Prof. Xavier Cortada
Interests: Global Climate Change, Social Engagement, Environment
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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. "
Prof. Xavier Cortada
Project: "DO NOT OPEN" a (Warning) Project about Climate Change and the World of Tomorrow
An eye opening art project, organized and lead by Prof. Xavier Cortada. Its goal is to provoke a first-hand awareness on climate change and the way it affects our life and the life of those coming after us.
a poem by Xavier Cortada
We are pioneers and runaway slaves and political refugees making new home.
In a strange place built on water.
We've witnessed destruction and loss.
But now face our greatest challenge: Water is rising and it won't recede.
We must summon courage, share wisdom with those who will follow.
We must tell them who we are. We must explain what we saw. We must show them how we responded.
We must help them navigate the greater chaos. To come.
We must write it all down. Seal it in an envelope.
For them. To read.
Tell them not to open it for a hundred years.
Or perhaps half that time, if you think they can't wait that long.
Or maybe sooner;
In 25 years, when everyone will accept that the problem is real.
They will listen to us then. They will finally understand.
We will all unite
As Antarctica comes to town.
Or tell them
Do not open for two hundred years.
When they will yearn most to hear from those of us
who once walked on land.
"I ask residents , - says Prof. Cortada, - to write letters to the future. I do so because today, many of their neighbors aren't willing to listen. Today, too many are in denial about the human impact on global climate change. For many, denial comes easier than visualizing the future impact of rising seas on their community. Our words fall on deaf ears.
So, instead, we must write it all down, keep it in a safe place, and share it later, when others are willing to listen.
Although the letters are intended for people not yet born, the true audience is those breathing in the present.
Sure, the future will be curious.
The future will read our letters and want to know why we couldn't show restraint when facing insurmountable evidence of our role in creating this global crisis.
The future will be incredulous.
In the 2100's, our great-grandchildren will read the words we wrote them and want to understand why we didn't do more when so much—everything– was at stake.
The future will be furious.
A century from now, our communities will read what we penned and want to know how, on our watch, ecosystems collapsed, biodiversity plummeted and so much of humanity suffered.
The future will benefit from insights, but "DO NOT OPEN" isn't for them. It's not about them. It's about us.
I'm less interested in them being able to hear us. And more interested in us being able to see them. By writing to them, we name them. By writing to them, we can't deny their existence. By writing to them, we create a connection to them.
Being able to connect with our progeny raises the stakes for us now. It lengthens the "care horizon" beyond our lifetime. It provides a path to hope, purpose. It encourages us to do all we can now to protect our planet, its future generations and the animals we coevolved with."
Walk up to the "Do Not Open" wall in the exhibit.
Close your eyes: Imagine your city in the future. Imagine how rising seas will impact it and those who will live here then.
Think about what you would like them to know. Think about what you believe someone living in 2041, 2066, 2116 or 2216 will need to hear from someone living in 2016.
Unclip a blank piece of paper and envelope from the wall and use a pencil to write it all down: Tell them who you are. Tell them why you are writing to them. Sign it. Date it.
Fold the letter in two, kiss it, place it in the envelope and seal it.
On the outside of the envelope write only one of these four phrases:
"DO NOT OPEN: 25 years"
"DO NOT OPEN: 50 years"
"DO NOT OPEN: 100 years"
"DO NOT OPEN: 200 years"
Clip the sealed envelope to the "Do Not Open" wall with the words facing out.
Stare at your envelope for 25 seconds, 50 seconds, 100 seconds, or 200 seconds.
Think of how your words will be received in the future.