Colorful tents in Antarctica.

Image: Some of the tents in Studio Orta’s Antarctica project | Studio Orta

In 2007, artists Lucy and Jorge Orta (known together as Studio Orta), journeyed to Antarctica to create a series of “social sculptures” celebrating and speaking about the Antarctic Treaty. The five-decades-old agreement, signed by 53 nations, has maintained the southernmost continent as a nation-less territory, free of any kind of militarization or industry and will continue to do so for decades to come. (It is, however, up for review in 2048).

In that expedition, the Ortas hand-stitched more than 50 tent-like domes, each one decorated, and seeded them around the fringe of the frozen continent. The collection was called “Antarctic Village” and was the foundation and focal point of their later project, the “Antarctica World Passport Delivery Bureau,” a web-based office issuing passports to anyone who wants to be a citizen (in name only) of Antarctica.

Since 2008, the project has printed and delivered 55,000 physical “passports” in many languages. “It’s an art project, if we’re ever questioned,” says Lucy Orta when asked if they’ve ever had any government friction on the project.

In February 2016, Studio Orta has brought a retrospective of their Antarctica projects to New York City for the first time. They have joined with the Jane Lombard Gallery to display a number of their tent-sculptures and installations from “Antarctic Village” to communicate with a new audience.

Visitors to the Lombard Gallery can apply in person for the art project’s “citizenship.” “There are obligations,” says Lucy Orta of the applications. “Like agreeing to protect the environment, take account for my daily footprint and agree to help people in distress.”

Those who can’t make it to the Lombard Gallery can apply for citizenship online, but the link to get a physical copy of your Antarctic passport leads to a sold-out listing. Hopefully, they’ll be available again in the future.