VR – coral reefs

As one of the 1st of 60 artists-in-residence with Google’s Tilt Brush, a portal of awesome opened up for me! Immersed in a dark space, magical colorful dream world comes to life before your headset-wearing eyes with your movements. The “brushes” are a mix of markers, paint brushes, physical-feeling extruded light, audio-activated pulsating colors…it was such a great residency.

Playing with materials without any outcome in mind is so important to my well-being. Even with an idea in mind, letting the tools illuminate the way is a candy-colored high of inspiration.

Since the residency, I’ve been invited to create work as an impromptu, live performer for various events. Most of the time I’m in the flow of making something that is projected onto a large monitor in real time so the audience can see what I see. It’s a fabulous job and I hope to do more soon! One event was Virtual Tomorrow in landlocked Columbus, Ohio. How great to be able to create reefy scenes and talk with attendees and local tech team about corals and Living Sea Sculptures while so far from the ocean.

On the other side of the discussion, some people express anxiety about Virtual Reality. Clearly, VR has its distressing arenas, as with all tech innovation that leads to roads unknown. So, use it as a tool to highlight what matters to you. For me, that’s the coral reefs, marine world, surreal nature, and healing the environment that we all share through imagination, collaboration, and action. Being able to move in space and wave wands to create 3D worlds is magic.

 

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.

 

 

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

 

 

 

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.

Geometries Patterns Music

Like Swirling Marbles, wind and current on the clear water distort the coral fragments below                                                                                                                                   photo Colleen Flanigan

I’m studying Spanish while here in Mexico, and had the fortune to meet Dr. ‘West’ Marrin in class last week. Through our raw Spanish conversation, we realized we had a mutual fascination with the ocean, not only in the macro sense, but in the micro, sonic, geometric, and chemical. We got lazy (or real) and spoke in English to discover we had a number of mutual friends and colleagues in common back in the US, and that Art and Science are core to our work.

As I’m developing new design ideas for Living Sea Sculpture reefs, sound waves of music  permeate. Music is the ultimate art form in its temporal nature yet eternal ability to effect us on a cellular and emotional level. We can always turn to a piece of music and be transported, moved, energized, saddened, hyped…the waves of sound are powerful, and of course, the ocean waves can take you under, take you somewhere far away, or lull you to sleep. How are sound waves of music and waves of water related, both the physical movement, the structural components and geometries, and the concept of rhythms and cycles.

West Marrin was a guest contributor to SciArt in America last June with this article, Functional Art and Water Science p.34 (scroll to p.18 in the pdf at the link). As a proponent of the genre, Art as Ecology, I am invested in raising the bar for functionality of art forms to the place where (once again) art is considered of equal value to math and science by world leaders and in the classroom because someone at the top realizes that without the ability to perceive your surroundings, discern the world with all of your senses, and imagine myriad juxtapositions and connections with your self as the common denominator, the common identifier that makes meaning to be offered to the world, then we as a civilization will erode powerful sensitivities and problem solving abilities within our species needed to evolve.

So back to the music idea before I rant about how much time, money, and resources are spent to produce a violent society rather than a creative and farsighted one.

“I envision combining a piece of music’s sound-waves with ocean sound-waves into a large sculptural coral reef. La Cumparsita, the last piece played at every milonga (tango party), is symbolic to me because dance is a well-known metaphor for life, and the idea of coming to the end of a fabulous time again and again and again at the end of each party, while we are facing the 6th mass extinction, there is something poetic, hopeful, and morbid united. Is it too far of a stretch to link the end of a dance to the end of a species? A dance that will happen again, but never the same. I want to embed that idea of the dance of life in a non-literal way, and music and sound epitomize that concept. Something transcendent or essential…Breaking down this narrative of cycles into sonic visual patterns for the purpose of regenerating endangered coral reefs and biodiversity through art and science investigation gives me a ground and rhythm to engage with such complex abstractions and information.”
That was part of my email to West today, to which he replied, “…As far as the rhythms of tango and the cycles of nature, they have a common source that is inherent in everything from the regeneration of coral reefs to the birthing of galaxies. All are based on the same fundamental geometry of nature that is expressed spatially as patterns and temporally as rhythms.”
And so, I’ll keep recording live music with my iphone. I like to watch the sound waves while envisioning a living reef composed of musical algorithms with the help of Autodesk software and scientific consultations into a score tuned for the sea.

Mexico Mexitel

Since arriving in Mexico to finalize and install ZOE, things are moving smoothly. Every part of me knows it was the right thing to put my stuff in storage and come here free of strict time constraints. I’ve met people every day, from photographers, to musicians, dancers, artists, veterinarians, scientists, taxi drivers, bus drivers, conservationists, travelers…people who are so open, flowing into my life with a gentle supportive tide. My transition to being here is made easy by having a local phone.

While traveling, it’s important to me to be able to text and call people locally to coordinate. All of my successful meetings and adventures so far, and most of my taxi rides, are thanks to my super handy phone sponsored by Mexitel Cellular North America. That link has all the FAQ’s you need to know before you rent one of their phones on ebay. I have used their phones on my last 3 trips here as well. I turn off all data with my US phone, reserving it for wifi hotspots to surf internet and occasional imessaging.

Donna and Rick with the company have been responsive to all my questions and concerns via email or phone every time I’ve rented. It seems like my minutes never run out. Telcel has a reward program which adds minutes to your phone, so this isn’t a situation where you’re constantly running to the store to buy more minutes. My social and business life are greatly enhanced by these phones, and you can get a blackberry or regular phone. Without the phone, my friends and colleagues here would never connect with me, well a few via facebook, but my life would definitely miss out on our constantly communicating cross-cultures.

About using the Mexitel phone for international calls, it costs only $1 to call US for 15 minutes, and you can receive calls from anywhere for free any time.

Check it out!!

 

 

 


 

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.

Men of Sanitation NYC – TrashTara Knights

These guys made my night!

Perfect timing for TrashTara

I was walking back to THE IMC LAB + GALLERY now with a box of smashed grey tinted glass I just swept up off the street (my dog, Plum found it) thinking,”I still need ‘sand’ for the art show this week.” Shredded paper was my earlier thought, and there it was – 4 bags of thinly julienned paper. Exactly at that moment, these guys drove up to take it away as I was working out how to carry 2 bags, come back for 2, leave 2..
Me: Can I leave 2 and come back?
Guy : Sure, but you have to come back or I’ll get in trouble.
Me: Ok,..no, I only need 2..
He’s about to put bags into the truck.
Me: Wait! I might need all 4…
One guy: where are you going?
Me: 6th…2 avenues.
Guy: I tell you what, I just need to go around one more block and I’ll meet you on the corner of 22nd and 6th.

photo by Colleen Flanigan

And they even took my heavy box of glass. When they turned the corner at 22nd, it was like, I don’t know, getting picked up at the airport by old friends (with a garbage truck).

Matryoshka Principle. Steel, plastic, glass, paper, sand. 2014

The paper and the glass were used in this installation piece in the Manhattan show, TrashTara: It Starts with an Inhale.

Art and FILCO

TrashTara : It Starts with An Inhale

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.

TrashTara’s Catch-All

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.

photo by Colby Cannon

 

 

 

 

 

ZOE looks ahead in the midst of spawning and pollution

Aerial view of Gulf of Mexico

I opened my window just as we were flying over Punta Nizuc where we plan to install ZOE. There is a lot of ocean in the photo, but I was so focused on Punta Nizuc, it was a great surprise to see the reefs and aqua clear waters where we plan to put our coral refuge. Without Google-Earthing, I could get an idea of the broader seascape of the area. We plan to locate ZOE near the resort in shallow waters.  There are species of corals that like being very close to the surface.  Actually, while snorkeling in the area, the healthiest coral reefs seemed to be in the shallows.

Not far out from the dock is the site where we will anchor the sculpture.  The rest of my August visit entailed meetings with the Director of the Marine Park and the MUSA directors, as well as scientists at Universidad Nacional Autonoma de México (UNAM) in Puerto Morelos to develop our proposal for a scientific research collaboration between Comisión Nacional de Áreas Naturales Protegidas (CONANP) and UNAM.  Growth monitoring is our main focus, as well as observing differences between neighboring natural corals and those on the Biorock® mineral accretion reef.

Autodesk has generously offered to come to Mexico to train us in their latest photogrammetry process, the cutting edge in 3D digital modelling.  They’ll train me, my team, including a group of university students, in how to capture the photos of our coral transplants and neighboring corals.

Coral scientist, Serguei Rico of UNAM, is working with me on our proposal to ensure ZOE is a conservation experimental project of the National Marine Park as well as a tourism attraction for MUSA.  He was telling me that another PhD student wants to start experimenting with taking photos to digitally model corals for monitoring coral growth as his thesis. As he was describing it, I couldn’t help but jump in and tell him that part of the project was to offer free training for just that! Perfecto.

Serguei has been following how corals have been effected by nitrogen run-off and other pollutants since the emergence of mega-tourism. Sewage from all those hotels along the Hotel Zone in Cancun and down the Riviera Maya is deep injected. It seeps into the aquifers and ocean causing corals to suffer new diseases.  There were only 3 inhabitants on Isla Cancún in 1970. Now there are over 722,000. With no treatment plants, you can see how this is an epic problem with all that untreated shit running into the sea. Corals are much more sensitive to the bacteria in sewage than humans, and the parts per million are well-beyond their standards.

While I was in Mexico this trip, I witnessed baby turtles being released on a full moon. (next post.) I wish I could’ve joined the small group of scientists watching corals spawn at night, but they want to protect the animals while they are making babies from too many intrusive people. I understand needing more privacy, and wanting to avoid the potential for humans to get crowded and bump into the reefs.

Sunset before spawning
Spawning gives a smokey milky appearance. Acropora Palmata aka Elkhorn Coral.
Endangered corals spawning in August, 2014

Spawning photos are from PN Costa Occidental de Isla Mujeres, Punta Cancún y Punta Nizuc.

The dream to plant some corals onto ZOE is getting closer to being realized.  Working with the scientists, meeting the resort manager, connecting with other artists who want to be part of the local team to install and create future works…It was a wonderful process and we took many steps forward.

Look closely and you can see where we plan to install as soon as we do.

 

 

 

 

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

Made it to Cancun

Made it to Cancun! Room 2509 on the playa at Celuisma Dos Playas while they fix a water explosion thingy problem in my room on lagoon side for couple days. Variety. love that…the stolen/lost credit card hardly noticeable. No kidding, the Hotel Zone has swaddled me in its humid party of all-inclusivo-except-for-this-but-look-we’re-gonna-give-you-THIS! adventure already. Tomorrow is big meeting at 10AM. Feeling GOOD!! and so happy when I realized the little white car that wouldn’t open with my keys was the other little white car next to mine.

This was first time flying standby in maybe 20 years? Very exciting to have to keep hopping from gate to gate working with the airlines in New York to try and ensure I would catch one of only 2 flights to Cancun from either Philadelphia, PA, or Charlotte, NC.  Luckily, I was able to find the right navigators with US Airways to complete travels in 13 hours.  And it really didn’t seem that long, thanks to all the little hits of adrenaline and willful concentration.  Off to find ZOE’s ocean home and the many people that will be working with me in Mexico.

 

 

 

we have moved next door!

Heading to Cancun Thursday. Time to mark the spot for ZOE’s ocean home at Nizuc Resort and Spa. Here’s one visitor’s view.

From DNA-Dividing at Club Med to ZOE at Nizuc Resort and Spa, transformation is on.  To get you up to speed – see the Living Sea Sculpture cover photo above? That is ZOE awaiting installation in Punta Nizuc from 2011. We were going to install off the beach of Club Med. Since Nizuc Resort and Spa only opened in 2013, they were not an option back in 2011. Timing!!

Roberto Diaz of both MUSA and Aquaworld (he’s a major doer) has been making things happen, and the government is being towed along with approving grace.  Cheers to Roberto!

And big thanks to María Antonia Gonzáles Valeria who I met here in NY at a Genspace event. She went back to Mexico City to see how she could help through her university, Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México (UNAM).  She introduced me to a recent marine biology graduate focusing on corals in Pueto Morelos, Serguei Rico, who is ready to meet and see how we can work to appropriately appropriate enough coral transplants for installation with his department.  This is a big deal in Mexico – making sure we have the approvals since it is in a National Park protected area; corals are only available for projects after hurricanes, damage by boats, and through lab propagation.  I look forward to working with Serguei and Jaime, Director of the Marine Park, to ensure ZOE becomes a Living Sea Sculpture with endangered corals colonizing.

Steps!! More soon!

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.

 

Birthday wishes

It’s my birthday.  Not Living Sea Sculpture’s birthday, Colleen Flanigan’s.  What did I wish for?  I wished that I would continue to only pay attention to signs of love and stay wide open to all the good around, and that the Living Sea Sculpture in Mexico would be installed.

First wish is totally happening! Second wish is on its way.  I’ve been communicating with individuals and people in organizations every day as I intuit and research who to reach out to next to clear the path into the sea for ZOE (previously titled DNA Dividing).  MUSA has a new executive director who has offered some assistance, and the founders of the underwater museum were supposed to be meeting last week to add “more efforts.”  The Mexican Consulate in New York, the Tourism Board, people who know people in Akumal and Cancun, Oceanus in Chetumal, The Nature Conservancy, The World Bank,…I am reaching out to complete this exciting chapter for coral colonies that has been filled with politics and slow steps towards economic, social, and ecological transformation.

Which makes me jump to yesterday.  I went on a birthday art outing with a friend to see Kara Walker’s, “a Subtlety,” or “The Marvelous Sugar Baby,” made of sugar at the soon to be demolished Domino Sugar Factory in Williamsburg, Brooklyn.

"a Subtlety" by Kara Walker. Presented by Creative Time at the Domino Sugar Factory.

This political, visual homage to mistreated humans is poignant to our present day humanitarian desire to create healthier relationships with other species and our living environment.  It might seem like a stretch, but for me and many others who want to restore dying ecosystems and think big picture long term, abuse and disrespect of a group of people in many ways is similar to abuse and disrespect of other species and natural resources; both are perpetuated by the greed and pervasive ignorance of “authority.”

Kara Walker's installation at the Domino Sugar Factory

At this free exhibit, open through July 6th on Fridays and weekends, thousands are flocking to see the sculptural sugar interpretations of people who were repressed and treated as commodities by others lording over them with calculating, callous power.  This large-scale public work would have been impossible to imagine as something to be accepted, let alone publicly and culturally honored, 40 years ago.  Change happens fast.  Change happens slowly.

Kara describes the work:

“An homage to the unpaid and overworked artisans who have refined our sweet tastes from the cane fields to the kitchens of the new world on the occasion of the demolition of the Domino Sugar Refining Plant.”

For the sake of metaphor, we can insert other species into context as the “artisans”: those who are not being seen for their worth.  With so much red tape and destructive human forces killing without conscience or logic, when in the 21st century will society reach critical momentum to recognize ourselves in other living beings, and then take it a step further, and make decisions with their well-being in mind?  Steps forward and steps back, all along the winding path there are those who operate from places of love, trust, and ambitious equality.

Many artists fall into that lump. Art emerges from imagination linking concepts, emotions, skills, and materials. It is largely underestimated and undervalued in all its forms, even though it is the medium that can reveal multitudes of meaning and guidance because its essence is sensing, “seeing,” and expressing with impact.

Through this carefully planned, impressive construction, Kara Walker molded a story of a painful history of repression and offered a unique form of care and respect.  Witnessing the sugar – it was saying a lot in silence – I was not so subtly reminded of where we come from, and where we can go if we choose.  I felt levity in the space, possibly because so many of us never knew this specific era personally, and possibly because of all the white light and visitors. I was in awe at her monumental work built from our sweetener to shed light on a dark secret.

"a Subtlety" by Kara Walker at the Domino Sugar Factory, 2014

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Underwater Cities – When?

Arup Biomimetics' Syph

I’m talking about humans. Obviously there are multitudes of living cities made up of marine organisms populating and migrating to dwell in the sea, but will humans begin to colonize the ocean? Is it a good thing? A necessary thing? How will this exploration protect itself from adding to the demise of ocean and Earth health? Why is it taking so long?…lots of questions to think about on this frontier.

Ocean Cities are definitely part of the pioneering future. Both Trendhunter and Ecofriend featured the Syph above, a concept design proposal for a competition envisioning Australia 40 years from now.

I feel inner conflict between a sense of invading wilderness and striving to live in harmony with other species as we continuously sway the balance on our curious and precarious, uncertain path to sustaining biological evolution.  The trillions of dollars spent to manufacture, engineer, and execute methods to kill people illustrate that the financial resources are there.  From governments to wealthy private patrons, the desire has not been great to develop architecture and human habitat in the ocean.

Experimental short-term stays for science and education, as well as hotels,  have been emerging for over 50 years.  These carefully controlled environments could become prototypes for off-shore housing in areas like the Maldives that are likely to be the first victims of sea level rise.

According to BBC Future, visionary ocean explorer, Ian Koblick, was ready to bring on underwater habitats in the 1970’s.  Now at 74, he admits that it is not likely in his lifetime to see his futurist vision realized.  He is the owner and co-developer (with Neil Monney) of the Jules Undersea Lodge, which used to be the La Chalupa Research Laboratory, also developed and operated by Koblick, to study the continental shelf off the coast of Puerto Rico.  From scientific investigation to contemporary tourism and mainstream ocean outreach, this habitat has served diverse populations of many species.  It is an example of what might be possible if more interest and demand for underwater cities grows.

The conservationist in me meets up with the visionary progressive and hopes for more conscious exploration and development for this still young field:  Pioneering not to conquer, but to cultivate new biomes in the ocean.   It is another provocative dance between technology and survival for so many species on this burgeoning planet.

 

giant snail invasion

 

GIant African Land Snail

I got an email yesterday: “I came across this article and thought it might be an interesting opportunity for Miss Snail Pail.”   Thanks, Dave!

Florida Battles Slimy Invasion by Giant Snails

Next thing I know, I’m writing to Denise Feiber, spokeswoman for the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services to offer help with a solution.  Collection has already been very successful according to this document, Officials Praise Public for Helping Battle… , “Tens of thousands of giant African land snails have been captured since the massive mollusk was discovered in Miami-Dade County on September 8 and Florida agricultural officials credit public vigilance for the bulk of the captures.”  Great news that everyone’s working together. What happens to the snails once they are collected?  Are they being eaten?

People from Africa to Europe to the US recognize that snails are a nutritious food source. Destroying them is a waste of protein rich harvest.  If the goal in Florida is to eradicate a stucco-eating, plant devouring invasive land mollusk, then poisoning them with crustacean and bee-killing toxins (poisons don’t discriminate), will effectively poison ourselves and all organisms indefinitely and with unknown consequences. People are hungry and eat all kinds of weird crap. Go to a fast food chain or look down your grocery aisles. So many processed items and chemicals on display, we forget that an infestation like this is an opportunity to do something sane and proven: hunt and eat this micro-livestock into “local extinction” like humans are known to do all over the world.

The article, perhaps unconsciously, demonizes the snail as though it is a disease-ridden monster victimizing the hapless human community.  Surely other species have some things they’d like to say about our habits and microbes if they could get their words on the page. Florida is facing a real problem.  I WISH I had been at the symposium last week where they were trying to determine the plan of action. I’d like to be hired to lead the GAS (giant african snail) Task Force: a consortium of homeowners, restaurateurs, snail expeditioners… to organize a system to bring the environment into balance in a bountiful way.  If it took 10 years to eradicate the last infestation of 1966, I think by bringing them onto the table, we can reduce that time frame.

Oysters are endangered because of human consumption and pollution, so with that as proof of concept, seems hungry people can get a handle on this delicacy. And about the parasites, wear gloves and cook them. Cows and chickens have parasites too, and people know better than to eat raw coq au vin. If you’re interested in launching some snailing expeditions and organizing an event to celebrate that a prolific, valuable species is offering its life as a resource, contact me.

The hypocrisy of letting people starve or be malnourished while deeming the arrival of a massive mollusk a disaster illustrates how far removed many humans are from the food chain and creating environmental balance with available resources.
I’m anti-extinction, unless we’re talking about polio, AIDS, West Nile Virus (I have some bias), and interpret this infestation as a migration of herds of shelled cattle across the seas.
It all boils down to respecting and honoring life cycles. The snails are not the enemy.