Swimming past the livestreaming webcam photo Colleen Flanigan
With the US presidential election making rough and freaky waves through the world of environmental and human rights, and everything else, I had to do something to lighten my heart and mind NOW. Usually that means I have to throw myself into work and focus. The sinking feeling and clawing at my eyeballs through the tears gets tiring.
I started this campaign today! Zoe – A Living Sea Sculpture is part of the #givingtuesday annual event which builds momentum and funds for causes at the end of the year.
Zoe within the 1st month photo Colleen Flanigan
It feels wonderful to share the completion of our installation phase and the vision for monitoring, maintaining, and developing this project for the region and beyond.
Through this international collaboration, we want to help transform the destructive tourism practices locally in Cozumel and bring new creative energy for regeneration and biodiversity cultivation. Already the Sand Dollar Sports Dive Shop and others are moving that forward. Please check out our progress and plans here.
On Sept 8, 2016, we received our final signature from the government to install Zoe in an incredible home. Zoe touched the seafloor in Cozumel, Mexico on September 23, 2016.
Plans to be part of MUSA in Cancún were blocked due to challenges with our electrical and internet needs. Unlike the cement sculptures, Zoe requires more infrastructure.
Huge thanks to Ingmar Gonzalez Krotzsch for introducing me to Cozumel and uniting an incredible team! He envisioned exactly where it would go and – voilá! Isabel Caamaño Ricken, our brilliant coral biologist, applied for the final permit, along with her inventor brother, Pancho (Francisco) who together have a manifestation to place sculptures into this unique coral restoration lab and underwater art museum, Musubo. This Underwater Golden Diver Museum is a featured attraction of the annual Scuba Fest, organized by Gilda Sigie, who warmly invited Zoe to come to life in this special place.
Zoe is now in good company with bronze busts of Sylvia Earle, Jacques Cousteau, Ramón Bravo, and numerous Fractal Artificial Reefs and Reef Balls. Since 2006, the site aims to increase biodiversity and investigate coral regeneration after devastation from hurricanes and pollution. Sand Dollar Sports Dive Shop owner and project internet+electricity sponsor, John Flynn, and his dive guides want to reduce negative tourism impact on the natural reefs through rehabilitation and ecological recreation programs. You’ll see corals colonizing Zoe soon!
Qualti Innovaciones Marinas did a fabulous job installing with their hurricane-proof patented anchors. It was an underwater performance watching Laura and Pancho work skillfully in silent tandem. Thomas Sarkisian, electrical engineer from Global Coral Reef Alliance, has been awaiting over 5 years to turn on the electricity. Right after the switch was flipped on September 29th, the minerals began to deposit and fish started to arrive to eat the algae. YEA!!!
The marinero and capitán were key with the placement of Zoe and the camera into the sea. Here you see Pancho and Thomas preparing the Tilt Pan Zoom View into the Blue Camera to begin livestreaming. Trevor Mendelow has been configuring remotely with Danirel Alvarez Junco of Sand Dollar and the dedicated crew of Soluciones Xtreme Net who laid and wired our cables…a big production!
My great great thanks to ALL OF YOU, my dear backers for being with me since the very beginning in 2011, and to the hundreds, thousands of others I’ve met along the journey that made this possible! Your contributions kept us going and the sheer number of you was constant motivation!!!!
You must come to the island to snorkel or dive. Only a 40 minute ferry ride from Playa Del Carmen (close to Cancún). Zoe is about 4m deep and open to the public. Very calm water and an ideal place to get certified in diving if thinking about it? Snorkeling is fine!
The water is crystal clear and fabulous for viewing our livestream. Content is underway for Zoecoral.com site built by amazing TED Fellow, longtime tech consultant and Zoe collaborator, Jen Indovina!
Many special thanks to my loving family, Luis Bourillón, Marisol Rueda Flores, José Luis Funes, Pedro Joaquin Coldwell, Serguei Rico, María Antonia Gonzalez, Lorenzo Rosenzweig Pasquel (FMCN), Lyn Ohala, TEDxCancún, Soluciones Xtreme Net, Staff of Sand Dollar Sports Dive Shop and Sunset Restaurant, Andrés Uscanga, Yibrán Aragón, Marenter, Todo Inoxidable, Infectango, SupporTED, Autodesk, Shaan Hurley, INapesca, UNAM, Cable Cozumel, the black bunny that just hopped by, and every friend, collaborator, acquaintance, coach not listed here who offered help, kindness, direction, mentoring, introductions, dancing, food, fun!!!
ALL of YOU are the reason. Logramos! Next phase, monitoring and colonizing ~~~
With love and fishes, Colleen and Living Sea Sculpture
Before I arrived in Mexico late December 2014, I was already anticipating COP21. I had marched with the Climate March in New York in September, and am in the wave of humanity doing something to address and reduce our carbon crisis.
My initial aim was to work with interactive technologists to projection mapZOE, our Living Sea Sculpture in Cancun, onto a unique building in Paris during this important Climate Change event. With a live-streaming webcam from View Into the Blue, not only would people online be able to tilt, pan, and zoom to observe and interact with our underwater project, we would interpret the visuals and the data, incorporate animation and effects, bringing this DNA-inspired coral reef ecosystem into the conference to reflect our dynamic ocean-human interface in dire need of attention and direct action.
When the Monterey Bay Aquarium invited me to be part of their Art and Climate Change campaign leading up to the conference, I was thinking it would be great if our plans to install ZOE in the sea the week of December 7th-11th would go through, synchronizing our coral regeneration work here with the mass global intention rippling across the planet. Working with Karla Munguia, a documentary filmmaker with years on Animal Planet, gave us some comraderie around conservation as we made this short video.
Corals here in Mexico have been feeling the heat this year. Bleaching is happening all through the region. I had a good talk with one of my collaborators at INAPESCA about what they are discovering recently. With so many variables, including an intense influx of sargassum seaweed since May, the usual onslaught of improperly treated sewage, and other contaminants from development, and the added heat this year, they see rises in algae and bacteria that severely affect the immunity and health of the corals, large and small. It is a big mix of damaging ingredients, and yet, resilient corals stay strong and are dominating communities where less hardy strains are deteriorating.
I’ve been designing the layout for planting 10 native coral species we would like to populate onto ZOE once it’s installed in the ocean. It’s exciting to envision how they might grow, and how other organisms and fish will come to animate the habitat. Just as I was getting ready to make a photoshop depiction, Somyaku found me through Instagram. He’s a kindred spirit, passionate to create beautiful and functional coral habitats with a reverence for closeness with nature and a desire to express our creativity in harmony with living beings. Here’s one of his renderings of ZOE with corals . ZOE was made in 2011. This is an actual photo of the completed sculpture (on land) taken by Mike Gerzevitz and now being immersed digitally for us to imagine.
Somyaku’s background in Ikebana ties with lots of concepts I’m having lately about my Bauhaus Design training at UCLA – this layering of schools of thought and practice that are our heritage and how they all intersect in the field of Art as Ecology. I’ll share more about that fusion in another post. Back to COP21…!
We joined #ArtCOP21 through their online events all the way from Mexico. People everywhere are making art and statements, fueling the tide for renewable energy and a healthier world based on awareness of finite resources, cycles, and our dependence on Earth. Our ZOE Reef reFORMed project (you can see us if you zoom in over Cuba on their map) came together really quickly with the most amazing people. Truly grateful to Miranda Oriz at Centro Bek for spearheading the “coalition” to help us create art and educate kids about the science in time for COP2. Our inaugural workshop on December 10th was successful. Kids and their parents were invited through this collaborative project into longterm solutions for healing coral reefs, to participate in protecting and rebuilding our vital connection with them and all Life.
From the opening reception of the exhibit, TrashTara: It Starts with an Inhale on November 6th, until the closing reception on December 2nd, the Co-Create residency with James Tunick at THE IMC LAB + GALLERY continued in the backdrop. Unlike conventional gallery spaces, the 6th floor venue is a mixed-use morphing environment for artists and a few other small businesses to share. The Respire prototype and immersive installation truly gained a life of its own as James added interactive audio and visuals of data and living reefs projected onto the wall, ceiling, and kinetic sculpture.
Fellow artist-in-residence, Dan Baker’s, hanging art pieces made of retrieved plastic from local waterways were synced with data streams from an Alaskan tidal buoy in preparation for his upcoming exhibit, Ebb and Flow. A monitor showing the tides looked like an EKG. Though conceived separately, they added naturally to the concept and sensory media exploration. I brought over a small mineral accretion experiment I was working on at NYU in Natalie Jeremijenko’s XClinic to directly link coral health and innovation elements visually and physically to participants.
5 Gallon mineral accretion tank at IMC
Motion tracking was triggering the inhales and exhales of the Respire sculpture. The electricity to the biorock mineral accretion tank was on the same outlet, so anyone moving in the space activated or deactivated the electricity; it was like watching life support go on and off. When the sculpture was idle, black and white images from iron lung artificial respiration projected onto the sculpture representing the bleached state of coral and the need for human action to restore vitality and prevent increased mortality. James and I will continue R&D to evolve the project, tying interactivity and effects more intimately with climate change, coral restoration and life support, and interdependent interspecies health.
And what about TrashTara? I had proposed to produce video and photos from my excursions to receive an LMCC grant. My first experience editing with final cut pro, it was a sweet feeling to observe the raw results, far from pro but close to my heart. Colby Cannon, Rob Bregman, and Dan Baker all gave me some quick tutorials. I grabbed poignant GoPro clips from my street outings together with some footage of me collecting butts day and night. Watching my selected snips of documentation linked together randomly led to a meaningful string of spontaneous interactions I had with people throughout Manhattan. I knew people would be receptive to cigarette butt recycling and pollution conversations if they were first uplifted by someone in a costume embodying a compassionate artwork. The face to face experience and kind moments were proof that impressions and attitude, perceptions and expectations are always operating consciously and subconsciously. Everything about the experience was socially enlightening for me and others, and hardly anyone I met knew that they could recycle butts in New Jersey at TerraCycle.
From EVGrieve blog post by Andrew (no last name)
TrashTara’s Butt Brigade Poster made in collaboration with Colby Cannon
The photo I used is from Scotland a few years ago when I was intrigued with arty butt shots before I was thinking about how that tiny remnant could harm marine life. NOTE: I WANT $1 (or more!) to go towards coral restoration, but it is an ideal not yet real. Something to work towards.
I was walking in the East Village with my dog, stopping for him to pee and for me to take a photo of a cigarette butt flattened in a crack in the sidewalk, when it struck me – are these recyclable? They’re everywhere. Beyond grabbing my attention for arty butt shots, they really shouldn’t be everywhere I look. Turns out, yes, they are recyclable. And that was it. I finally knew WHAT TrashTara would be collecting in her Catch-All…
Since late April, I’ve been a Co-Create Artist in Residence at The IMC LAB + GALLERY, owned by James Tunick and Carrie Elston-Tunick. Loving it! While here, I’ve created my latest alter ego, TrashTara, and been out on the streets of Manhattan. She/me has been hand-collecting those butts, the most littered object in the world, while talking to people and gathering footage with a GoPro.
TrashTara in Tompkins Square Park, East Village. Photo courtesy of Stanley Raffes.
Most people don’t know that cigarette butts are such a huge problem for the environment or that they can be recycled. After the last relaxing drag, there’s satisfaction in flicking them to the ground to roll their way into cracks, storm drains, and gutters.
Strom drain on Ave B in East Village
It needs to seep into the mainstream knowledge that cigarettes have non-biodegradable plastic filters, and that nicotine is a very toxic pesticide. Each butt could spend 10 years tossing around in the ocean and water supply killing wildlife and polluting ourselves. One cigarette butt can kill fish in a liter of water. TerraCycle has initiated placing receptacles in cities around the world, and inviting people to join their butt brigades to send in cigarette butts. I’d like to set up a TrashTara Butt Brigade so that every pound of butts collected by those collaborating with me will result in $1 towards Living Sea Sculpture coral reef habitat.
The tar-filled filters can be cleaned and transformed into plastic pallets, anti-corrosives for steel, and textiles. If we can get the 4.5 trillion of them off the ground and into the up-cycling circuit – I heard SF spends $11 million each year on cigarette collection alone – we can save lots of lives and money.
When TrashTara is out at night, her headdress, or as synthetic biologist, Oliver Medvedik, co-founder of GenSpace calls it, her “GMO Tiara,” has fluorescing proteins that come from corals and jellies. With the addition of Ultra Violet LEDs, the GFP and RFP glow. I wanted to avoid plastic resins, and am fascinated with bioluminescence and fluorescence in nature, so we collaborated to create a potentially controversial object. Synthetic biology is complex; the layers of ethics, philosophy, politics, and science involved in genetic research are many and divisive, so I’m grateful I had the opportunity to experiment with proteins as paints to get closer to the reality of how vast this field is and how the concept of “GMO” is completely unknown to most of us in a hands-on way.
TrashTara buttpicking in Gramercy
Also for the upcoming show, James Tunick and I have been developing the first prototypes for Respire – The Coral Corollary, an interactive, multimedia immersive exhibit correlating coral health with human health incorporating data, kinetic sculpture, audio and video so that through their senses and emotions, participants feel connected to corals, the living, breathing animals and plants that share our world with us and take care of us in so many ways. They need us to redesign how we perceive and intersect with their habitat if they are to survive. James is programming micro-controllers that sense human participant and ocean data to trigger responsive movement, lighting, and effects in the sculptures and space.
I hope you can come to the show! TrashTara will be at the opening.