The Clipperton Project (4 stars)

An uninhabited island becomes an idea at the 2012 Edinburgh Art Festival

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The Clipperton Project

Clipperton is an uninhabited island in the Pacific Ocean southwest of Mexico. To a group of modern day expeditionaries this island has also become an idea. In March this year 20 artists and scientists from eight different countries embarked on a three-week journey to this isolated French atoll where they researched the strange ring-shaped island that completely encloses a freshwater lagoon. If every man is an island, to them Clipperton became a mirror for viewing an inner world. The Clipperton project then allows this remote place to become a catalyst for asking pertinent questions about the links between local and global issues.

The exhibition at GSS acts as an entry point into the expedition, but also as a starting point for further discussions with new participants through a series of events. Set up as a laboratory rather than a finished exhibition it showcases a collection of photographs, installations, sculptures, an underwater camera, footage, a library, video screenings and invasive plants. Where scientists aim to reveal without ambiguity and artists aim to always keep something hidden, this project allows for cross fertilisation on ways to communicate.

One of the artists, Charles Engebretsen from Scotland, said: ‘Standing under the relentless sun surrounded by man-made items paints the perfect scene of a post-apocalyptic world. Our desires for luxury, information, war and survival are all contained in the debris of this one atoll.’ His work for the exhibition entitled ‘CaCO3’ is reminiscent of a beautiful colony of grey barnacles spread across the wall. On closer inspection one realises that it is made out of small pockets of cement that he has cast in plastic bags. Combining two of the most destructive materials on our planet, his work talks about surface beauty and the wars on our oceans through relentless fishing, underwater explosives destroying marine life ecosystems.

Herein lies the magic of the Clipperton project. It is an idea. It does not claim to have a quick fix solution, it does not tell you what to do or who to give money to, rather it aims to provide a consciousness shifting springboard from which to approach challenging debates relating to social, environmental and political issues of global relevance, in a manageable fashion, at home.

Glasgow Sculpture Studios, until Sat 20 Oct

The Clipperton Project

Work emerging from the Clipperton Project, an arts and environment project exploring the effects of human activities on the world's most remote places. A group of artists undertook a journey to an uninhabited French atoll in March 2012; the resulting work is on display, accompanied by a busy programme of events and…

Elsewhere on the web


1. Clipperton Island Watch14 Aug 2012, 9:06pm Report

In the July 14 edition of the Online Journal, The Journal, John Moore, a member of The Clipperton Project expedition (TCP) to the French atoll of “l’ile de la Passion” reported that “one night, the team watched huge fishing factory ship off the island using helicopters and dropping explosives to sweep the sea of fish”. The article was posted on the Clipperton Project Facebook page, thus showing that the TCP was condoning it.

Now we have the media talking about sculptor Charles Engebretsen, another member of the TCP. Allegedly, “his work talks about surface beauty and the wars on our oceans through relentless fishing, underwater explosives destroying marine life ecosystems”. Explosives again….did he see them at Clipperton too? Where is this thing coming from?

The allegations made by these members of the TCP that Mexican fishing companies fishing tuna at Clipperton are using explosives “a night” are pretty serious and could lead to major economical and political backlash for Mexico. Using explosives is illegal and fishing at night is illegal too.

The IATTC could investigate and sanction the two companies reported by the TCP as fishing there –Pescas Aztecas and Maratun-. Also, the French government could use these reports I forwarded to them to investigate the matter and reconsider or cancel the ten year fishing permit for the Clipperton tuna given to Mexico in 2007.

These are serious allegations made late in the game by the TCP. Hopefully they have already reported in time these serious violations by Mexican boats to the French authorities and hopefully, these high tech scientists and artists took pictures and filmed the events. After all, they had lots of video equipment and will soon release a movie. It would be a pity if they failed to film the use of explosives to fish tuna.

By the way, the aerial views of the island on their Youtube movie trailer were reportedly made using one of these helicopters above mentioned, helicopter they got to use after being friendly with the captain of a fishing boat found in the French territorial waters, literally fishing the reefs.

2. Underhemp Balloo23 Aug 2012, 5:41pm Report

Great show! I've been up twice now, second time with the family, and the kids loved it. Very rare for stuff in a gallery to excite all of us. Keep up the great work guys!! We'll all be following your progress, and the kids are manic about no longer plastic in the house. A great way to present these issues.

3. Rochelle Valentin23 Aug 2012, 5:55pm Report

Muy bien chicos. Les sigo desde Mexico, y esperamos la vuelta de la expo y todo el trabajo tan padre que estan haciendo...

Les deseo todo el exito!

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