Introduction / Santiago Sierra
Presented as an immersive photography and sound installation, Black Flag records the process and performance of planting the universal symbol of the anarchist movement – the black flag – at the two most extreme points on Earth: the North and South Poles. In this gesture Sierra critiques the concept of territory and the practices of nationalism imbued in such acts; though this act of piracy, of anti-sovereignty, the artist subverts the conventions on which statehood constitutes.
On 14 April 2015, Santiago Sierra completed the first part of Black Flag at the geographic North Pole, latitude 90º N. The expedition travelled from the remote island Svalbard to the kinetic Russian ice base Barneo, using a network of private tourism and logistical support companies to complete the journey. From the base, several trips were undertaken to document the planting of the flag and the surrounding landscape. Eight months later, on 14 December 2015 – exactly 104 years after Roald Amundsen’s successful Norwegian expedition to the South Pole and the tragedy of Robert Falcon Scott’s failed attempt – the final instalment of Black Flag was completed, using the more replete and permanent infrastructure of Antarctica. The flag was planted and documented at the geographic South Pole, latitude 90º S. The expeditions to both poles were documented with photographs and sound recordings. The flags were both left in situ.
“I wanted to create an anarchist icon that was a source of pride and courage; that made you think that the planet is ours when you saw it. I have created many works of a hurtful ugliness. However, I see Black Flag as the most poetic of my works, without a doubt the most beautiful of the ones I’ve done until now.” Santiago Sierra