Empire of Atlantium article in Atlas Obscura

The smallest country in Australia is a principled little thing with a friendly emperor

The Empire of Atlantium is the world's "foremost aspirant extraterritorial, transnational, intercultural, panarchist state." If that sounds like a load of heady political posturing, that's because it's meant to… at least in part.
Founded in 1981, the Empire of Atlantium is a progressive global sovereignty advocacy group and micronation that has as its headquarters the Province of Aurora 300 kilometres southwest of Sydney. At roughly twice the size of the Vatican and half the size of Monaco, Emperor George II (formerly Cruickshank) founded the 0.29 square miles extra-territorial enclave as a just-serious-enough experiment in nationhood that was as much a reaction to those libertarians who were building their own micro-nations in spirits – both political and humorous – he found dubious.
Atlantium has its own Government House (the Domus Aurea), post office, and assorted commemorative monuments - including a 13-foot-tall pyramid, which is one of only two in all of Australia. Souvenirs available for purchase include stamps, coins, banknotes, postcards and flags.
The terrain is largely undeveloped bushland, making it an ideal place to experience a plethora of Australian native fauna, including kangaroos, wallabies, goanas, wedge-tailed eagles, echidnas, and assorted birdlife.
Tours of Atlantium are conducted in-person by the Emperor himself, who comes off as an affable guy rather than a tyrannical zealot. Otherwise how else would visitors to take him up on his offer of staying in the Government House, which is officially listed as a property available for rent on AirBnB?
An annual gathering of Atlantian supporters, citizens and government representatives from around the world is held in October. Like all the finest micro-nations, Atlantium remains unrecognized by the United Nations, the larger nation in which it is situated, or really any global government, but that hasn't stopped it from massing more than 2,000 "citizens" from all over the world who have come to appreciate the jovial, well thought-out approach its founders took in building their utopia.
EDITED BY: EricGrundhauser (Admin), littlebrumble (Admin)
Source Atlas Obscura:

A-Z Pocket Property Island by Andrea Zittel

ART21: How did you come up with the idea of the Pocket Property?

ZITTEL: I guess, when I was working in New York, I found that I was mostly drawn to these very small, contained capsules that would go inside of preexisting architecture. Moving to L. A. completely changed the scale of my thinking, and I started to become much more interested in creating environments, and much more sensitized to exterior spaces. So, although it’s kind of a leap, this piece really came out of the entire experience of moving back into suburbia. I started to think about how important it is—when you’re living in that kind of an area, or when you live outside of the city—your land is so important to you. When I was looking for a house, it was much more important—the plot of land, and how big it was, and how it was situated—than the actual house itself. And I’ve also been really interested in how we create these little private universes.

When I drive down the street in my neighborhood, every single person’s yard is landscaped to represent some fantasy of where they live, whether it be an alpine fantasy or a tropical fantasy or a desert fantasy. And they’re all these totally separate little universes or environments that are completely honed in. So, I’ve been thinking about that a lot, and how I could actually create a design for a feasible living environment that reflects the most important things that people look for.

I guess the other thing, too, that I’ve been thinking about a lot is this whole sort of capsule living—and how, especially out there, it’s more and more about creating your own bubble, your own capsule. You’re in your house, on your property, and then you get in your car and you drive. And I go for the drive-through; I don’t even want to get out of my car to eat or to go to the bank. Everything’s drive-through, and it makes me feel very, very safe.

But I also think that there’s a certain sort of sadness to that, too—a certain loss of civic life. It’s a prototype for a particular type of lifestyle. But if I were to extend that vision, I would say that it’s possible that some day, something like this might exist, and that people would live in these community spreads. I’ve been doing drawings of these, all lined up, almost like cars in parking lots. Almost like a suburbia floating out in the ocean—so, you’re completely alone, you’re completely autonomous, but you have also this sense of community within that.

Obviously, no one knows how to make something like this, so we’ve just been trying to figure it out. I’ve been reading a lot of books on houseboat construction. With the first one that we made, I actually insisted that it should be made out of concrete, which was probably a mistake. But I had this idea that concrete was extremely literal; concrete’s like rock or earth. A lot of times, when they do road cuts and they start to erode, they spray it with concrete. So, I wanted it specifically to be sprayed concrete or gunnite.

ART21: How will this island be used?

ZITTEL: It’s actually a three-year project, and ultimately it’s funded by the Danish government. There are three phases. Last summer was the first phase. We basically built the entire island. It opened in conjunction with an architectural exhibition called H-99. This summer—actually, in about three or four days—I’m going to go to Denmark and live on it for a month. And for one part of that, for one week of that month, some friends are going to come out, and we’re going to make a film about the experience of living on the island. The final phase of the whole project—which I’m not entirely sure if it’s going to work or not—is I’ve proposed that we would make a slightly smaller version. This model is for the smaller version, and we would make at least five or six of them, and invite people to come live on them (off of Malmö, which is actually in Sweden; that’s in conjunction with another architectural expo).

ART21: So, living on it is part of the artwork?

ZITTEL: I’m actually really excited about this project because, in the beginning, my art was always very experience-based. In some projects, there’s not even a tangible product, no object that comes out in the end. I feel that, by 1997, I was doing a lot of international exhibitions; and doing that, I felt like I was getting more and more towards the fabrication end of things, which was great. But I was also losing having these really wonderful experiences which are completely unpredictable, like setting up a scenario where I test some living situation—partially because I’m terrified of doing it, partially because I’m really enchanted by the idea of doing it—but not really knowing beforehand if it’s going to be a great experience or a horrible one.

So, in a way, this is probably one of the most extreme scenarios I’ve ever put myself into. I’m nervous about living in it next summer because there are a lot of structural problems, too. But in some ways, instead of those actually being flaws with the artwork, I think they make it a lot more exciting. We’ve even (LAUGHS) been laughing about the potential that it could sink, which could be really great, because I’ve never been on an island while it sinks.

ART21: What are you doing about the more practical things, like food, et cetera?

ZITTEL: I’ve been working on this idea for such a long time that it’s evolved a lot. My original proposal was that I would live on this island alone, out in the ocean, and that they would drop me off in some current of water that was going some place that I wanted to end up, with a life raft, of course, and with some communication. I think I have this love-hate thing about being completely passive; I’ve been so busy and had to be so responsible for the last few years that I really wanted to spend a period of my life being completely passive. Unfortunately, nobody will accept that proposal. So, our compromise is that it’s going to be anchored in this body of land in between Denmark and Sweden, as far out as I can convince them to put me. And the weather’s a lot worse there than I originally anticipated, so I think I’ve reduced the living time to a month.

ART21: How does this work relate to some of your other projects, like the Living Unit?

ZITTEL: Some of the other experimental living situations I’ve come up with have been extremely practical, and this one has a lot more to do with my own total fantasy. I think this is a situation that I’ve fantasized about for years, even wanting just to stay at home all the time and never have to go out. So, it’s an experimental living situation, but it’s not utopian, or quite as idealistic as other ones that it might relate to, historically. I think that, like all of my ideas, they’re sort of humorous, but they’re also a little dark at the same time. It’s like I have this fantasy of being completely autonomous and independent and at peace, not having any of the day-to-day problems. But then there’s also this sense of isolation that comes along with it.


Treasure of Lima: A Buried Exhibition Curated by Nadim Samman

Marina Abramovic, Doug Aitken, Darren Almond, Aranda/Lasch, Julius von Bismarck, Angela Bulloch, Los Carpinteros, Julian Charriere, Phil Collins, Constant Dullaart, Olafur Eliasson, Michael Esposito, Oscar Figueroa, John Gerrard, Kai Grehn, Noemie Goudal, Carl Michael von Hausswolff, Alex Hoda, Pierre Huyghe, Antti Laitinen, Sharon Lockhart, Lucia Madriz, Carsten Nicolai, Olaf Nicolai, Raymond Pettibon, Finnbogi Petursson, Lari Pittman, Jon Rafman, Andrew Ranville, Matthew Ritchie, Ed Ruscha, Hans Schabus, Chicks on Speed, Daniel Steegmann, Ryan Trecartin, Suzanne Treister, Janaina Tschäpe, Chris Watson, Lawrence Weiner, Jana Winderen


Thyssen-Bornemisza Art Contemporary Academy is pleased to announce a major new site-specific exhibition on Isla del Coco, 550 kilometres off the coast of Costa Rica. Treasure of Lima: A Buried Exhibition engages the narrative and legal identity of Isla del Coco, contrasting historical legends of buried treasure with the island’s real status a natural treasure worthy of protection. In so doing the project embellishes the ‘treasure island’ imaginary by interrogating models of spectatorship and property rights, while venturing the question ‘How can an exhibition create its own legend?’


An intervention on Isla del Coco – the paradigmatic ‘treasure island’: A vacuum sealed container containing numerous artworks by leading artists, buried at a secret location and left behind. This ‘exhibition architecture’ (a contemporary treasure chest) is a new commission by New York based architects Aranda/Lasch, designed to maintain the physical integrity of works (including works on paper, sculpture, LP vinyls, digital video and audio files) underground or below water to a depth of 6.7 kilometers.

The GPS coordinates (or ‘map’) of the exhibition location have been logged at the site of burial. These coordinates will now be digitally encrypted and the resulting data given a physical form – by the Dutch artist Constant Dullaart and his collaborator, German cryptographer Michael Wege.

This physical ‘map’ has been sold at auction on November 13, 2014, encased within a second edition of the treasure chest. Proceeds will be donated to the marine protection of Isla del Coco under the auspices of the ACMIC (Area de Conservation Marina Isla Del Coco). These funds will be specifically earmarked for a sustainable research and conservation project devised by TBA21-Academy in collaboration with our local partner FAICO (La Fundación Amigos de la Isla del Coco).

The auction process took place at PHILLIPS, New York on November 13, 2014. The buyer takes receipt of the ‘map‘ without the decryption key, along with the chest.


Isla del Coco is the historical source of many foundational legends relating to buried treasure. The best known of the treasure legends tied to the island is that of the Treasure of Lima: In 1820, with the army of José de San Martín approaching Lima, Viceroy José de la Serna entrusted the treasure from the city to British trader Captain William Thompson for safekeeping until the Spaniards could secure the country. Instead of waiting in the harbor as they were instructed Thompson and his crew killed the Viceroy’s men and sailed to Cocos, where they buried the treasure. Shortly afterwards, they were apprehended by a Spanish warship. All of the crew bar Thompson and his first mate were executed for piracy. The two said they would show the Spaniards where they had hidden the treasure in return for their lives – but after landing on Cocos they escaped away into the forest.

Hundreds of attempts to find treasure on the island have failed. Several early expeditions were mounted on the basis of claims by a man named Keating, who was supposed to have befriended Thompson. On one trip, Keating was said to have retrieved gold and jewels from the treasure. Prussian adventurer August Gissler lived on the island for most of the period from 1889 until 1908, hunting the treasure with the small success of finding six gold coins.


An exhibition that might only ever be virtually accessed (through documentation, narrative etc.), but which could – in principle, though not without a great deal of effort and luck – be experienced/uncovered first hand: The real entombed within a virtual crypt(ography) and an actual buried treasure.

A challenge to the practice of ownership: Purchasing the (encrypted) map may afford the buyer a better chance of accessing the exhibition than other persons. However, it does not legally or practically guarantee their priority. Does it underwrite an ownership claim on the artworks contained in the box? Auctioning a digital file is also a challenge to the preeminence of the physical object in the art market.

The exhibition title Treasure of Lima highlights the maritime and colonial history of Central America. The original Treasure of Lima consisted of precious metals and artifacts requisitioned by the Spanish from their Central and South American dominions. Though ‘stolen’ from them by Thompson, their legitimate ownership of the trove is disputable. The project’s concern with pseudo-ownership echoes this problematic history.

By adding a new treasure to Isla del Coco the regulations restricting human access to this protected area (on ecological grounds) are highlighted. The project challenges these regulations: In order for the exhibition to be experienced in real life (by the map holder or other ‘treasure’ seekers) access must be had. This will only be possible if the protection laws are abolished or if their enforcement fails. The recovery of the buried treasure (trash?) will then mark the loss of greater (natural) bounty. Perhaps this project represents an attempt to bury our hubris.

Burying a contemporary treasure on Isla del Coco is more than an incursion within a geographical location. It is an intervention within the narrative and legal construction of a place. Stories relating to historical events on Isla del Coco have developed into legend, inspired novels and genre fantasies for more than a century. If, as some argue, the Treasure of Lima was never buried on Isla del Coco then perhaps this project can breathe new life into the utopian function of treasure fantasies and secret knowledge.

The following questions guide our enterprise: How can a scheme for an exhibition add to this imaginary while interrogating and challenging models of spectatorship, audience, ownership etc.? How can it create its own legend?


The ‘treasure chest’ is made of inert natural material that will not harm the environment that it is buried in. The burial was be supervised by a biologist proposed by the national park authorities – to ensure that we do not disturb native flora or fauna. The location of which will remain absolutely secret.


Roger Palmer contributes a brief on his latest book 'Phosphorescence' to the Nauru Project

Roger Palmer’s book, Phosphorescence (Fotohof edition, Salzburg / WAX366, Glasgow, 2014), examines tropical landscapes, vernacular buildings, and industrial zones in the Republic of Nauru. 47 colour photographs document publicly accessible spaces of Nauru under different daylight conditions. Beginning at sunrise and ending shortly before sunset, the sequence presents a chronology of changing light values encountered close to the equator.
Phosphorescence was part of the Glasgow 2014 Cultural Programme and supported through the 20 for 14 awards for individual artists to create work inspired by the unique cultural social, political and historical contexts of the Commonwealth and Glasgow’s hosting of the XX Commonwealth Games. The book includes an introductory text by the artist. This is presented below followed by a selection of photographs from the project. The full sequence can be viewed at:

A fluorescence that persists after the bombarding radiation
producing it has stopped. (Collins English Dictionary)

The Republic of Nauru lies 60 km south of the equator in the western Pacific Ocean. Occupying 21 km² and with a population of fewer than 10,000, Nauru is the world’s smallest island nation. In the late 19th century, Nauru was claimed as a colony by Germany. After World War One, it became a League of Nations Mandate with Australia, New Zealand and the UK as trustees. During World War Two the island was occupied by Japanese troops. Nauru became an independent republic in 1968.
Over the past 100 years Nauru’s economy has comprised a period of extraordinary industrial wealth followed by rapid post-industrial decline. In 1910 rich phosphate deposits were discovered on the island. The phosphate may have been formed from seabird guano or other organic matter trapped between the raised limestone coral pinnacles of the island’s interior. Several decades of phosphate mining provided Nauru with a source of considerable wealth. At the time of independence, its standard of living was among the world’s highest, and as a welfare state it provided free healthcare and education. Most of the mining profits were, however, quickly dissipated and Nauru was deprived of its primary income source when phosphate deposits were largely exhausted. Much of the island’s landscape was left stripped and devastated.
In 2002, Nauru’s economy was supplemented by Australian aid in exchange for constructing offshore Refugee Processing Centres (RPCs) on the island. This was part of Australia’s Pacific Solution policy of transporting asylum seekers to detention facilities on island nations in the Pacific Ocean, rather than allowing them to land on Australian soil. After a period of closure in 2008, the Australian Government re-adopted the Pacific Solution and the Nauru refugee camps were re-opened in 2012. As well as providing employment for Nauru citizens, the RPCs are staffed by Australians, many of who pass through the tiny airport on three-weekly rotations from Brisbane. In 2014, small numbers of refugees who have been granted temporary residence after lengthy periods held in the camps now live in portable housing compounds on the island.
With a hot, humid climate and an acute lack of space for cultivation, post-industrial Nauru has fresh produce only when a shipment arrives by sea or air. Pollution from mining has also led to the depletion of fish stocks in surrounding waters. The small supermarkets on the island primarily offer canned, packaged and frozen foods, as do the numerous, mostly Chinese operated, local convenience stores; the many small Chinese restaurants also rely on these products.
Most public facilities are situated close to the 19 km loop road that follows the island’s coastline and to a spur road that encircles a freshwater lagoon. On the ravaged and inhospitable interior plateau known as Topside, some phosphate mining has resumed close to the high security RPC camps. Here, on gravel roads, mini-buses transport employees and detainees between RPC facilities and trucks carry boulders or crushed rock to a phosphate stockpile and a dilapidated processing plant. A conveyor belt system is used to transfer processed phosphate directly into the holds of ships anchored offshore.
I stayed at the Menen Hotel, one of only two on Nauru, for 18 days. Cycling the island’s roads each day in fierce tropical heat, I was warmly received by Nauruans everywhere, with the exception of areas close to the RPC facilities where Australian security staff suspected me of being a visiting photo-journalist (earlier in 2014, increasing media attention on the plight of refugee detainees was followed a 4000% rise in visa application fees for visiting journalists).
My visit to Nauru as a guest artist was timed to coincide with the hosting of the XX Commonwealth Games in my home city of Glasgow, Scotland, and The Glasgow 2014 Cultural Programme, a nationwide cultural celebration accompanying The Games. Sports facilities on Nauru are poor: I saw one severely rutted Australian Rules football field, two tennis courts and two gyms. Nevertheless, as with every other edition of the Games since 1990, an athlete from Nauru, the smallest nation of the Commonwealth, won a medal in Glasgow.
Perhaps the most popular exercise facility is the airport runway. Each day, after the plane has left, it assumes an alternative function as an evening recreation area. On the other side of the island, Nauruans, Australians, and groups of refugees with temporary residence status arrive before dusk to swim in Anibare Bay Community Boat Harbour. Here, in warm and sheltered waters, a possible future for a post-colonial, post-industrial Nauru might be imagined.
Roger Palmer, Glasgow 2014

Roger Palmer, 'Phosphoresence 3', 2014
Roger Palmer. 'Phosphorescence 10', 2014
Roger Palmer, 'Phosphorescence 15', 2014
Roger Palmer, 'Phosphorescence 20', 2014
Roger Palmer, 'Phosphorescence 23', 2014
Roger Palmer, 'Phosphorescence 29', 2014
Roger Palmer, 'Phosphorescence 36', 2014
Roger Palmer, 'Phosphorescence 45', 2014

Bastoy Prison, Norway; The world's kindest prison

While this Norwegian island was once home to a brutal reform school that eventually led to a youth riot, it is now the site of the first "ecological" prison for hardened criminals. Just under 50 miles off the coast of Norway's capitol city of Oslo is tiny Bastøy Island, more accurately known as Bastøy Prison which has a legacy of incarceration going back over a century during which the conditions have vacillated from brutality that triggered a revolt of young boys to the present humane commune of criminals. Like San Francisco's Alcatraz, Bastøy Island proved to be a prime spot for incarceration where the natural sea barrier prevented any escape. Thus in 1900 the Bastøy boys home opened on the island and began taking in wayward young men to be reconditioned in the isolated environs. The conditions in the institution were stark and the punishment for misbehavior was draconian even by the standards of the few outsiders who visited the island. The poor treatment came to a head in 1915 when a group of boys tried to escape and when they were caught, the rest of the youths rioted, burning down a barn in the process. It took the intervention of the Norwegian military who deployed troops to the island to bring the boys in line. Unfortunately the riot changed little and the boys home remained in operation until 1970. Once the boy's home was closed, the island was converted to a minimum-security prison that took a more humanistic approach to prison life. In Bastøy Prison, which still operates in the same conscientious manner today, the inmates are treated as part of a community. They are given jobs which they must perform, but they are also given downtime and the limited freedom to roam the island. They are roomed in well appointed cabins and fed meals prepared by a professional chef. And these are not minor offenders either. Among the over 100 inmates living on Bastøy Island are rapists, murderers, and drug smugglers. Many have raised an eyebrow at providing such an experience and calling it punishment, but only 16% of prisoners released from Bastøy Prison end up reoffending compared to Europe's general average of 70%. The prison also sets out to be ecologically aware by having the prisoners care for the natural habitat of the island as well. In a 2012 CNN article the prison governor summed up the philosophy nicely: "If we have created a holiday camp for criminals here, so what? We should reduce the risk of reoffending, because if we don't, what's the point of punishment, except for leaning toward the primitive side of humanity? Source: Atlas Obscura: http://www.atlasobscura.com/places/bastoy-prison?utm_source=Atlas+Obscura&utm_campaign=8bd0f4a517-Newsletter_02_24_152_23_2015&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_62ba9246c0-8bd0f4a517-60266573&ct=t(Newsletter_02_24_152_23_2015)&mc_cid=8bd0f4a517&mc_eid=9ffbf936c3