The Purchase of the South Pole

The Purchase of the South Pole, Confiscation of the cannon sculpture by German police, Berlin, Germany, 2017



Inspired by Jules Verne’s 1889 novel, The Purchase of the North Pole, as well as his voyage to the former nuclear test sites in the Bikini Atoll, Julian Charrière proposed to be the first person to shoot a weapon on Antartica since the signing of The Antarctic Treaty as a part of the first Antarctic Biennale. Mounted on the bow of the ship like a dystopian figurehead would have been a massive, air-pressurized cannon. Unlike similarly mechanized cannons which pop-up across America every autumn to shoot pumpkins, the iron barrel of this sculpture found its form in the cast of the trunk of a coconut tree. Upon the boat's arrival to Antarctica, coconuts collected from the Bikini Atoll were to be shot from the cannon on the continent. With his sculpture Charrière sought to move the earth in his own peaceful way. By subverting the typically aggressive use of a weapon, he was commenting on the many shifts which the Antarctic has seen: the shift 52 million years ago from tropical oasis to frozen tundra; the shift from a land which destroyed men who try to conquer it to a land destroyed by men who are desperately trying to mend it; a once pristine, sublime place which has now felt the foot print of millions of tourists and researchers. Shortly before the work was to be shipped to South America in order to embark on its expedition to Antarctica it was confiscated by the Berlin Police. The piece is still in police custody and is currently being investigated as a possible weapon.