In the present climate, around the world, almost everything that can be proposed as an alternative will appear to be either utopian or trivial. Thus our programmatic thinking is paralyzed.
Roberto Mangabeira Unger
A part of Lutyens ongoing work related to the effects of global warming, Island Ark is a project that seeks to remediate the issue of the loss of geographic nationhood due to sea level rise, happening to many island nations across the world, including the Republic of Maldives, Kiribati and Tuvalu. While these countries are considering international migration as an option for adapting to the sea level rise crisis, Island Arkproposes a utopian solution: an Inclusive Utopian Zone (IUZ). elevated island structures that place of atolls and islands that are partially or completely lost under the waves. These platforms, created out of repurposed oil rigs, become green livable spaces with housing, farming and fishing economies that preserve national identity status and benefits for its displaced citizens, as well as the important Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ), a sea zone prescribed by the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea over which a state has special rights regarding the exploration and use of marine resources, including energy production from water and wind.
Presented in 2019 at Alberta Pane Gallery in Venice, Island Ark presents Lutyens" vision for the IUZ. Lutyens proposes a range of 64 activities, including care for the elderly and children, mediation, training and maintaining sensory awareness, monitoring the surrounding sea environment, and practicing traditional fishing methods. Visitors of the exhibition are invited to imagine their own utopian solutions to sea level rise. Through the use of an inductive audio recording, guests are invited to draw on a table covered in salt, marking the paths that the unconscious takes as it searches for solutions. Along with the exhibition, Lutyens presented Means of Floatationa hypnotic performance in which participants experience an inductive narrative of rising waters. Together, the exhibition and performance represent a poetic jumping off point, from which a utopian future can be imagined.
"Your article on Mount Analogue was illuminating to me," he continued. "This place exists. We both knowit. Therefore we will discover it. Where? That"s a matter of calculation. I promise you that in a few days I will have determined its geographical position within several degrees. And we are ready to leave immediately, aren"t we?" (1) ?René Daumal,Mount Analogue
In the next hundred years, sea levels are projected to rise up to six feet (2). It is expected that with this rise, coastal towns will be destroyed, cities will be flooded, and many islands will be entirely submerged. The ocean will have an increasingly visible presence as it presses further and further up the shores. Tides will no longer reach up beaches, but through neighborhoods and towns. For those living in Oceania, the island states in the South Pacific, especially the low lying nations of Kiribati, and Tuvalu, risings waters threaten to submerge their lands entirely. This physical loss of land not only produces a loss of habitable space, cultural identity, and homeland, but also the loss of fishing and mineral rights as well as the possibility to reclaim land if see levels were to recede one day.
Proposing a utopian solution, Marcos Lutyens" Island Arkseeks to remediate this demise of habitability and subsequent loss of geographic nationhood due to rising sea levels. As existing atolls and islands become partially or completely lost under the rising sea levels, Island Ark envisions elevated island structures that might take their place. These structures are built out of decommissioned oilrig platforms, a "swords to ploughshares" gesture that looks toward the very structures that have contributed to sea level rise as a means of countering their effects. Lutyens" explains, "The Norwegian artist Bárd Breivik once compared oil rigs to giant cathedrals of medieval times. Perhaps these massive structures could be rehabilitated not just for refuge against cyclones, to aid in desalination and for agricultural cultivation while island nations are sinking, or as place-holder platform-states once the islands have vanished, but more especially as sites to recondition and regenerate what it is to be human in these times."
The Utopian starting point for Island Ark was kindled by Surrealist author René Daumal"s Mount Analogue, in which a quest and subsequent journey is undertaken to reach a partially real, partly mythical island in the Pacific Ocean. The goal of the protagonists is to reach the highest parts of the island, equating elevation with spiritual, as well as mental and physical liberation, just as with Island Ark, elevation above sea level enables practical, as well as imaginal activities to thrive. Island Ark, like Mount Analogue, straddles a zone between what is simply a dream and what could and actually urgently needs to happen if resources are harnessed to resolve this all too real and life-impacting issue.