Through his art, Xavier Cortada attempts to reclaim Florida's fertile past. The concrete columns that hold up I-95 through downtown Miami now bear Cortada's mark: in 2004, he led volunteers in painting colorful mangrove seedlings on columns across four neighborhoods, a metaphoric re-foresting of Miami. He has elaborated on the mangrove metaphor in murals he created for Miami City Hall, the Miami-Dade County Commission Chambers, the Florida Capitol, and the Museum of Florida History.
“My work aims to challenge us to find deeper meaning in our present lives by exploring the paths of those who came before us and our relationship to the natural world.
In 2006, I created Absence of Place, a photo installation at the Miami Art Museum. In it 180 present-day images of absent Miami structures were printed on yellow-card stock and hung in plastic bags. On the wall, beneath each photo I wrote a caption of a memory generated at that site. I did so to give context to the new building at the site -- and to give the now absent building life in our collective memory.
Other pieces explore our ability to coexist with nature: In The Reclamation Project, I hung 252 mangrove seedlings (in plastic, water-filled cups) at the Bass Museum and worked with volunteers to place another 2500 across South Beach, `reclaiming` an island that once a lush coastal ecosystem thriving with mangroves. A follow-up urban reforestation eco-art effort, Native Flags, is currently being implemented through the Miami Science Museum to re-grow Miami’s native tree canopy. Both challenge us to seek ways to coexist with the nature.
In January 2007, as a National Science Foundation Antarctic Artists and Writers Program grantee, I traveled to the South Pole to create site-specific installations about our interconnectedness to one other and our planet: In The Longitudinal Installation, I arranged 24 shoes in a circle around the South Pole as a proxy for those affected by global climate change in the world above.
In the 150,000-year Journey, I used a moving ice sheet to mark time: I planted a mangrove seedling at the South Pole, embedded in the ice it will ride for 150,000 years towards the waters edge where, theoretically, it will set its roots. The piece addresses the travails of an immigrant's journey—the displacement, the solitude, the struggle to simply integrate oneself into society.
In a more universal way, the 150,000-year Journey, explores humankind as it evolves through time. It will take almost 150,000 years for this art piece to be completed. What will our world look like then? Juxtaposing Antarctica's geological time frames with human time frames (see The Markers, which uses flags to mark the movement of the ice sheet during the past 50 years, when humans first inhabited the South Pole), my art reaffirms the notion that we are simply custodians of the planet who should learn to live in harmony with nature.”
To address global climate change, Cortada has created two related works. One focuses on global awareness, the other on local action:
||During January 2008, Miami artist Xavier Cortada traveled to the South Pole to create a series of installations about our interconnectedness to one another and our planet. The project, sponsored by the National Science Foundation Artists and Writers Program included the creation of two pieces, the Longitudinal Installation (captures the voices of people affected by global climate change across every time zone) and Endangered World (depicts the imminent threat to our planet's biodiversity). In July 2008, Cortada will install these two pieces at the North Pole.|
||To engage folks locally, the Miami Science Museum is implementing The Reclamation Project, a participatory eco-art effort designed by Xavier Cortada to encourage residents to help re-grow Florida's mangrove forests and native tree canopy--one yard at a time. Reinforced through museum-exhibits, school-based programs and native-tree gardens, and community outreach efforts, the bioremediation effort also has a strong advocacy and educational component.|