Through specially commissioned sculptures and a film, the Spanish artist draws attention to climate change from faraway Svalbard, during the second edition of Artica Listens.


Based in Madrid, Spanish artist Cristina Lucas (Jaen, 1973) is a creator interested in mechanisms of power. She analyses principal political and economic structures, dissecting them in order to reveal the contradictions between official history, reality, and collective memory.

On November 30th, her vision meets the stunning northern landscapes of the Svalbard archipielago as a part of Artica Listens, an event co-curated by Artica Svalbard and Office for Contemporary Art Norway (OCA), with the aim of promoting art, debate and climate awareness. She will be this year’s guest artist. Artica Listens is a new project launching as part of Artica Svalbard’s annual programme. Taking place in the Norweigan archipelago, Artica Listens sets out not only to enliven some of the most urgent questions of our time, but to do so from one of the most challenging sites in the world.


Lucas takes the nearly hundred-year-old Svalbard Treaty as a point of departure. Her project includes specially commissioned works of interactive public sculptures and a new film entitled The People That Is Missing that she has shot in Svalbard over the last year. Both will premiere in Longyearbyen on Saturday, 30th November.


Reflecting on her ideas, Lucas said: “It is in Svalbard where the alarm goes off first. Avoiding the melting of the Arctic and thereby saving us from the terrible global effects that this entails implies falling into another rhetorical figure, to inhabit the synecdoche in which Svalbard is understood as a short hand for our planet as a whole.”


The Svalbard Treaty today stands as a singular document of international collaboration. Nearly one hundred years after its signing, it remains a functioning agreement among 44 nations that, while recognizing Norwegian sovereignty over the archipelago, proposes a formulation with utopian ideals of an international commons rarely seen in global geopolitics. However, in an age of rising nationalisms, trade wars, extractive economies, global intelligence gathering and mobility restrictions, those geopolitical parameters emerge as major forms of contention within the treaty today, inserting a series of contradictions and oxymorons into the governance of one of the world’s most sensitive natural environments.


With these contradictory qualities of the treaty in mind, Cristina Lucas reflects on key questions her project seeks to raise: “For my intervention in Artica ListensI would like for poetic figures to reinforce how our self-destructive mechanisms cast us as the greatest threat to our own survival. It seems natural to think that what begins has to end, but how easy is this to assume when it is our own species in question? Will it be possible to reverse the processes that otherwise undoubtedly lead us to a not so far off apocalypse?”

It’s in this context that Lucas’s newly commissioned film and sculptures probe the treaty’s utopian appeal to international cooperation and shine a light on the paradoxes that are revealed, one hundred years later, within a rising tide of global geopolitical disunion and lack of concerted will to reverse the human-made destruction of our planet.