It is not down on any map; true places never are is a kinetic outdoor sculpture that challenges the meaning of the flag in the contemporary world. Two flagpoles are connected by one motorized chain that pulls 16 flags up and down each beam continuously. As the flags rise and lower along the poles their order is in constant flux to contest the illusion of power dynamics and the existing absurdity of the hegemonic world order.
In this performative installation, the flags intentionally break and manipulate the traditional rules of flag code to question the myth of globalization and equality. It is not down on any map; true places never are serves as a contradiction to these rules in which international usage forbids the display of the flag of one nation above that of another nation in times of peace. Now more than ever, this piece speaks critically to the rising popularity of nationalism, crushing neocolonialism, the devastating number of people without a home seeking asylum, and the displacement of people due to the global climate crisis and regional wars, among other reasons. The artists have chosen a sample of flags that stand in for the multitude of countries facing these same issues worldwide.
Physically embodying the mechanics of power dynamics, the sculpture animates the flags to offer a participatory and contemplative place that highlights the role of the body in space. The sound of the chain, the flapping of the flags, the imposing scale of the sculpture, elicits a visceral and empathetic response from the viewer. On the sand during an art fair, the flags demarcate a transnational non-space.
This project is a collaboration between Antonia Wright and Ruben Millares, artists who have been working together for almost 10 years. This performative sculpture is a continuation of their interest in using the body to challenge social conventions and explore issues of identity. The artists’ recent work has moved away from using their live presence in each project, but to replace their physical bodies with performative installations to show how the machine can serve as a surrogate to the figure. In It is not down on any map; true places never are the flagpoles are transformed into kinetic sculptures to explore the intersection between performance and sculpture.