More from my latest visit at the Palais de Tokyo in Paris.
The space is currently hosting a fascination exhibition called ÉTATS (faites-le vous-même) – Grow Your Own. Set up by the artist Peter Coffin, it brings together an impressive range of micronations, sovereign independent states, concept nation states, and secession movements.
In 2000, Coffin initiated his own independent nation and began collecting information about other such projects around the world. Grow Your Own is an expanded version of a similar exhibition he curated in 2005 at the Andrew Kreps Gallery in New York in conjunction with Robert Blackson: We Could Have Invited Everyone. All the States featured in the Paris show are presented as a creative response to a global political climate.
Micronations are countries (often without territories) conceived by artists, eccentrics, malcontents or egocentrics. These merge the imaginary, the artistic and the real in their embrace of a parallel world, motivated by artistic and conceptual concerns, a dislike for paying taxes, an immoderate love of royal titles, or even the simple desire to create a new civilization.
Grow Your Own aims to blur the distinction between art, politics, anarchy and fiction. The governments, societies and artists represented in the exhibition have lent some of their symbols for display.
There are projects by recognized artists: like photos and papers that document Yoko Ono and John Lennon’s declaration of birth of a conceptual country called Nutopia, IRWIN, Gregory Green’s New Free State of Caroline, Groucho Marx‘s Principality of Freedonia (Groucho played its prime minister in Duck Soup) or Atelier van Lieshout‘s AVL Ville.
They are presented along with uniforms, the BIZEPS money machine that makes it possible to mint the 5 SoS (State of Sabotage) coin with a hammer blow, maps (Kingdoms of Elgaland-Vargaland which claims all the borders of the world), national anthems (Empire of Aerica), a model of the Principlity of Sealand, documentary films, portraits of kings and queens from a micronations summit, a manual on How to start your own country, flags, all kinds of passports, stamps from countries bearing lovely names like Molossia (!), medals from Ladonia, the royal crown of Talossa (founded in 1979 by “King Robert” in his bedroom in Milwaukee at the age of 13), coins or letters of citizenship from some forty nations including the Empire of Atlantium or the Kingdom of Pinsk. Applications for citizenship and naturalisation can be completed and filed by visitors.