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TRAVEL - The Underwater Museum


By Jason DeCaires Taylor

“For more than ten years I have been submerging permanent works of art under the surface of our oceans.
They are both designed to promote the regeneration of marine life and also to convey hope and awareness for the plight of our oceans.”

    For sculptor Jason deCaires Taylor, the ocean is more than a muse — it's an exhibition space and museum. Taylor creates sculptures of human forms and mundane life on land and sinks them to the ocean floor, where they are “subsumed” by the sea and transformed from lifeless stone into vibrant habitats for corals, crustaceans and other creatures. The result: works of permanent art that act as artificial reefs, attracting corals,increasing marine biomass and attracting fish species while diverting tourists away from fragile natural reef systems.His pioneering public art projects are not only examples of successful marine conservation, but works of art that seek to encourage environmental awareness, instigate social change and lead us to appreciate the breathtaking natural beauty of the underwater world.
Taylor’s art is like no other, constructed to be assimilated by the ocean and transformed from inert objects into living breathing coral reefs, portraying human intervention as both positive and life-encouraging. For each project, Jason uses materials and designs that help encourage life, using a long-lasting pH-neutral cement, which provides a stable and permanent platform. It is textured to allow coral polyps to attach, and the sculptures are positioned down current from natural reefs so that after spawning, there are areas for them to settle. Each piece is also anchored to the seabed to make sure that it stays put during tropical storms and hurricanes.
     The Silent Evolution, a piece from 2012, submerged off the coast of Cancun, contains 450 life-sized cement figures. It is a community of people, standing in defense of their OCEANS. Jason worked with the local fishermen and cast around 90 real-life models to create this large-scale, man-made reef, which is now home to more than 2,000 juvenile corals. According to Jason, “the ocean really is the most incredible exhibition space an artist could ever wish for. You have these amazing lighting effects changing by the hour, explosions of sand covering the sculptures in a cloud of mystery, a unique timeless quality and this procession of inquisitive visitors, each bringing their own special perspective to the site. But over the years, I’ve realized that the greatest thing about what we do, the really humbling thing about the work, is that as soon as we submerge the sculptures, they’re not ours anymore, because as soon as we sink them, the sculptures, they belong to the sea.…The works are designed to promote the regeneration of marine life and to use sculpture as a means of conveying hope and awareness of the plight of our oceans.”
    The Raft of Lampedusa is about the ongoing humanitarian crisis, and references French Romantic painter Théodore Géricault’s 1818 work, The Raft of the Medusa. Drawing parallels between the abandonment suffered by sailors in his shipwreck scene and the current refugee crisis, it is not intended as a tribute or memorial to the many lives lost, but as a stark reminder of the collective responsibility of our now global community.
     Over the past few decades, we have lost over 40% of our natural coral reefs. Scientists predict a permanent demise of 80% by 2050. Jason de Caires Taylor’s art is an example of generative human intervention in the ecosystem, showing what can be accomplished by individual imagination and collective effort. Currently Jason is working on a circle of life sculpture and new works for a major new underwater museum using micro plastics washed up by the Atlantic Ocean in Lanzarote, Canary Islands.

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