Turtles Tortugas in Akumal Bay

"ZOE" at Puerto Cancun 2011. Photo by Mike Gerzevitz.

I was recently in Mexico again. From Cancun to Akumal to Isla Mujeres, I was working on clearing our way to install the DNA-inspired sculpture into the ocean.  I brought a friend and technical adviser, Jennifer Indovina of Tenrehte, along to help me scout out the best locations for wifi and power sources since we are now going to be adding webcams to this coral, fish, and biodiversity refuge.  She is building a custom website so you will be able to watch the evolution of the coral reef ecosystem as a virtual aquarium.

I rented a camera to capture some of the underwater life and to document potential sites for this sculpture or possibly future ones.  We were swimming out from shore to look at the set up for the TurtleCams they have in Akumal Bay,

TurtleCams power supply - A View into the Blue and teens4Oceans project in collaboration with Centro Ecológico Akumal (CEA)

and that’s when green turtles began to appear right below us.  They were grazing on the sea grasses. I didn’t know what to expect of their behavior.  They had a very casual easygoing style.  From my short experience observing, I’d say they are calm, mildly curious, and like to socialize with their other grazing companions.  When they swam up to the surface for gulps of air, they glided like graceful, slow-flying birds.  They seem like gentle beasts that have become trusting from so many tourists, yet are not interested in interacting in any way.

Busy finding food under the butts of each other and saddled with scavenging fish on their backs and bellies, the turtles brought peaceful inspiration as I admired their beautiful shells and daily activities.

Swimming in Akumal Bay. Photo by Colleen Flanigan.

The area needs a new sewage treatment plant, which is one of the reasons the water gets so murky. If you visit the Yucatan Peninsula and stay at a hotel, ask the managers if they deep inject their sewage.  Long story, but water treatment is a huge issue in Mexico. Corals are much more sensitive to certain pollutants than humans. The movie, Angel Azul by Marcy Cravat, does a beautiful job sharing about the pollution through the intersection of art and science working for the environment in the underwater museum, MUSA.  She started with the story of artist, Jason deCaires Taylor, and like any good detective, she followed emerging clues, piecing together a puzzling and illuminating truth about our unsustainable systems and areas ripe for transformation.

It has been almost 3 years since we made the DNA sculpture in Cancun, so it was slightly bittersweet (chocolate) to see the steel sculpture making cameos in the background at Puerto Cancun as Jason’s and other cement sculptures were being deployed by boat. More sweet than bitter, actually, since I was so moved by the excellent filmmaking and knowing all the people and places in it.  It made things even more real. I’m committed to completing this project and to growing relationships in the region through this journey.  The sculpture is not in the water yet because of complications with land permits for the power source, but the ecosystem of diverse, caring people involved in this important ecological story is evolving, and so are our visions.  A few years isn’t that long in geological and bureaucratic time. BUT, since I’m a human trying to help save corals dying at rapid rates~  IN THE WATER IN 2014!

To the Future. Photo by Colleen Flanigan, 2014.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Reef reFORMed

Welcome the Year of the Horse!

A big year for travel. And all you Oxes working so hard in 2014, it will pay off.  Watch out, Rats, not to get under any hooves.   And as a Pig myself, I’m glad I didn’t know 2013 was supposed to be horrible for me because it was great in so many ways.

 

Here we see coral propagating like a Chinese New Year’s fireworks show. Watch it Grow on the 1″ scale model of a Living Sea Sculpture soon to be installed in Mexico.

January 28th was TEDxSpence, a youth event in Manhattan.  An inspiring day of talks and workshops with super girls at the school.  Below is the 3rd version of Reef reFORMed in New York.  I wanted to capture the improvisational sculptural installation, so tried low-tech time-lapse for the first time with iStopMotion on an iPad.  The 7-9th graders opted for 6 second intervals.  Here’s what happened in a couple hours~

 

Do we need more Biorock reefs in Florida?

I just received an email asking about the potential for Living Sea Sculptures in Florida.

“Living here in Sarasota, FL, I’m wondering if a Bio-rock reef would increase the fish populations that dolphins and porpoises eat, and therefore would keep them here so that we humans could see and appreciate their majestic beauty more often. I believe we have dwindling populations here now. Have to talk with some marine biologists here… am in initial thinking about how an art-sci project could catalyze and galvanize the community on this issue. Perhaps it’s planting more mangroves that we need, while also educating public on benefits of “zero-scaping” to stop fertilizer run-off from ocean-side lawns.  Any thoughts on the benefits of Bio-rock sculptural reefs here?

My response: I would LOVE to work on more projects in Florida.  It’s a great place to expand the current approaches to coral nurseries and integrative ecological healing, community interaction, and local economy. There is an existing project, the first coral reef fisheries habitat and restoration project using Biorock mineral accretion in the US, installed in 2011 at Lauderdale-by-the-Sea.  The Global Coral Reef Alliance worked in collaboration with Vone Research and the Lauderdale-by-the-Sea Commission to create this unique site powered with solar buoys.

This video shares some of the ideas and theories motivating the project.  I talk with marine biologists and scientists often to gain up to date information about the state of coral and ocean health since there are so many variables at play when considering climate change, acidification, resiliency, and adaptation.  Amidst the differing opinions and uncertainties, one thing seems to stand constant, restoring reefs and cultivating coral with awareness of their biological needs as they relate to environmental stressors are critical pieces of the present day foundation to build future coral reef ecosystems.

The Biorock process allows us to realize dynamic, organic compositions with living organisms in the fluid sea as a means to nurture a sense of belonging and place high value on loving action to heal the polyps and their beautiful colonies.  With more sculptural reefs and less fertilized lawns, Florida will invite more fish and dolphins to their coast.

 

 

 

 

Ring it in wring it out!

On this New Year’s Eve, I want to share the thrilling news that we’ve received funding to add webcams onto the DNA-inspired sculpture in Cancun, Mexico.  When we install the sculpture into the ocean, we plan to live-stream the artistic coral refuge so that it will have a continuous online presence globally for all to see.

Just for fun, here are the top 100 science trends from Trendhunter.  Bees are really proving to be the saviours of our time.  And be sure to stay clear of MRI’s in that magnetic dress!  I’m not too keen on my snacks recognizing me, but would love to fly and bite into some witch finger grapes.

May you have sparkly light and earthly deep combinations of things to look forward to and experience in the new year.  I look forward to bringing you more (more frequently) idiosyncratic posts about life above and below the surface.

Wring out 2013 and ring in 2014 with the always funny and ballsy, Negin Farsad, right here. Cheers to you!

Algae Buddies of Sustainable Now Technologies. Photo by Colleen Flanigan

 

 

 

Bimetals and Nature’s Survival Tactics

You know how your brain gets attuned to looking for whatever you’re interested in, focusing on, paying attention to at the time.  I’ve been collecting awareness about artists who are creating objects, materials, buildings, and facades that defy a static existence.  The Stone Age is long gone.  I might belong to The Bronze Age, since I feel more ease with metals than micro-controllers at this point, but it’s too staunchly stationary and solid for me without the inclusion of elements suggesting life, if not actually alive.

Movement combines with responsive materials to redirect our present relationships with climate, energy, other species, and our own cultural humanity.

Doris Sung works with bimetals that react to temperature, thus appearing as though they are living leaves following the light. Her architectural piece, Bloom, aspires to redefine how our living spaces function in the age of “finite” resources and infinite ideas.

Elaine Ng Yan Ling’s latest series of smart textiles reflects the changing seasons. “As nature takes its course, Wooden Skin and Macro Wooden Velcro shift shape and color to create an organic responsive environment.  Layers of veneer are combined with fabric, reactive dyes and reflective surfaces to create objects that adapt to fluctuations in light, temperature and humidity. This new series, CLIMATOLOGY, is inspired by nature’s invisible energy and how materials can adapt to be more resilient and relevant.”

Jennifer Darmour of electricfoxy offers current trends in wearable technology and product design.  When I saw the little 3D printed wearable planters with tiny succulents, I paused because “aaw, cute,” and for awhile I was making escargrows out of shells from Helix Aspersa snails that I collected to eat from the garden.  The small calcified spirals were perfect for creating succulent planters, too.  And they were created by living 3D garden mollusks printing out earthy minerals over a number of years.

Which makes me think about 3D printing and how it’s a blind spot, or a stepping stone? in our technological trip to democratic making.  The usual plastics are not somehow becoming better for the environment just because the possibilities for incredible forms are seductive, yet there are 3D printers for cement, ceramics, biodegradable plastics, and whatever other living tissues for making bones, kidneys, and hearts, so hopefully the innovation is leading to something that collapses our love affair with circuit boards and non-biodegradables into a full circle, self-composting realized potential.

With 4D printing touting self-assembly, I imagine that I cannot imagine how the organic, synthetic, bio-mimetic engineered fusion will wrap around to chase it’s tail and channel this open loop of transformative creativity.

Skylar Tibbits introduces the self-assembling 4th dimension at TED LongBeach

Will the positive and negative feedback of less labor is more better somehow find a sum greater than its parts? Will the sum be less than the mean average of what the world can contain to sustain?  These last questions don’t make any sense, but it FEELS like they mean something on our interconnected, technological space odyssey.

We live in the age of Smart Materials. I’m vividly curious about how we will continue to interface with data, programming, biology, and building to express the fibers of our mental, physical, and emotional galaxies.  How close are we to printing Living Sea Sculptures that self-assemble in seawater?

 

 

Obstacles MELTING in Cancun

I just returned from a visit to Cancun to clear the way for installation of the DNA Dividing sculpture into Punta Nizuc asap.  It was a fabulous trip.  Cleansing and liberating to feel the weight of waiting, some sort of peripheral crunching burden, dissolving and leaving light water vapors in its wake.

To follow the story, please visit here for the beginning.  And here is today’s latest update on kickstarter.

 

Artists Envisioning Sea Level Rise

"You Are An Island," Artwork by Alicia Eggert. Photo Colleen Flanigan DUMBO Arts Festival, 2013

Two incredible friends, well, many more than that when you look at all the people who will be required to bring these epic public art projects into being, are putting their creative energy towards expressing the reality of sea level rise and flooding.  They are targeting urban places to interject something premonitory and visible. These artists are translating scientific data, personal observation, and human gut reaction into visionary humanitarian offerings.  Using very different formats, they are inviting people to reflect about the effects of climate change and water events that will flow and submerge all in its path.

Heidi Quante used to be Creative Coordinator for 350.org. Now she’s teamed up with artist, Eve Mosher, to realize HighWaterLine in multiple locations. In 2007, Eve felt compelled to start chalking the streets in Manhattan, “I marked the 10-feet above sea level line by drawing a blue chalk line and installing illuminated beacons in parks. The line marks the extent of increased flooding brought on by stronger and more frequent storms as a result of climate change. I walked, chalked and marked almost 70 miles of coastline. As I was out in the public creating the work, I had a chance to engage in conversations about climate change and its potential impacts.”  The fact that New York IS an Island, with highly deteriorated oyster reefs and no other sufficient breakwaters, makes it extremely vulnerable to storms, as experienced with Hurricane Sandy nearly a year ago.

Florida flood plains are being chalked this November, and London and Philadelphia are slated for 2014.  Florida is in direct line for hurricanes and floods, so Eve and Heidi want to empower the neighborhoods that will be deluged by giving them means to physically mark the estimated perimeter of the floods. The project is as much about process as result. The chalk marker is passed from community to community to feed the grassroots project. So many people don’t feel welcome in making important decisions, or on the flip side, they feel entitled to overpower.  This art is egalitarian. It creates a map in real space as a step to begin planning to divert catastrophe. The locals who will be directly affected are being given tools and ideas to further plot their own communally developed course of action in the case of disaster.  HighWaterLine is a feat of community organizing through conceptual, public art.

Lars Jan, Director of Early Morning Opera and a TED Senior Fellow, is deep into the making of HOLOSCENES, a large-scale performance installation intended for urban public spaces. In this video, watch someone try to make ramen in am elevator-sized aquarium while water fills and drains, driven by a hydraulic system capable of pumping fifteen tons of water in one minute.

“The man ‘making ramen’ is simulating a behavior documented in a 10 minute video submitted by a Japanese graduate student in his dorm in Tokyo.  This student is Shun Oka, previously my student at Swarthmore College.  Apparently Shun makes ramen nearly everyday, and I have to admit he has his own particular way of going about it.  There are more steps to making ramen than I could have ever imagined — very different from the instant version I associate with US college kitchens.  By the end of the first time I watched his video, my mouth was watering.  In turn, the creative team behind Holoscenes simulated this behavior and made our own video in which a figure is deluged repeatedly, but goes on making ramen all the while.  Though I find the video more ostensibly humorous than others we’ve made so far, I also find this submission from Japan particularly resonant given the intrusion of the tsunami into the everyday at Fukushima.” – Lars Jan

Watching the videos, I feel zen, not panicked.  It makes me want to practice getting out of a car if it gets tossed off a bridge in an earthquake.  Something about breaking the horror  into bite size vignettes is soothing and makes it possible to imagine the traumatic potentiality, or the reality for many along the coast, in a way that evokes the personal and mundane that is at the core of long-term design, viable approaches, and progressive solutions.

The beauty of the dancer -she looks like an hibiscus flower slowly blooming and wilting in a rain puddle- makes me breathe into my imagination and dispel any alienating fear that mucks up mental space.  Lars’ work delivers eye-opening information through new media and seductive interactive means so all individuals can claim their vital roles in balancing world ecology.

A young woman in LA who still uses a land line.

A young woman in LA who still uses a land line.*

Artists synthesize and relay layered multi-sensory experiences so adeptly.  These are just two examples of the growing cultural opportunities to recognize that both little and big actions are required to meet the future. Little acts really do have big impact to blow old paradigms out of the water.

With so many variables to consider, leaving things to the government, academic institutions, and people perceived as authority figures are common excuses to just wait and see, and then blame someone else, but with the US Government taking a break right now to squabble (embarrassing!), it’s a good time to remember the unique, often unsung, brilliance of our neighbors next door and online.  What amazing brain power and community will is within reach to calmly consider how we might respond when overwhelming storms forcefully release our most valuable, powerful resource  – water. (I’ll think about the sun in another post.)

"You Are an Island" by Alicia Eggert. Photo Colleen Flanigan DUMBO Arts Festival, 2013

*The sale of archival prints supports the continued development of the Holoscenes performance through 2015.

 

 

 

 

 

Underwater Cities – When?

Arup Biomimetics' Syph

I’m talking about humans. Obviously there are multitudes of living cities made up of marine organisms populating and migrating to dwell in the sea, but will humans begin to colonize the ocean? Is it a good thing? A necessary thing? How will this exploration protect itself from adding to the demise of ocean and Earth health? Why is it taking so long?…lots of questions to think about on this frontier.

Ocean Cities are definitely part of the pioneering future. Both Trendhunter and Ecofriend featured the Syph above, a concept design proposal for a competition envisioning Australia 40 years from now.

I feel inner conflict between a sense of invading wilderness and striving to live in harmony with other species as we continuously sway the balance on our curious and precarious, uncertain path to sustaining biological evolution.  The trillions of dollars spent to manufacture, engineer, and execute methods to kill people illustrate that the financial resources are there.  From governments to wealthy private patrons, the desire has not been great to develop architecture and human habitat in the ocean.

Experimental short-term stays for science and education, as well as hotels,  have been emerging for over 50 years.  These carefully controlled environments could become prototypes for off-shore housing in areas like the Maldives that are likely to be the first victims of sea level rise.

According to BBC Future, visionary ocean explorer, Ian Koblick, was ready to bring on underwater habitats in the 1970′s.  Now at 74, he admits that it is not likely in his lifetime to see his futurist vision realized.  He is the owner and co-developer (with Neil Monney) of the Jules Undersea Lodge, which used to be the La Chalupa Research Laboratory, also developed and operated by Koblick, to study the continental shelf off the coast of Puerto Rico.  From scientific investigation to contemporary tourism and mainstream ocean outreach, this habitat has served diverse populations of many species.  It is an example of what might be possible if more interest and demand for underwater cities grows.

The conservationist in me meets up with the visionary progressive and hopes for more conscious exploration and development for this still young field:  Pioneering not to conquer, but to cultivate new biomes in the ocean.   It is another provocative dance between technology and survival for so many species on this burgeoning planet.

 

Electrolyisis: Etching in Saltwater

Electricity and water – they say to keep them apart, but sometimes they are great conductive partners for creative projects.  On November 10th, I’ll be teaching a hands-on class, Electrolysis: Etching Tins with Saltwater and Electricity at Pioneer Works, Center for Art and Innovation, in Red Hook, Brooklyn.  They have great art shows and concerts, unique events all the time, a beautiful outdoor garden gathering place, plus lots of intimate small classes.  The exhibition galleries are constantly morphing and there are many talented artists in residence pushing the edges of materials and concepts at this vibrant space.  I love it there!

There’s room for 8 students in my class, so please sign up while there is availability.  This Steam Punk blog shows what we will be doing during the one day workshop.  If you want to etch without using toxic chemicals, this is a good method to try.  I will share a bit about Biorock as well, since Living Sea Sculptures use electricity through water, and I can’t really help myself from discussing this biological art and science interface made possible by chemistry and electrons. I look forward to this mini art lab where we bring traditional, tactile methods of making together with contemporary technological tools to simplify and detox the process.

The drawing below is not an etching, but it makes me happy today thinking about the details in the ocean.  You could etch that.

"Ocean Details," pen and ink on tile by Colleen Flanigan

 

 

Breathing Sculpture

U-Ram Choe creates artworks that capture an aliveness and qualities of graceful organisms by using metals, plastics, and the latest in computer programming technologies. Based in Korea, he is inspired by…

I started this post awhile ago, but perfectionism, thus procrastination, got in the way.  I promised to write a post once a week, and it has been a month since I last posted.  I am going to post whatever I write in these next 10 minutes knowing full well that edits and revisions are important for certain clarity, but what if sometimes I can just share whatever is on my mind and be more real and in the moment, as if I’m in casual conversation.

I had a major artcrush on this sculpture that I sadly missed seeing when it was on view at the Asia Society here in NY last year.  There is an Iran Modern show opening there today that looks interesting.  You have until January 5th to visit.
I reached out to U-Ram in an email because his video, with the music and caring way it was filmed, I felt like I could touch a bit of what I want to bring to life through a project.  I imagined taking a trip to Korea to visit his studio and meet his creative team.  It was a moment of feeling like you have found kin through an inspirational expression of matter.

The work I’m developing is different in form and content, except for the fact that breathing and making something inanimate seem alive ties them together.  His mastery of mechanics with those fluidly undulating gears.  What can I say?  It’s ultra sexy metalwork.

If you are not familiar with this incredible artist’s works, you can find more about him here.