Heating up – Front lines of Climate Change

With Jason Scorse, Director of Center for Blue Economy. photo by Colleen Flanigan
A chance to hear Bill McKibben of 350.org popped up. No one wanted to sit in the front row, but I DID! To think, if only oil companies and governments had invested in renewable energy 25 years ago…He quoted scientists from a couple years ago saying, “Our oceans will be hot, sour, and breathless,” in regards to the rate we are pumping carbon into the sea. We’re already at 403ppm. We have no time to waste.

BUT, in the shadow of that gravity, it was completely motivating and inspiring, the way he delivers his vital message. Seeing all the powerful images of people in places like Haiti, the Maldives, the Marshall Islands, China, and India using mass scale public art and other creative ways to stake their claim to “350” parts per million as our limit to carbon emissions against the backdrop of the stern reality was moving. I have cried the biggest shame about the US (the government, not the people) pulling out of the Paris Agreement. It’s a crime against the planet – humanity and all life.

And still, I didn’t walk out feeling depressed, as I easily could. Bill called upon people to get their solar panels up, divest of fossil fuels, and get arrested if you’re retired! Don’t leave it all to the next generations. We have to keep fighting the pipelines and violence against Earth and each other. He’s a true hero and leader. And he offered to connect me with some renewable people for the coral cause. With corals being so temperature sensitive and slow to adapt, I feel the heat.

 

New Year Cycles

Happy New Year! Politics aside, 2017 is off to a good start.

DCIM100GOPRO
A bit further out from Zoe are some patches of corals

The last days of 2016 and the first week of 2017 were filled with special endings and beginnings, just the way solstice likes it as we consider longer days. I know, I’m in Mexico with more sun than most, but I still love to take this time of year to be grateful, let go and make space for what’s to grow in spring. We had a beautiful intimate ceremony to honor Zoe Anderson with corals at the sculpture. Happened to be the BUSIEST day of the year at the dive shop, but the guests of honor were true grace and acceptance de la vida loca. We created a circle of memory holding hands in the sea and placing some new corals with great intentions for life. Beautiful meaningful moments together.

Here you can see a few of the corals added, burgundy algae, and some sponges taking residence.

On New Year’s Eve some more magic happened. My Air BnB guest invited me to join her with a few friends who just so happen to work with National Geographic and were heading to Cozumel to celebrate birthdays and vacation. Nice. We had a super time diving at Zoe and another reef thanks to Sand Dollar Sports Dive Shop. They’re excited to see how they can help support more coral restoration efforts and the Zoe project through explorer programs, so stay tuned! From eating chips and guacamole to talking about Emerging Explorers made for a fortuitous New Year’s Eve.

To add more to the mix, Shaan Hurley of Autodesk came down with his drone and joined our diving adventure, too. Can’t wait to see his underwater and aerial shots. He was here in 2014 training university students (UNAM) and government scientists in photogrammetry.

And here you have a little cockpit view from January 2nd when our #OpenROV, Patito, made its maiden voyage into the sea. Fun! Our Expedition is here.

Thanks again for being on this adventure and making it happen! With love and hope into the new year.

This post was the latest update for our current razoo campaign. Please check it out to learn more about our goals and how you can join in.

Also, if you are a scientist and want to work on some of our Zoe research, including lab tests, in the field, equipment, longterm and short term,…reach out to misssnailpail@gmail.com. From water quality to biodiversity counts to coral skeleton porosity, electromagnetic fields, photo documentation, there are lots of things to discover!

 

Transplanting Coral

Please grow here Porites polyps!
Please grow here Porites polyps!

I published my first Instructable!! I was wanting to, meaning to, and finally, DID IT! I enjoyed it, and even more, I feel so happy to finally be finding my way to share more through the one-to-many approach. One-to-one is slow going when you are dealing with process, such as art, science, and tech to rehabilitate corals and experiment with new transformational innovation. Online tutorials and communities are obviously an organic, inspiring way to build the movement and momentum, to reach people ready and open to join in from wherever they may be.

Are you familiar with Adafruit?  When I heard Limor Fried speak on a panel at an entrepreneur conference in NY 2013, she touched a harmonic cord. At first she may have tried to focus on “her projects,” but she had to go with the flow and let go of trying to control the river, the ocean. Ladyada is contributing so much to culture, innovation, art, technology and creativity. Her specific goal is not welfare of wildlife and the environment, but with her products and open source, we can make leaps.

When people ask me to help them with mineral accretion projects, I hesitate about the voltage and set up because in my experiments, I don’t yet feel like I have a “kit” or component, open source element that will be the needed baseline for people to run with seawater electrolysis. This year with Zoe finally in the sea, I can devote more time towards building the global community and constructing new unique reefs that unite aesthetics and function customized for their location.

It would be a dream to work with the likes of Healthy Reefs and Coral Reef Alliance in Honduras to regenerate devastated coral reefs using state of the art design and generative tools, equipment, coral science, and bright impulses of imagination. We need MORE CREATIVITY FLOWING through ingenious teams who like to play and share their wide knowledge to impact the next generation of coral cultivators and ocean healers.

I just applied for my dream art residency to push these goals forward. I really want to tell you who offers this amazing residency, yet I don’t want to jinks it! I’ll let you know what happens.

Last preparations before installing Zoe in the sea
Last preparations before installing Zoe in the sea

Snowflakes : COP13 Blue Economy

Over 200 countries are represented
Over 200 countries are representing at COP13 at Moon Palace in December 2016

Do you know about COP13? It’s going on now in Cancún. Lots of great friends are there now, as I write this, working to inspire policy shifts and governmental support for important environmental initiatives, including many for water, carbon, wildlife, and sustainable development all under the big umbrella of biodiversity.

One friend happened to be in just the perfect place at the right time to hand her Healthy Reefs for Healthy People report card for 2015 to President Nieto himself. He stopped to look through it and listen to her 30 seconds of whatever brilliance naturally rolled from her mouth. That’s it, can’t beat face to face. Very proud of all those deep in the sea of it making things matter up the food chain!

I had hoped to participate somehow. What a big honor to be invited by MAR Fund  to present coral restoration work alongside 3 other women coral scientists in Mexico and Belize at this special event about securing well-being in the Mesoamerican Reef through a Blue Economy.

The program chock full of inspirational work
The program chock full of inspirational work

It was this Monday, December 5th at the Cancún Convention Center.

I made sure to be early enough, catching the public transport van (colectivo) from Puerto Morelos to Moon Palace where the COP13 main events are held. Arriving at 3:05, plenty of time to hitch a ride to the resort by 3:30. Soon a construction truck driver with supplies stops. I check it with myself. Feels like a fine situation. I talk about the work with corals to ensure we were all on base about the amazing ocean and reef life here…He has to drop me off at the main entry so they can grill me on where is my badge? Great question. I’m here for a side event.

Soon another ride takes me to the campo de golf to catch a golf cart to the registration so I can get my badge and make it to my 3:30 event.

Arrive with the “Creative Cancún” truck (party planner doer) to the golf carts. Next comes nice long windblown ride through the palm-lined paths to the tent to register.

What?! The Convention Center is in CANCÚN! Nice, it does say Cancún in this email invitation I now see and agree. I’m in the wrong place and it’s now 3:30. Uff. Completely missed that detail on the invitation since I let my assumption that it was at Moon Palace rule the day.

Someone from registration kindly introduces me to resort staff to help me think about how to get a taxi downtown at the far end of the Hotel Zone for a reasonable rate, not an easy thing. At that very moment a friend and Saving Our Sharks collaborator on our ROVing the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef OpenROV expedition walks by. I give him a hug of relief and find out he made the same mistake. Excellent! We can talk politics while heading back in the golf cart to his car.

Driving to the Blue Economy event, we catch up on projects, where our collaboration is at, and future steps. Again, nothing like face to face. All those group whatsapp messages and emails sometimes congeal like snow flurries into a slushy ball and only when you are together can you pluck out the unique water crystals needing individual attention before they melt and we forget that the water could even have ever looked as magical as that singular water flake…It’s like that.

Snowflake captured by Russian photographer Alexey Kljatov
Snowflake captured by Russian photographer Alexey Kljatov

This image was found in this piece by Huffington Post about macrophotography of snowflakes by a singular artist, Alexey Kljatov.

Corals and snowflakes – the tropical and not-tropical forever linked by water and dynamic patterns reminding us that everything changes. We know so little from looking at the surface of things. As an artist, I peer through my imagination and intuition at every mystery that drifts by…and guess what? I just heard a lot of action going on outside this coffee shop where I’m getting some wifi. I’m facing the wall in my own bubble, and turns out there is a big Christmas Snow Bear event RIGHT behind me in this Cancún mall. Surprise. Frosty snowflakes and humid tropical coral-lined peninsulas connect in Plaza Las Americas.

 

 

Luz Verde for Zoe

It’s happening! I’m sitting outside using some wifi in Puerto Morelos while all the puzzle pieces are Tetrising (verb) into place to install Zoe in Cozumel sea by month’s end. So exciting to be working with such an incredible crew. Here are just a few from Qualti Innovaciones Marinas who worked on the authorization with the government and will be responsible for installation with the rest of the US and Swedish team coming in on Wednesday.

Qualti Innovaciones Marinas

Last Wednesday was a quiet moment of joy relief happy peace to watch Zoe be moved for the first time since 2011 from her waiting place in Punta Sam, Cancún back to Todo Inoxidable (steel factory) where we built her in 2011.

IMG_3007 (1)

Tomorrow we’ll make some quick fixes and changes so we can ferry her over to Cozumel end of week. Yea!

I’m being eaten by mosquitoes, so will be brief! (A couple friends have Zika, not good). It has taken an incredible amount of people to get this far, and my gratitude is running over.

Very happy that after more than 5 years, we have a super location and home for this Living Sea Sculpture. And you will be able to view it and interact from the livestreaming webcam!

OpenROV in Quintana Roo

Just launched our expedition on Open Explorer. Hugely grateful to David Lang, Fellow TED Fellow and co-founder of OpenROV, for helping us to receive a grant to play with this new toy and tool.

Please follow along at ROVing the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef!

OpenROV 2.8 Mini Observation Class ROV
OpenROV 2.8 Mini Observation Class ROV

We’ll be ROVing in the state of Quintana Roo, Mexico, starting in June. Very excited about this new Caribbean adventure with so many incredibly fun, caring, and brilliant people. Lots of complex ecosystems and biodiversity at stake, so we want to build momentum to protect and nurture our interdependence and learn from the past, present, and daily future.

I was just asked, so here you go~ ROV means remotely operated vehicle. Part of the Robotics glossary: An underwater remotely operated vehicle (ROV) is a mobile robot designed for aquatic work environments. Remote control is usually carried out through copper or fiber optic cables.
We should be receiving our ROV kit by end of month with hope to go out on first run to celebrate a birthday. Building an ROV and observing underwater life with loving friends – super way to begin a new year!!!

 

 

 

Fundación Aitana Connects with Corals

FundacioAitana6webGustavo Navarrette and I arrived at Fundación Aitana in Cancún on March 19th to give our Zoe Reef reFORMed art and science workshop to the fabulous children, their nurturing families, and generous volunteers. As always, my favorite part is being drawn into the unknown and the surprising results. It is like watching something bloom in real time as we feel and see our way forward in each emergent moment.

FundacionAitana3web
Making Papier-mâché corals

Everyone semi-consciously feeds each others’ curiosity to try different approaches to painting and creating. And the speed! Working in groups like this builds beautiful fluid momentum so that by the end of 2 or 3 hours, wow, so many corals and fish!

FundacionAitana17webConversations and laughter, it was really fun and inspiring to work with these kids who are cancer patients and survivors. Not once did it seem like anyone was ill, but they are at high risk and need local care facilities. Fundación Aitana is working to bring pediatric oncology to Cancún because they don’t have it. The families have to go hours to Merida, Cozumel, and beyond. This leads to huge expenses and deaths that could be avoided. Right now as I wrote that sentence I see a parallel with the corals, how they have diseases and need urgent care too. It is nice to have times where fun activities help us to enjoy and heal ourselves and other species in some way.  There is wonderful comforting connection in that.

FundacionAitana4web

 

 

 

International Women’s Day

FullSizeRender
Future Woman – Making a Fish

For this day, March 8th, I posted this update to kickstarter about ZOE and some other life events. It’s a day to celebrate and honor the creativity and powerful motivations that well up within the women all over the world. May great things may be born.

ZOE Reef reFORMed in Mexico in progress
ZOE Reef reFORMed in Mexico in progress

 

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.

TEDxCancún

Sunrise in Cancún
Sunrise in Cancún photo Colleen Flanigan

September 18th, 2015 was the first ever TEDxCancún. It took Mónica Alba and her team 4 years to get the license because there was some doubt at the top that Cancun is a “real city,” not just a Spring Break party destination. It definitely is a developing place deserving of critical thinking and ideas worth spreading. From the cenotes to the sea, to birth, communities, entrepeneurs, tech, there is a lot of growth and desire for intelligent change.

I was honored to be among the speakers (my talk is live now). It gave me such a warm sense of belonging, especially since I had a flicker of a thought about having a TEDxCancún back in 2011 when I was here making the Living Sea Sculpture, now titled, ZOE. How sweet to participate in this amazing event while still awaiting permits to install ZOE into MUSA, the underwater museum (ok, we did get permits on August 21st, yea! but are now awaiting copies of permits..like fractals it goes on). It is nice to be seen for what you are working on even while in process of the process towards the perceived goal – coral refuge in the water with live-stream webcams. This specific project has taught me that growth is not a straight line, and I have had to forgive myself and others for missing deadlines that evaporate like steam.

TEDxCancún was Incredibly well organized, so many super volunteers, workshops for us speakers, celebrations…I was moved to tears at the end by how hearty it all was because of the passion, generosity and commitment of the leaders and dreamers who made it happen. Initially, I went to the first planning meeting with Mélina Soto, Elisa Lopez Garcia, and Mónica Alba. I was excited to gather information from other organizers so they could prepare their speakers and volunteers. Lots of good energy builds up around these events, and you want to dive in. What a happy surprise when they asked me to speak! Grateful to be acknowledged and have the opportunity to tell my story about the “Symbiosis of Corals and Tango.” I tangoed in with Mario Oswaldo of InfecTANGO. Tango dancing was my metaphor for coral restoration, partnerships, and the journey of ZOE as an art and science collaboration. Over the top nervous this time, I wanted to practice and be truly present on stage so that I could enjoy, improvise a bit, and connect with the audience if possible. I had all the support in the world writing my words, rehearsing, and when I got on stage, there was calm and spaciousness inside. I could see all my words coming from the script while still able to think and react without losing track or being blinded by some adrenaline shock of white light. What a dream to feel solid and ease after so much inner struggle.

photo María González
photo María González

I am still in Mexico, here in quiet Puerto Morelos. Have been here with some trips away since late December. We have mineral accretion tank experiments going on since May to bring more of the coral scientists into the process. I love learning about the corals and how the electrolysis works; lots of variables and keeps me engaged with what I am so passionate about while the permit dance has been ongoing for ZOE.

…Something about being in Mexico has made me shy away from blogging. I don’t know why. I have been learning Spanish and wanting to stay in the moment with being here. And there is a lot of heat… yet, none of that explains why I shy. There is no excuse, so back to TEDxCancún! I hope you will visit their site in a month to see the talks.

The sunrise at the top of the page is my view on September 18th thanks to TEDxCancún and Secrets of the Vine. What a HUGE gift to have room service and such care while I was stressing and needing the love. It made all the difference to be well-fed and pampered by the friendly hotel staff. And again, all the TEDx volunteers who treated us speakers with glowing respect and joy, handholding and soothing. I was embraced by their presence. I can’t thank them enough!

On Our Radar

Respire – The Coral Corollary is acknowledged by Creative Capital’s On Our Radar through September 30th, 2015. Another highly competitive grant for artists, Creative Capital generously represents some 400 artist projects who made it to the 2nd or 3rd round of their selection process through their searchable database.

IMC respire1 from Colleen Flanigan on Vimeo.

This raw video I took one night while interactive technologist, James Tunick of The IMC LAB + GALLERY, and I were co-creating the 1st phase prototype of Respire gives a peek into our process for integrating sensor driven kinetic sculpture, audio, and video in an immersive installation. Also in this clip you can see the EKG-like screen which shows tidal data that drives the vertical movement of resin-covered plastic objects and bags found in waterways hanging in the background which were created by James Baker for his IMC show, Ebb and Flow.

My handheld shaky walk takes you to the small Biorock accretion tank with experimental mesh forms being electrified through seawater to precipitate mineral deposits.

photo colleen flanigan

The audio includes movie soundbites, something James Tunick explored. I had not thought about bringing voices into the project, so it was interesting to observe in myself and others how human voices and sci-fi memories stimulate a broad range of responses. I was also intrigued by his addition of morphing climate change and global graphics as surrounding projections. That is one of the best parts of collaborating, of course, trialing and riffing off of each other with curiosity as we dive into our imaginations, areas of expertise, and the unknown. Play and surprise is key.

Black/white video from actual iron lung footage in the 1940’s and 1950’s is spliced with vital coral imagery projected onto the “breathing coral” made with plastic bags sewn together over a steel sculpture to portray contrasts of vitality, mortality, and medical intervention. Breathing and movement of participants in the space, as well as ocean data, will continue to be the life force activating the exhibit.

In the next iteration, I imagine creating a very different feel and experience with the addition of an iron lung I purchased off ebay in 2012 so that the touring exhibit can more directly correlate to life support, concepts of technological advancement and cures for ailing coral reefs worldwide. Use of the ceiling has always been in the plan, and being in Mexico these past few months snorkeling and diving has shown me ocean illuminations that inspire how to bring a person in the land space to feel like they are in the sea, a sensory metaphor to being the coral. Whether you’re lying in the iron lung looking up after a “nurse” helps you inside, or you’re another observer interactor, I want to transport you, connect you with the non-verbal, fluid water animal that you are, breathing and reflecting, pulsing with a mysterious underwater corollary.

Prototypes for Coral Housing

Form is part of the formula for creating coastal community housing. Here we’re trialing  project housing (not necessarily low cost to produce, but readily available for marginalized coral communities) on small-scale so we can ramp up to meet the growing needs of the globe using a simple math equation:

~!^!~  + **^V^** + /\/\/\#<><>#/\/\/\ = <{*}(>>>)<

(form + volume + comfort = housing)

I arrived in Mexico with some steel screen that stirs my imagination for mineral accretion potential. I knew somehow I’d meet the place to play with it to make bumps on the flat mesh. Walking home the other day, I saw this place.

Carpenter shop in Vilas Morelos 1, Puerto Morelos

“I bet that’s the place,” I was thinking, as I almost walked in, but then, no, I kept walking. Next day I was walking past again just as a dumping rain began. I ran from the other side of the street to a tree, because you know how a tree will keep you dry when the rain is bucketing down. A young guy came out of the shop (I didn’t quite realize my perfect timing yet with the storm and my tree canopy attempt), and waved me to come inside.

And there I was. Inside. Martin, the carpenter who owns the shop (sorry I don’t know his last name) nodded for me to bring my metal and we could figure it out. Rain passed and soon I returned. Because neither of us are fluent in each other’s spoken language, I found it comforting to find materials and tools to try things and share the process of figuring things out more manually and with wordless ahas. The first attempt to carve domes was labor intensive and not successful.

Luckily we found holes! At the ends of tubes, on tools, everywhere and all sizes.

Pressing the screen into a tube hole to make bumps

In a dream recently, I used a hydraulic press to make the bumps, so it was a relief to discover that all we needed was our hands. Now we have a prototype with this material. Small or large-scale, finer screens and meshes have so much to offer the realm of building artistic and functional mineral accretion coral housing, breakwaters, and sculptures.

Form and texture for Biorock tank experiment

Imagine on a large scale, how will the corals and other organisms settle onto the bumps and valleys? How could we make really large forms with a hydraulic press or other machine? Or from multiple small forms all welded or woven together?

Who will settle on the inside of a tubular form? Which surfaces will gather more minerals?

Soon I hope to start an experiment with these prototypes at the government coral nursery in Puerto Morelos. Working with biologists, we can observe and cross-pollinate. They have systems for cultivating corals and are open to investigating new ways to offer best chances of survival. They want to see if corals do grow faster and how it effects their density. I’m excited to be working with the actual species that will be planted onto ZOE, a Living Sea Sculpture in Cancun, with the actual team of scientists that cultivate those species.

As an artist, I feel fortunate to be coming from a position of curiosity and freedom to research, express, and interpret. I am learning a lot about humans too, and the constructs we have built around our disciplines. Scientists tell me how dangerous it is to associate with the wrong scientists. How their reputations and theories are so carefully protected and boxed-in by the steely rules of SCIENCE. Peer-review and rigorous controls have their purpose, and their pain. I believe artistic investigators need to be part of scientific discourse so that new, sensory perspectives flow in and loosen some of the clamps of entrenched “reason.” Art and science collaborations heighten our intuition and create dialogue around the beauty and mystery seducing us to begin with…

Back to Martin – his daughter is in Ensenada, Mexico, the other side of the country, researching marine algae for cancer cures. His son is recovering from dengue fever. Through his craft and his children, we bonded for oceans and cures.

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.

Too shallow? Can this be true?!

Putting our heads together to solve the latest puzzle: Nizuc Resort and Spa is ready to house ZOE. Yea!! They want to celebrate it, publicize, make it quite happy with simple swank elegant parties for people of taste. Any issues with guests having to wear weird shaming bracelets to snorkel a few meters can be worked out with the government.
Cool! this is easy and delightful somehow, I’m thinking. And feels pretty loving, reminiscent of the blissful dream I had just before waking in which Roberto Diaz (pictured), Pres. of MUSA/manager of Aquaworld, was wearing a robe from the same fabric as a dress I got for this trip. We had our heads together in the dream and the feeling was that we were in love. Not IN LOVE like hot-I-want-YOU love, but that comfort that our hearts and minds, souls and hopes were wanting things to happen for the better of culture and conservation however that plays out. Somehow we were “wearing” our synergy.Cut to snorkeling – wow, this is damn shallow. Let’s just walk around on the sandy seafloor a bit figuring how to make the sculpture shrink or the sea level rise a bit faster. Not quite that shallow, but not much higher than the 2M of ZOE. How can we make this deeper? Clearly that IS the problem with this place.  Gena Bezanilla, Executive Director of MUSA, was on the boat with us imagining how ZOE would look if it was half-size.  Possible?

OK, let’s all swim around the other sculptures in MUSA, look at all pros and cons of this resort, and put Colleen in a BOB tomorrow to see if that area of Punta Cancun where there are already approved plans for a 3rd exhibition gallery for MUSA might be perfect for ZOE. It’s 18′ deep, aqua blue waters, snorkeling and diving, and the Park wants to regenerate corals in the area that was hit hard by Hurricane Wilma. (Apparently a 400 ton sunken ship was torn in half and thrown 100M. Serious Act of God.)

Roberto told me so much about his adventures since starting MUSA with Jaime and Jason in 2009. The moral of this very longass FB post: do it because you love it, Colleen. There is no glory, often no thanks, and who wants to be a quitter? Roberto is also a sculptor with a piece in the museum. I’m grateful for his sensitive, generous far-seeing soul. (She says before getting on an underwater scooter with a bubble on her head. I’ll let you know if I feel so warm fuzzy tomorrow.)

BOB Aquaworld Adventures in Cancun

Pollution-less

Whenever you think of coral reefs dying, think of what types of pollution you are creating and you have a reverse recipe to really help. Just do that less.

 

Fire! Fire! Corals are Feeling the Heat!

Fire escape on 6th and Ave A

I wanted to make an art installation on 6th street here in New York’s East Village.  Using the Gossamer community crocheted and needle-felted reef, I would attach the textile corals and fish to the white undulating fire escapes, like Biorock sculptures, and project video of underwater coral reefs onto the building.  Live music would play.  Perhaps the instrumentalists would be on different levels of the fire escapes immersed in their steel boats adrift like such unusual organisms populating the sea.

So many ideas and projects run through me all the time related to corals and how to convey their beauty and their endangerment, their need for life support and healthy habitat, and of course, OUR need for them.  When my dog walks me down a new street, it often seems as if he’s guiding me to a place or a thing to spark my imagination that unites urban life with nature’s presence, such as the idea I just described for Fire! Fire! Corals are Feeling the Heat!

What about an app that responds to your geolocations, where it appears that fire escapes, bridges, and other inspiring architectural forms are accreting with minerals, colonizing with corals or oysters, and marine life?  I really want to put my energy into creating the living sculptural reefs and nurseries in the ocean, but while I’m in the city, I can’t turn off my inner vision of all this aquatic fluid atmosphere that permeates my mind.  And once we get the webcams onto the sculpture, ZOE, in Cancun, the resulting projections and live feeds will tie in positively to this evolving land and sea revival experience that will hopefully lead us away from this grim end as described by scientist, Charlie Veron, in Iain McCalman’s new book – The Reef:  A Passionate History (reviewed by Rob Nixon in the NY Sunday Times)

Without an abrupt decline in greenhouse gas emissions, “there is no hope of reefs surviving to even midcentury in any form that we now recognize. If, and when, they go, they will take with them about one-third of the world’s marine biodiversity.” Bearing witness to this gradual annihilation, Veron concludes, is “like seeing a house on fire in slow motion.”

A consuming conflagration metaphor.  I can’t have Veron’s prediction take hold in my mind or it throws me off center and off my positive focused trajectory, but perhaps politicians, businesses, big corporations, and anyone unaware of the true bottom line, will start to listen and begin cleaning up dirty industry if a renowned scientist points this gun, already smoking, to their heads, threatening their homes with this horrifying image.

If the message stating that all is already lost gets louder than the message inviting you to think of how to get involved, what effect does that have on you?  What combination of lightness with darkness motivates shifts in behavior and values?  I can’t tell you how many times I meet someone who assumes corals are doomed based on hearing snips about bleaching and acidification. They smile and share personal stories or offer strategy when I tell them that from pollution to restoration, there are things that CAN be done. It isn’t time to pretend the house is already burnt to the ground and just stand there drinking beer on the sidelines like you might be doing this month watching the World Cup.  (What a finish for Portugal last night tying in the last seconds!)

Seriously, Veron does say “slow motion,” and that’s an opening for optimism in the midst of despair.  If that somehow gives the endangered animals more time to adapt and people more time to develop new energy, rescue activities, and to stop injecting sewage, fertilizer, and carbon into the sea, it remains to be seen what 2050 holds.  My concept of the fire escapes with the corals growing over was to symbolize both the urgency and the potential to escape the heating oceans caused by climate change.  To find a way out of the burning building into the air to survive the disaster.

Reef Madness

Additional note for perspective, I recently read the book, Reef Madness: Charles Darwin, Alexander Agassiz, and the Meaning of Coral.  The “coral reef problem” illuminated how recently we had no idea about how coral reefs are formed, and it intimately illustrates just how controversial and political scientific theories and quests can be, then and now.  How egos take the stage and discoveries are intertwined with layered cultural and societal beliefs and systems.  Some philosophies and styles are in the process of dying off; it’s like new species of understanding, expressing, and technology emerge with evolution and that directly impacts our ability to see and discern our reality. Even though corals create bone-like stone, our ideas and assertions about them are much less solid.  There’s space in the world to explore working together to escape the “fires of hell” and create cooler, collaborative coral conservatories that will teach us much more than we know now.