Scouting el Sitio

Hola!

Scouting installation site in Punta Nizuc. photo courtesy of Ray Santisteban

I arrived here in Quintana Roo on December 28th. I wanted to experience my first Mexican New Year’s Eve, an advance celebration of ZOE installation into el mar. Date still to be determined, but as director, manager, producer, artist, my job is to find eternal internal resources to keep saying, “We aim to install __________ .” (put upcoming month in the blank.)

It’s a huge country, so I won’t generalize my New Year’s Eve on the beach and roaming through streets of Playa Del Carmen with new local friends as representative of Mexico, but it was a special moment to release the floating fire-lit balloon into the sky with Grecia Goretty, Ricardo Rubio, and Gerar Orozko Astigarraga envisioning what I hope the new year holds. Looking up to the stars into the past present future with wonder and soft sand between my toes, I watched my wishes dissolve into the dark sky.  About six hours later, I welcomed the first red rays glazing the sea.

New Year’s Dawn. photo Colleen Flanigan

Yesterday I went with Raymundo Santisteban of The Stills to measure distances for the underwater installation of ZOE and to take photos and video of the area for our team and supporters. The location for the sculpture will be about 100 meters from the dock at Nizuc Resort and Spa.

Looking towards the resort. photo Colleen Flanigan

The water was really clear for us to see the natural reef close to the installation site. This is part of the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef, the 2nd largest barrier reef after the Great Barrier Reef in Australia.

Coral Reef at Nizuc Resort and Spa. photo Colleen Flanigan

These native corals represent species we’ll be transplanting onto the coral refuge. It’s a pretty subdued palette, think conservative, fashionable interior decor, including some porites porites, gorgonians, staghorn and elkhorn, among others. The fish spending their time here will come swim by our habitat, too. Not only is ZOE for coral, it will attract many species of marine life looking for new homes where coral reefs have been disappearing. Reefs provide habitat for 25%-30% of marine species, so providing life support for them and reducing deadly environmental stressors, like pollution, is essential to the health of the entire ocean.

ZOE will attract these and other fish. photo Colleen Flanigan

 

 

 

IMC exhibit

Respire 1.0 our first prototype

Respire 1.0 our first prototype

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.

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.