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 works have explored our ability to coexist with nature: In
2007, as an Antarctic Artist and Writers program award recipient, I used the
moving ice sheet that blankets the South Pole as an instrument to mark time:
Juxtaposing Antarctica’s geological time frames (see "The 150,000-year Journey”
of a mangrove seedling I planted on the moving ice 1500 Km from the shoreline)
with human time frames (see "The Markers,” which uses flags along 500 meters to
mark the past 50 years, when humans first inhabited the South Pole), the work
reaffirms the notion that we are simply custodians of the planet who should
learn to live in harmony with nature.
I am currently focused on creating an evolving body of work that
uses genetic data to explore how nature influenced human migration and
history. The interdisciplinary
work explores the ancestral journeys of this Hemisphere's current inhabitants.
In their blood they capture evidence of the routes their deep ancestors took
from their original journey out of Africa 60,000 years ago. By marking the appearance and frequency
of genetic markers in modern humans, we can determine when and where ancient
humans moved around the world.
As in earlier work, I am engaged in the process of mapping and
chronicling to make a point. In
this case it has sociological importance: Perceived differences among people
has often allowed for exploitation, marginalization, segregation and
alienation. Inside our DNA we
carry genetic markers that prove that we share the same ancestors and are one
Today, the biggest threat we face is a lack of connection to one
another and to our natural world.
We have the capacity to liberate ourselves from this alienation. All humans have the capacity to free
their minds of prejudices and practices that are destroying our societies and
our planet. Factions, whether
based on nationalism, race, class or ethnicity, have created distance between
people who are genetically the same. Using DNA from a diverse group of
individuals, I am creating work that will challenge the way we see one another
and to liberate ourselves from false notions of who we are-- or aren’t.
by depicting the migrations of our ancestors over the past 60,000 years,
we can see how they settled the planet in response to changes in environmental conditions: For
our ancestors, the natural world was the only world. They navigated
through it —slowly moving where nature provided them with better opportunities
to hunt and gather.
early ancestors found a way to become a part of natural balance as they
populated the planet. Today, we
are destroying that balance by overpopulation and by our attempt to use and
control nature for our benefit.
-- Xavier Cortada