ArtCOP21 ZOE Reef reFORMed

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 map ZOE, 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.

ZOE-Fi_edit-FULL_TRUE-wm_2MB(1)-1Somyaku’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.

Sea Level Rise – will we float sink or swim?

I just watched Chasing Ice today.  Intense…It changed my course for writing.  Instead of describing the electrolysis of mineral accretion, I am moved to talk glaciers.

Blue Underside Revealed

Camille Seaman Photography, copyright 2010

Glacier week seemed to start last Friday for me when Camille Seaman was featured on the TED Blog.  Both Camille and James Balog make it clear that the tipping point for icebergs is past.  The glowing, crystalline packs of frozen water will be saved in photographs and video for our archives, but most likely not for our planet. The giants are melting and flowing into the ocean at unprecedented rates.  So then I think, how CAN the polar bears be saved? Are massive ice blowers being built?  Dr. Steven Amstrup says that with carbon emission mitigation and other shifts in management, there is still hope for the bears and other ice animals.  Right, so stay in the moment, plan for the 6th mass extinction, keep hope alive,…

By Susan van Gelder/ Flickr creative commons

Back to the movie: The Extreme Ice Survey capturing time-lapse evidence of rapid change indicates that 150 million people may be displaced due to sea level rise. All of what I am sharing seems less than positive, yet I found the story and the footage to be motivating; James Balog is yet another “lone hero” shining light on masses of matter to illuminate what the masses of humans need to do: cut emissions and industrial, havoc-wreaking activities in exchange for renewable energies and naturalizing systems.  I am already part of the choir, how to inspire more closet cooperative visionaries to sing louder and truer? Will a red alert account like this begin to melt policy maker resistance to embrace 350 ppm (carbon) or less?

Curling up this late evening with a book and escaping is not possible after I witnessed the most beautiful horror of black holes in the ice caused by dust, coal, and other accumulations of anthropogenic stuff that absorbs heat and radiates through the sheaths of solid turning liquid. Tonight I am going to stay with this feeling of even smaller smallness in wonder at geological time.  I never feel large like a mountain or an old tree, yet I look at them and feel their stability.  They change in color, offer seasons, but I like that they stay put like architectural ancestors. Watching the ice calving off in colossal towers dwarfed every mundane facet and illusion of “reality.”  Some things instantly expand your mind in reverse proportion to your perception of your physical size.

The latest work by Argentine architect, artist, and MIT resident Tomás Saraceno

I said to a friend, to lighten things up, “We’ll just make room for the 150 million people on the continents.”  And, then again, there is this playground made almost entirely of air.  According to the article, “A future iteration of On Space Time Foam will make the project’s concern with the environment more apparent, when it travels to the Maldives as a ‘floating biosphere […] made habitable with solar panels and desalinated water,’ a reaction to the environmental destruction the islands face as a result of climate change.”  (side note: The Island President is another epic film that entertains, educates, slaps you to wake up.) Will people live in floating biospheres?

Will we finally grow buildings underwater?

Biorock concept design by Wolf Hilbertz and colleagues

How long until artificial gills are available at REI?  Can oil rigs that have caused so much damage transform into futuristic cities for biodiveristy above and below the surface?

Lower Reef by PreserveReefs.org, copyright 2010

Sea level rise is not a childhood frolic. I commend Romain Vakilitabar for tackling this topic, the humanitarian side, in his book, Matteo’s Day Off: A Story of Rising Seas.  He is seeking a publisher with large distribution and will offer all proceeds from sales to support an organization that addresses this complex issue.  At Making Waves 2012 we discussed his desire to find a good fit and the potential for his creativity to support LSS reef restoration. That would be fabulous.  If you know of a large distributor or another organization that has broad promoting power, please contact him.