Failed States; a journal of indeterminate geographies. Issue 1: Island

“If space is … a simultaneity of stories-so-far, then places are collections of those stories” — Doreen Massey

Failed States is a journal of original writing on place, characterised by the brevity of its texts.

Contributions are less than 200 words (pithiness is encouraged) and may potentially take any form: sentence, paragraph, list, recollection, anecdote, idea, proposition, biography, review, confession, cry for help, sms, email, letter, gossip, rumour, paranoia, admonishment, review, scheme, fantasy, fable, itinerary, footnote, key, instruction, script, notation, formula, score, scavenged text, etc.

For each issue contributors are asked to respond to a broad theme: one word describing a state of terrain considered to possess qualities of amorphousness, wildness, instability, collapse, liminality, peripherality and/or delineation.

The first issue of Failed States — themed Island — will be published in September 2017 and includes texts from: Anh Do, Beth Bramich, Bryony Quinn, Cally Spooner, Calvin Seibert, Carrie Friese, Doris Ho-Kane, Eli Diner, Euan Macdonald, Fi Churchman, Gabriella Beckhurst, Isabel Taube, Jasleen Kaur, Jay Simpson, Jeremy Atherton Lin, Jesse Hewitt, Joseph Curran, Joyce Dixon, Julie Lindow, Lucy Watson, Luke O’Sullivan, Martin John Callanan, Mary Hannity, Mary Manning, Matt Connors, Matt Wolf, Monique Mouton, Niki Ford, Nina Schack Kock, Olivia Laing, Oscar Gaynor, Paul Clinton, Richard Dodwell, Sam Ashby, Sam Williams, and Thea Smith.

Failed States is a publishing project by Jamie Atherton.

The Morning Boat, Art Residency, Jersey Island

An arts residency that takes place in the heart of the local community

The morning boat is an international artist residency and laboratory for research and action. Activities will focus on local industries in Jersey that are often referred to as the foundations of the island economy – Agriculture, finance and tourism – and their impact on people’s lives. The morning boat responds to an urgent need for a reflective and meaningful public discourse on complex critical issues and real life practices that are central to the island’s economy, social fabric and way of life.

Artists will be invited to Jersey whose work is thought provoking, unforgettable, accessible to its audience and sensitive to the context in which it is presented. Projects will be developed specifically for the island of Jersey, responding to its unique character and narrative. Work will take place in public spaces and every-day working environments, in collaboration with the local community.
Thematic focus for 2017 and 2018

Agriculture and fisheries

Working together with farmers, fishermen, seasonal workers, politicians, chefs, retailers and consumers, artists are asked to investigate and respond to the locally grown, caught, gathered and reared food chain. They will explore the past, present and future implications of agricultural practices in Jersey. They will interact with and respond to existing infrastructures, farming practices, social structures, economic conditions and the products themselves.

Farming may no longer be the largest economic sector of the island economy, but it is the oldest. Farming and fishing have been an integral part of island life for hundreds of years, repeatedly reinventing themselves in response to market changes or political upheaval; from cider and sheep farming, to potatoes and dairy, oysters and lobsters.

As the islands demographic and economy has changed, an increasing proportion of the population are less connected with the rural economy. The morning boat hopes to bring the community together to engage with the lives of individuals involved in local production and the complex interconnected issues that affect, or are affected by, their work.
Working with and for the local community

The morning boat aims to be an arts residency that takes place in the heart of the local community, from the research that is undertaken, through to the public presentation of the work.

At the start of each residency artists will be paired with local experts and employees, to conduct first-hand research and develop an understanding towards industry practices, working environments, concerns and challenges. This experience provides the starting point and inspiration for continued research and the creation of new work that interacts with existing infrastructures and reimagines daily routines.

The morning boat aims to generate a broad debate representing a range of different positions, to create a common language and mutual understanding that has a sustained impact on future decision making within the community. Our audience will not be confined to those with an interest in contemporary art, as we take projects into farm sheds, supermarket aisles, fields, on board boats, or on beaches – to engage, challenge and inspire all parts of society.

The core of the programme presents work developed by artists invited to Jersey. This will be accompanied by a series of smaller events conceived by local artists and the curatorial team. Where appropriate we will offer educational institutions an opportunity to engage with the process, while a series of public talks accompany the programme.

DINH Q. LÊ : THE COLONY (2016) SITE GALLERY commissioned and produced by Artangel

Preview: Friday 2 September, 6 – 8pm

Immersing the viewer in panoramic scenes of timeless and desolate islands, Dinh Q. Lê’s new film installation The Colony gradually reveals a sublime landscape with a complex history; set in the Chincha Islands off the coast of Peru, the rocky home to an enormous colony of birds.
By the middle of the 19th century the islands had become mountains of guano. A potent fertiliser, guano quickly became one of the world’s most valuable natural resources. British merchants controlled its trade, using indentured Chinese labourers working under brutal conditions. War was triggered by Spanish, American and Peruvian forces scrambling for control of the islands and in 1856, the US Congress Guano Act enabled it to seize uninhabited islands around the world. The advent of chemical fertilisers saw the islands re-colonised by birds. Architectural traces of the conflicted past remain in ruins.
The islands have not been permanently inhabited for more than a century, but labourers return to harvest the guano by hand every few years. Accompanied by Daniel Wohl’s elegiac soundtrack, Lê films from a boat approaching the islands, cameras on the ground and drones circling above to capture a bleak landscape haunted by its brutal past.
The Colony is part of The Artangel Collection, an initiative to bring outstanding film and video works, commissioned and produced by Artangel, to galleries and museums across the UK. The Artangel Collection has been developed in partnership with Tate, is generously supported by the Esmée Fairbairn Foundation and The Foyle Foundation and uses public funding from Arts Council England.

Experimental Education Protocol Residency curated by Angelo Plessas, Sterna Residencies, Nisyros Island

10 / 7 - 20 / 8 /2016
Experimental Education Protocol
Curated by: Angelo Plessas
Participants: Sepake Angiama, Andreas Angelidakis, Agnieszka Gratza, Oliver Laric, Quinn Latimer, Arvo Leo, Mia Lundstrom, Paolo Thorsen- Nagel, Garrett Nelson, Angelo Plessas

The “Experimental Education Protocol” is a new alternative education model based on joint experiential learning. It brings together and navigates through different views, personalities and approaches so that the participants learn from one another to produce work.
The Sterna organization invites Angelos Plessas and eight more artists and curators to create works through a new practice, a new “Experimental Education Protocol” at the Baths of Nisyros. For the second time the historical building becomes a point of meeting and creativity, contributing its own aura of collective life and coexistence.
Angelos Plessas proposes this new method to the participants so that it takes shape according to their experiences —their conscious— but also according to their mood — the unconscious. It is an experiment whose very nature requires experiential information, since the nine participants bring their ideas, observations and concerns with which to experiment with the experiential; an experiment in content and procedure where each person’s individual empirical research makes up the joint learning, while avoiding the rules of hierarchy or any academic educational approach.
At the same time the process of this experimental education will be open to the public. All people on the island, inhabitants and visitors alike, are encouraged to become part of this experiential and empirical condition which will contribute to the development of the project. In this sense, the content of the “Experimental Education Protocol” is infinite.
The exhibition will be accompanied by a bilingual publication featuring the works created as part of the project as well as theoretical texts by the participants. Additionally, the catalogue will serve as a record of the process of the “Experimental Education Protocol” in relation with the island and the Baths.

Meetings 10 - 21 July daily at 11:00 - participation is free of charge
Opening 21 July at 20:30 with a performance by the participating artists
Exhibition duration 22 July - 20 August daily 18:00-21:00 - entrance free
Baths of Mandraki

Sterna Art Projects/Residencies, Nisyros Island Greece

Lofoten International Art Festival, Norwegian Archipelago

LIAF presents works by international artists in a local and site-specific context and seeks to be an open, experimental and including meeting place for artists, audience and locals.

Lofoten International Art Festival (LIAF) was first initiated in 1991, as a local art exhibition with a broad range of expressions and with a regional profile. From 1999, the festival was given an international profile changing the name to Lofoten International Art Festival, and since 2009, the festival has been run by The North Norwegian Art Center (NNKS) and LIAF’s artistic advisory board.

LIAF presents works by international artists in a local and site-specific context and seeks to be an open, experimental and including meeting place for artists, audience and locals. LIAF acknowledges the complexity of place and seeks to be a discursive, engaged and social platform for different positions creating dialogue between the local and global. The prospect of developing and discovering new knowledge and understanding through art is the core of the festival. LIAF is not connected to a permanent location or space, but is invented anew every time by infiltrating and moving into already existing structures: Everything from a garage, a library, a shed, a bunker, a fish drying rack, a private house, a shop or an old warehouse. New curators also develop the festival every time, with diverse backgrounds, ideas and practices and in different ways bringing the familiar and unfamiliar together. By insisting on this open and experimental approach, we believe LIAF can be a place for exchange and involvement on multitude levels, every time revealing new things about our world and ourselves.

LIAF has taken place eight times since 1999 presenting artists like Gillian Wearing, Lawrence Weiner, AK Dolven, Ken Lum, Olafur Eliasson, Mari Slaattelid, Elmgren & Dragseth, Gardar Eide Einarsson, Pipilotti Rist, Geir Tore Holm, Eija Liisa Athila, Jesper Just, Amar Kanwar, Tori Wrånes, Michel Auder, Kjersti Andvig, John Giorno, Lene Berg, Lindsay Seers, David Horvitz, Mahmoud Khaled, HC Gilje, Karl Larsson, Shilpa Gupta, István Csácány, Lisa Tan and many more.

LIAF curators have been Tor Inge Kveum, Per Gunnar Tverbakk, Vibeke Sjøvoll, Gry Ulrichsen, Göran Christenson, Maaretta Jaukkuri, Taru Elfving, Richard Borgström, Helga-Marie Nordby, Thora Dolven Balke, Linn Pedersen, Anne Szefer Karlsen, Bassam El Baroni, Eva González-Sancho, Arne Skaug Olsen and Matt Packer.

METASITU at Metamatic TAF, Athens presents "Are we moving?"

METASITU presents the Summer Exhibition at Metamatic TAF, "Are we Moving?"
In January 2016 eight artists, a Captain and an expedition organizer made an attempt to reach the World’s most remote human inhabited place, the British Overseas territory of Tristan da Cunha. This remote community in the middle of the South Atlantic Ocean can only be reached by boat from either the Brazilian or the South African coasts, after approximately seven to ten days of sailing from either. We never made it to the island...

The exhibition presents a unique mix of art works commissioned for the exhibition from the eight expedition participants - Liva Dudareva, Eduardo Cassina, Dominika Hadelova, Dominic Hinde, Nat Searle, Josefina Muñoz, Alvaro Padilla Vargas and Luis Carlos Hurtado Central Sureste dealing with both physical and metaphysical notion of island. A catharsis and a reflection on failure, banality and isolation.

Location: metamatic:taf
metamatic:taf is a pioneering cultural and digital centre in Athens. As well as a vibrant online cultural platform in Greece. It has a dual role of an independent space organizing and hosting cultural events related to all forms of artistic production and a point of social gathering for people bearing a new Athenian identity. Within just seven years of operation it has become an active space of sociability, in which everyone is welcome to attend, participate or watch events, an open space of assembly and dialogue, accessible to the public, seven days a week, all year round.

metamatic:taf vision for the period 2016 - 2017
For the period 2016 - 2017 metamatic:taf is collaborating with METASITU as their Artistic Directors with a goal to create an accessible platform for cultural and knowledge production, mainly through the use of different formats and radical programming aiming for a deep engagement with the audience.
Curators: METASITU

METASITU is an art collective founded in 2014 by Eduardo Cassina and Liva Dudareva. Their practice is research-based, highly mobile and trans-disciplinary, relying on the transnational networks, virtual and physical, where they draw inspiration and fascination from. METASITU often finds solutions by shifting existing paradigms and subverting existing behaviors; re-directing existing systems towards other ends, rather than direct physical or design interventions of colossal scales.

- beyond place -

LABVERDE: art immersion programme in the Amazon

Art immersion program in the Amazon
September 15–24, 2016

Registration deadline: June 15

LABVERDE is an unforgettable and deep experience in the Amazon rainforest for artists from all over the world.

LABVERDE aims to help cultural makers understand and reflect on one of the main natural areas of the planet.

The journey starts with a boat trip and it gets deeper in an ecological reserve in the heart of the Amazon region, allowing a selected group of artists to explore different scales and perspectives of the rainforest along with the mediation of specialists in art, humanities, biology, ecology and natural science.

Life experience and theory will be integrated into ten days of intensive activities. A schedule of expeditions, lectures, workshops, presentations and seminars will enhance creativity, having nature as a common ground.

Among other themes, the participants will find out about landscape representation, nature art appropriation, innovative solutions for a sustainable economy, climate change and environmental impacts, forest sonority, local community extractivism culture, wild edible plants, entomology, natural history of organisms, fragmented areas in the Amazon and dendrochronology in the Amazon.

The network exchanges and the knowledge sets throughout the program will be an opportunity to develop innovative cultural content. After the program, participants will be able to improve their own creative discourses, identify natural environmental problems and solutions, and reflect on the role of art in influencing ecological behavior.

What is the LABVERDE program?
It is a ten-day immersion in the Amazon rainforest to explore the connection between nature, art and science.

Where is the program going to happen?
The journey will take place in two main research centers: Ecological Reserve and Floating Research Station in the center of the Amazon region.

Who can register?
Visual artists, architects, musicians, writers, dancers and other cultural makers.

How many people can participate?
Only 15 participants will be selected.

How to apply?
Candidates have to fill the application form at and send the following documents:
–250-word bio
–500-word description of a creative project idea
–5 to 10 image portfolio

When is the dead line?
Registration will take place until June 15.

How much does the program cost and what is included?
The fee is USD 1,900. Accommodation, meals and transfers are included.

What if I cannot afford the program?
Artists are encouraged to request grants in their countries of residence or birth. Communication letters can be designed and offered as needed to the applicants. LABVERDE will also select two artists to participate in the program free of charge based on their artistic merit. To apply for this grant, participants must include a letter of motivation when registering for the program.

Who are the organizers?
LABVERDE has been designed by a multidisciplinary team of highly qualified international professionals from Manifesta Art and Culture and The National Institute of Amazonian Research (INPA). A world reference in tropical biology, INPA conducts research, surveys and inventories of fauna and flora, and investigates the sustainable use of natural resources in the Amazon (

Lilian Fraiji, / T +55 92 99988 1301 (Brazil)

Island Hopping - The 2016 Setouchi Triennale

From this week onwards a small cluster of islands in Japan’s Seto Inland Sea will host its third international art festival. The 2016 Setouchi Triennale will run for a total of 108 days, and is expected to receive upwards of a million visitors, along with over one hundred new artworks joining the permanent installations already dotted across the archipelago.

Twelve islands in total will be taking part, along with Uno Port on mainland Honshu and the town of Takamatsu (known by fans of Haruki Murakami as the setting of Kafka on the Shore) on nearby Shikoku. This year’s thematic focus looks both inward and outward: paying particular attention to local Setouchi cuisine and traditions alongside ‘cultural exchange among Asian countries that are connected by the sea.

While the Triennale originally began as summer event, it has now extended into ‘a journey through the seasons’, running from March 20th to April 17th, July 18th to September 4th, and October 8th to November 6th. This attention to the distinct qualities of each season is distinctly Japanese, and is much utilised by its tourism industry; the arrival corridors of Tokyo Narita airport are lined with a quadriptych of cherry blossoms, a sun-topped Mount Fuji, fiery maple foliage and Hokkaido snow slopes. While the Setouchi archipelago may not be able to provide Mount Fuji and northern snow, the islands possess their own natural charms, with secluded beaches and woodland hemmed in by clear blue sea.

The islands have not always been such a natural idyll; in the 1960s and 70s the area faced problems with illegal dumping of industrial waste and it is only relatively recently that this widespread practice has been tackled by Japanese authorities. In addition to these ecological obstructions, the region has also had to cope with the dehabilitating effects of depopulation and the isolation of its aging communities, leaving a once busy and industrious area struggling to stay afloat.

Events like the Triennale are part of an ongoing movement to counter this downturn with the transformation of the area into a haven of artistic activity and production. This movement began in the mid-1980s, and has grown into a network of art activities, museums and installations crisscrossing the Seto Inland Sea. Naoshima, Setouchi’s main island and capital of sorts, is the project’s birthplace, and the islands involved are collectively referred to as ‘Benesse Art Site Naoshima’. Initiated in 1985 by a meeting between the Major of Naoshima and the president of Fukutake Publishing (now Benesse Corporation), the project’s goal was to transform the Setouchi area into a cultural and educational hub, attracting visitors from all over the world. Promoting the natural beauty of the islands was a focus from the beginning, with art becoming the project’s principal focus as it evolved throughout the 80s and 90s.

From these ecologically focused roots came the Naoshima International Camp, overseen by architect Tadao Ando, which invited visitors to stay in beachside Mongolian yurts beneath the watchful eye of Karen Appel’s totem-like Frog and Cat sculpture. Three years later came the hilltop Benesse House Museum, a museum-cum-hotel also designed by Ando and ‘based on the concept of coexistence among nature, architecture, and art’. In the late 90s, after a successful outdoor exhibition called ‘Out of Bounds’ featuring Yayoi Kusama’s yellow spotted pumpkin (perched on a pier beside the Benesse House hill, it has become an icon for the project), the project began to focus on site-specific artworks. This lead to the ongoing ‘Art House’ installations in the Naoshima’s Honmura District, where abandoned houses are transformed from the inside out by visiting artists. Since then many other installations have emerged across the islands.

In 2004 Ando continued his leading role in the Naoshima developments with the stunningly designed Chichu Museum, an underground structure lit entirely by daylight streaming in through geometric openings cut into the hillside. It houses large-scale work by James Turrell, Walter de la Mare and Claude Monet. Monet’s waterlilies hang in a vast gallery whose floor is exquisitely tiled with hundreds of tiny marble cubes, where visitors must change into white slippers upon entry.

The project leaders are keen to emphasis on the involvement of the island communities, who have participated in the installation of site-specific artworks along with working as guides and in the galleries. There are seasonal cafes, guest houses and bike rental businesses that have benefited from the steady increase of visitors, along with the resurrection of rice paddies on Teshima island that had declined when there was no one left to maintain them.
The 2016 Triennale welcomes back some familiar faces. Ando will be installing ‘Sakura no Mori’, a living cherry tree forest, and Yasuka Goto, whose arresting monochrome paintings based on local stories from Takamijima were shown in 2013, will also be contributing new work.
Shinro Ohtake returns with ‘Needle Factory’ an installation which incorporates an old ship hull found in boatyard on Uwajima. A contributor to the Art House project, Ohtake also created with Naoshima’s first bathhouse and literally immersive artwork. The I♥YU Bathhouse (“yu” = hot water in Japanese), is a mishmash of retro neon and glowing steamy windows. Having paid for a token in the colourful slot machine and duly shed their clothes, visitors will encounter pasted shunga lining the bottom of the baths and animated by the ripples of hot water, along with a veritas stuffed elephant presiding atop the wall separating men from women. International artists include Regina Silveira, a Brazilian artist whose installations play with visual illusion, and Christian Boltanski, who adds to his existing ‘Les Archives du Coeur’ on Teshima Island with a new work called ‘Animitas’, an installation of three hundred wind chimes.

The 2016 Setouchi Triennale runs from March 20th to April 17th, July 18th to September 4th, and October 8th to November 6th. The Benesse Art Site Naoshima is open to visitors all year round.

Text by Miranda Stuart


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