Artist Xavier Cortada spoke at the TED Countdown event hosted in London, England on Monday, October 3rd, 2022. He talked about using socially engaged art as a tool for engaging, educating, and mobilizing communities around climate action. The TED Talk will likely be published online in December 2022.
TED Countdown is about amplifying and supporting climate voices and ideas with a bias towards solutions. This session heard from leaders about forests and soil (Colin Averill), climate justice (Jade Begay), carbon removals and how to finance them (Stacy Kauk, Jan Wurzbacher), urban carbon budgeting and policies (Heidi Sørensen), the floods in Pakistan, loss and reparation and climate diplomacy (Huma Yusuf), energy efficiency in buildings (Ksenia Petrichenko), the future of food (George Monbiot), art as a tool for engaging communities (Xavier Cortada), plus a music performance (of a climate-related song, by MyVerse and Kristen Warren) and a preview of an upcoming climate film.
Xavier Cortada Professor of Practice: Artist at the University of Miami Interests: Global Climate Change, Social Engagement, Environment
Xavier Cortada is Professor of Practice: Artist at the University of Miami as a faculty member of the Department of Art and Art History. He has exhibited his work in museums, galleries and cultural venues across the Americas, Europe, Africa and Antarctica—and locally at the Miami Art Museum, the Bass Museum of Art, the Miami Science Museum and the Historical Museum of Southern Florida.
Recent group shows include the Boulder Museum of Contemporary Art in Colorado (2007), the Nobel Peace Center in Oslo, Norway (2007), the BOZAR Center for Fine Arts in Brussells, Belgium (2007), and the Ministry of Culture in Monaco (2008). Please visit www.cortada.com/calendar.htm for details.
Cortada has created art for the White House, the World Bank, the Florida Supreme Court, and the Museum of Florida History. In his hometown, Cortada’s commissioned work hangs in City Hall, County Hall, and the facade of the Juvenile Courthouse.
Cortada has worked with groups across the world to produce numerous large-scale murals and community art projects, including: environmental installations on Miami Beach and the South Pole. International AIDS Conference murals in Switzerland and South Africa, peace murals in Northern Ireland and Cyprus, and child welfare murals in Panama and Bolivia.
In 2007, as a recipient of the National Science Foundation Antarctic Artists and Writers Program, he created site-specific installations at the South Pole. In June 2008, through the fiscal sponsorship of the New York Foundation for the Arts, Cortada will travel to the North Pole to install some of these pieces there.
Cortada holds three degrees from the University of Miami – a Bachelor of Arts, Master of Public Administration and Juris Doctor. The Cuban-American artist’s work and writings are preserved in the Xavier Cortada Collection of the University of Miami Libraries Cuban Heritage Collection.
"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 water’s 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. "
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