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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 that will never be a nation. But no biggie, Lucy and Jorge Orta. They are artists. They’re giving out passports to Antarctica. That's according to Allison Meier reporting for Hyperallergic.
So far, 53 countries are privy to the Antarctic Treaty. In 1959, it specified that the southernmost continent “shall continue forever to be used exclusively for peaceful purposes and shall not become the scene or object of international discord.” But the Ortas don’t see that as a barrier to issuing passports. The passports are for the chilly, barren continent. Their art is inspired by and centered around the peaceful possibilities of the continent. Antarctica is devoted to scientific research and human accord.
Meier writes that the Ortas have developed a program called the Antarctica World Passport. It is intended 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 who commit to certain beliefs. These include sustainability, peace and equality. People who follow these can request a virtual passport online. Or they visit the couple’s “Antarctic World Passport Delivery Bureau” at their exhibitions.
The couple was commissioned to create the passport program and their arts and awareness exhibition. It is dedicated to the continent. This happened at the 2007 End of the World Biennial. It is an art event that brought artists from all over the world. They celebrated Earth’s southernmost climes.
Later that year, the Ortas traveled to Antarctica to raise their “Antarctic Flag.” It is a kaleidoscopic flag. It combines the flags of all nations and 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, clothing and other objects. 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, but this passport seems like a good alternative. So far, more than 12,000 people have received their own.
What if the passport were hypothetically real? Would it revoke an owner’s United States citizenship? Perhaps. People sometimes apply for foreign nationalities with the intention of giving up their U.S. nationality. Then they lose their rights as nationals. But for now, there’s nothing keeping anyone from claiming their rights and responsibilities as an Antarctic citizen. And they can claim their rights as citizens of the broader world.