In time for the 2012 Cultural Olympaid, the UK will spend £5.4 million on 12 Artiste-led projects across the country. It was a great funding opportunity for artistes, and 2163 proposals were submitted out of which 59 were shortlisted. The winning project for the South West region will see the artiste, Alex Hartley, towing a piece of Nymark, a newly discovered island off the coast of Norway to the southern coast of England. It will apply for micronation status, apply for citizens, and try to out-populate the Vatican and Monaco before being towed back at the end of the project. The new nation will be liquidated (or whatever it is that happens to countries at the end of their life) There will be no rubble left over to blight the lovely seaside.
The project is called Nowhereisland and hopes to help us question ‘the meaning of nationhood in a globalised society’. There are also the usual scapegoats to be highlighted: global warming and so on. (Alex discovered the island in the middle of a melting glacier). But… er, it will also cost five hundred thousand pounds. And it doesn’t have a carbon footprint so much as a foot stomp violent enough to swamp a few tiny islands elsewhere; especially if this breeds copycat countrymakings around the world.
In this increasingly philistine world anything that brings a little more money into culture is clearly a good thing. And obviously there is no sense pining for the days when ‘art’ signified a nice little oil painting hanging on the wall. Performance ephemera is as valid an artform as any. Every project has to be judged – and appreciated – on its own merits.
Yet one cannot help wishing – at the risk of creating another bureaucratic monstrosity – that one final department could be created in government: a Minstry of Common Sense, whose minister would have the statutory power to shoot down silly ideas anywhere they pop up. This is not the time to spend half a million pounds towing pieces of rock to and from Norway. – Unless we can find a large enough piece to dock off the coast of Gaza…
All right, I don’t know the details of the project. I may well like it so much that I tear up my Nigerian passport and sign up as a citizen of Nowherenation. But everyone has a right to fall in – or out of – love at first sight.
& from where I’m standing just now, I don’t like this one.