Xavier Cortada’s 2007-2008 Longitudinal Installation is a ritualistic performance that presents the effects of climate change from both a global and personal perspective. In Longitudinal Installation, Cortada recites quotes from twenty-four different people across twenty-four time zones that describe personal impacts of climate change. Each quote is recited above a shoe, painted with an acrylic mix of soil samples from the Dry Valleys in Antarctica, that is representative of its specific time zone, the twenty-four shoes arranged in a circle each aligned with its corresponding longitude as it converged on the South Pole. The first iteration of the project took place in 2007 at the South Pole, where Cortada installed the work as part of his fellowship through the National Science Foundation Antarctic Artists and Writers Program. The following year saw the installation of the work at the North Pole, as part of “90N”, a New York Foundation for the Arts sponsored artist project.
The site specificity of the North and South Poles is an integral aspect of Longitudinal Installation, as it allows for a perception of global scale that is drastically minimized. By placing each shoe in accordance with a physical marker like a longitude line allows for a sense of reality to permeate into the performance. This is a reality that presents itself globally, across twenty-four-time zones, yet its presentation is remarkably small in scale. A comprehension of the closeness of the global community can be drawn from this, an apt stage to present an outlook on something as universally important as climate change. The recital of quotes from different people around the world works to present climate change this way, as something that effects everyone, but also as an issue that cannot be addressed individually.
The intention of Longitudinal Installation is to initiate engagement between people in response to climate change. This is seen not only within the actual installation but with how Cortada invites his audience to participate with the work. Longitudinal Installation is meant to be performed by anyone, there being specific instructions on how to do so, as well as the ability to upload your own quote as the “25th” participant. This interaction allows for the work to function as a sort of archival performance, one that records the efforts of those that are involved concurrently with their interaction.