Thursday, 22 October 2009
NOWHEREISLAND: or How to Make a New Country
This is the most ingenious idea I've heard about in ages, combining an old-fashioned Grand Gesture with modern communications. If all goes according to plan nowhereisland will become the world's first itinerant country.
The brainchild of artist Alex Hartley, nowhereisland is an art installation writ large, a project that aims to bring fantasy fiction to life. It made me think immediately of Clive King's 1970 book The Town that Went South, in which an English seaside town breaks free of the mainland and drifts out to sea. While King's island floats on the warm currents of our willing suspension of disbelief, Hartley's will be carried from the Arctic, along the British coast and into Lyme Bay on a barge.
And while King's island carries with it a built-in small-town population, Hartley's will be peopled virtually, by citizens who sign up to become inhabitants of planet Earth's newest nation. Which reminds me of another story: the wonderfully eccentric 1949 Ealing comedy Passport to Pimlico, in which this small area in the City of Westminster declares independence from the rest of Britain.
As you might guess, there are serious issues underlying nowhereisland, which will be carved from a new piece of land given up by melting Arctic ice. But it looks as though Alex Hartley might have found a way to talk about climate change in a way that is genuinely engaging and fun.