Coral Restoration: Chinese New Year

What’s colorful and reminds us that old and new, life and death, are inextricably bound together by the continuum of change?  Chinese New Year Day celebration, for one.

Dancer at Water Snake celebration in Chinatown New York

We have entered the year of The Water Snake.

Chinese characters for "Water Snake"

Intuitive depths, feminine wisdom, and transformation are possible associations with the year of the snake, as well as good business ability and reserved emotions.  Symbolism and mythology within historical traditions vary from region to region, and first-hand experience offers subtle rich surprises, like this beautiful new-fallen drift in Chinatown brightly adorned  with “snowfetti.”


I tried the various street food; how can you get 4 of anything for $1?!?  Didn’t get sick (not that I thought I would, but a friend was wary), and loved watching the women dance in outfits that reminded me of the brilliance of a healthy reef.

Dancer amidst the biodiverse crowd

It is a Water year – contemplation and healing actions from the calm depths are worth imagining.  According to Alison Rourke’s article in theguardian, “Deepwater corals may be key to restoring damaged reefs…”

Here in New York, I aim to make an interactive land exhibit that will correlate human health and coral health. After watching the magician and scientists yesterday at Brainwave: The Magician and listening to their explanations and demonstrations of deception (lies) and limited attention capabilities as the crux of successful magic and trickery,  I saw how the exhibit I’m developing is really about creating the perception of unity between the participant and the kinetic sculptures.  The sculptures are not actually living, but I want them to appear alive, symbiotically effected (dependent) on a human action and data. Just as the magician needs the audience to complete the mystery and suspend disbelief, to be washed over with happy bafflement, some art relies on specific constructs and concepts to open people’s minds to shifts in reality through the senses and fallacy of what we think we know to be true.  Art is often said to be a portal to truth, and now I’m thinking how certain special effects and technical mediums offer new forms of “magic” to contemporary art practices that I want to explore. But what about truth?

My day started out with ritual in a grand cathedral.

Cathedral of St. John the Divine. photo by Nat Ireland

Thanks to a friend, I was introduced to a magnificent architectural, cultural, and historical mouth-dropping feat of making. I can’t help that I spent most my time while there looking at all the windows (really? they need to be restored?) and the labor intensive cement castings, metalwork…It houses one of the most powerful pipe organs in the world!  Awe-inspiring environment – the space and the effort to create it was, for me, the magic and the spiritual gift as I flashed back to 1892 when its foundation was being laid… During the sermon I felt that truth was being suffocated with someone telling everyone what God is and isn’t.

Magic is predicated on deception, religion on truth (according to magician, Joshua Jay, yesterday). I got hung up on some religious hypocrisy,  but I knew that it was a celebration, too, of life, death, restoring and seeking.  I just needed to get into the sun and find the warm light of day and connect with playful exuberance: How lucky to jump into so many colorful and curious perceptions in a single afternoon.