mean to give up their U.S. nationality. Then they lose their rights as nationals. But right now? There’s nothing keeping anyone from claiming their rights as an Antarctic citizen. And they can claim their rights as citizens of the broader world.