On Saturday while representing Zoe and Living Sea Sculpture at a Marine Science Fair all about corals in Playa Del Carmen’s SAYAB Planetarium, I caught this Sergeant Major whizzing by with my iphone.
I love the shot, yet not the calcium deposits on the protective globe around the webcam, or the blurring. I just arrived in Cozumel today by ferry. Some rolling currents and “cold” grey weather for the next few days, but as soon as it clears, I’ll be diving and working with fabulous volunteer, Lemuel Vega, to get rid of the remaining build ups, collect homeless corals to plant, and take videos and photos with my GoPro.
The camera may be trying to focus on the distance and the calcium on the glass at the same time, causing the miragey appearance. (it’s a new word). It has been 6 months since I was here, and we’re going to work on advancing our system of monitoring and maintenance. There are things that need regular attention, like changing the cleansweep wiper and keeping the glass free of biofouling, testing all the cable anchors and changing out any corroded bolts, and capturing video and images to see the growth close-up, that we need to have committed team members signed on for as we go.
Please stay tuned. If you want to make a visit, check in with me!!!
And if in Playa Del Carmen this month, check out the SAYAB Planetarium. Their theme of the month is the Coral Reef.
Happy New Year! Politics aside, 2017 is off to a good start.
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 email@example.com. From water quality to biodiversity counts to coral skeleton porosity, electromagnetic fields, photo documentation, there are lots of things to discover!
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.
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.
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.
With the US presidential election making rough and freaky waves through the world of environmental and human rights, and everything else, I had to do something to lighten my heart and mind NOW. Usually that means I have to throw myself into work and focus. The sinking feeling and clawing at my eyeballs through the tears gets tiring.
I started this campaign today! Zoe – A Living Sea Sculpture is part of the #givingtuesday annual event which builds momentum and funds for causes at the end of the year.
It feels wonderful to share the completion of our installation phase and the vision for monitoring, maintaining, and developing this project for the region and beyond.
Through this international collaboration, we want to help transform the destructive tourism practices locally in Cozumel and bring new creative energy for regeneration and biodiversity cultivation. Already the Sand Dollar Sports Dive Shop and others are moving that forward. Please check out our progress and plans here.
On Sept 8, 2016, we received our final signature from the government to install Zoe in an incredible home. Zoe touched the seafloor in Cozumel, Mexico on September 23, 2016.
Plans to be part of MUSA in Cancún were blocked due to challenges with our electrical and internet needs. Unlike the cement sculptures, Zoe requires more infrastructure.
Huge thanks to Ingmar Gonzalez Krotzsch for introducing me to Cozumel and uniting an incredible team! He envisioned exactly where it would go and – voilá! Isabel Caamaño Ricken, our brilliant coral biologist, applied for the final permit, along with her inventor brother, Pancho (Francisco) who together have a manifestation to place sculptures into this unique coral restoration lab and underwater art museum, Musubo. This Underwater Golden Diver Museum is a featured attraction of the annual Scuba Fest, organized by Gilda Sigie, who warmly invited Zoe to come to life in this special place.
Zoe is now in good company with bronze busts of Sylvia Earle, Jacques Cousteau, Ramón Bravo, and numerous Fractal Artificial Reefs and Reef Balls. Since 2006, the site aims to increase biodiversity and investigate coral regeneration after devastation from hurricanes and pollution. Sand Dollar Sports Dive Shop owner and project internet+electricity sponsor, John Flynn, and his dive guides want to reduce negative tourism impact on the natural reefs through rehabilitation and ecological recreation programs. You’ll see corals colonizing Zoe soon!
Qualti Innovaciones Marinas did a fabulous job installing with their hurricane-proof patented anchors. It was an underwater performance watching Laura and Pancho work skillfully in silent tandem. Thomas Sarkisian, electrical engineer from Global Coral Reef Alliance, has been awaiting over 5 years to turn on the electricity. Right after the switch was flipped on September 29th, the minerals began to deposit and fish started to arrive to eat the algae. YEA!!!
The marinero and capitán were key with the placement of Zoe and the camera into the sea. Here you see Pancho and Thomas preparing the Tilt Pan Zoom View into the Blue Camera to begin livestreaming. Trevor Mendelow has been configuring remotely with Danirel Alvarez Junco of Sand Dollar and the dedicated crew of Soluciones Xtreme Net who laid and wired our cables…a big production!
My great great thanks to ALL OF YOU, my dear backers for being with me since the very beginning in 2011, and to the hundreds, thousands of others I’ve met along the journey that made this possible! Your contributions kept us going and the sheer number of you was constant motivation!!!!
You must come to the island to snorkel or dive. Only a 40 minute ferry ride from Playa Del Carmen (close to Cancún). Zoe is about 4m deep and open to the public. Very calm water and an ideal place to get certified in diving if thinking about it? Snorkeling is fine!
The water is crystal clear and fabulous for viewing our livestream. Content is underway for Zoecoral.com site built by amazing TED Fellow, longtime tech consultant and Zoe collaborator, Jen Indovina!
Many special thanks to my loving family, Luis Bourillón, Marisol Rueda Flores, José Luis Funes, Pedro Joaquin Coldwell, Serguei Rico, María Antonia Gonzalez, Lorenzo Rosenzweig Pasquel (FMCN), Lyn Ohala, TEDxCancún, Soluciones Xtreme Net, Staff of Sand Dollar Sports Dive Shop and Sunset Restaurant, Andrés Uscanga, Yibrán Aragón, Marenter, Todo Inoxidable, Infectango, SupporTED, Autodesk, Shaan Hurley, INapesca, UNAM, Cable Cozumel, the black bunny that just hopped by, and every friend, collaborator, acquaintance, coach not listed here who offered help, kindness, direction, mentoring, introductions, dancing, food, fun!!!
ALL of YOU are the reason. Logramos! Next phase, monitoring and colonizing ~~~
With love and fishes, Colleen and Living Sea Sculpture
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.
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.
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!
Gustavo 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.
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!
Conversations 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.
Before I arrived in Mexico late December 2014, I was already anticipating COP21. I had marched with the Climate March in New York in September, and am in the wave of humanity doing something to address and reduce our carbon crisis.
My initial aim was to work with interactive technologists to projection mapZOE, our Living Sea Sculpture in Cancun, onto a unique building in Paris during this important Climate Change event. With a live-streaming webcam from View Into the Blue, not only would people online be able to tilt, pan, and zoom to observe and interact with our underwater project, we would interpret the visuals and the data, incorporate animation and effects, bringing this DNA-inspired coral reef ecosystem into the conference to reflect our dynamic ocean-human interface in dire need of attention and direct action.
When the Monterey Bay Aquarium invited me to be part of their Art and Climate Change campaign leading up to the conference, I was thinking it would be great if our plans to install ZOE in the sea the week of December 7th-11th would go through, synchronizing our coral regeneration work here with the mass global intention rippling across the planet. Working with Karla Munguia, a documentary filmmaker with years on Animal Planet, gave us some comraderie around conservation as we made this short video.
Corals here in Mexico have been feeling the heat this year. Bleaching is happening all through the region. I had a good talk with one of my collaborators at INAPESCA about what they are discovering recently. With so many variables, including an intense influx of sargassum seaweed since May, the usual onslaught of improperly treated sewage, and other contaminants from development, and the added heat this year, they see rises in algae and bacteria that severely affect the immunity and health of the corals, large and small. It is a big mix of damaging ingredients, and yet, resilient corals stay strong and are dominating communities where less hardy strains are deteriorating.
I’ve been designing the layout for planting 10 native coral species we would like to populate onto ZOE once it’s installed in the ocean. It’s exciting to envision how they might grow, and how other organisms and fish will come to animate the habitat. Just as I was getting ready to make a photoshop depiction, Somyaku found me through Instagram. He’s a kindred spirit, passionate to create beautiful and functional coral habitats with a reverence for closeness with nature and a desire to express our creativity in harmony with living beings. Here’s one of his renderings of ZOE with corals . ZOE was made in 2011. This is an actual photo of the completed sculpture (on land) taken by Mike Gerzevitz and now being immersed digitally for us to imagine.
Somyaku’s background in Ikebana ties with lots of concepts I’m having lately about my Bauhaus Design training at UCLA – this layering of schools of thought and practice that are our heritage and how they all intersect in the field of Art as Ecology. I’ll share more about that fusion in another post. Back to COP21…!
We joined #ArtCOP21 through their online events all the way from Mexico. People everywhere are making art and statements, fueling the tide for renewable energy and a healthier world based on awareness of finite resources, cycles, and our dependence on Earth. Our ZOE Reef reFORMed project (you can see us if you zoom in over Cuba on their map) came together really quickly with the most amazing people. Truly grateful to Miranda Oriz at Centro Bek for spearheading the “coalition” to help us create art and educate kids about the science in time for COP2. Our inaugural workshop on December 10th was successful. Kids and their parents were invited through this collaborative project into longterm solutions for healing coral reefs, to participate in protecting and rebuilding our vital connection with them and all Life.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The photo I used is from Scotland a few years ago when I was intrigued with arty butt shots before I was thinking about how that tiny remnant could harm marine life. NOTE: I WANT $1 (or more!) to go towards coral restoration, but it is an ideal not yet real. Something to work towards.
I was walking in the East Village with my dog, stopping for him to pee and for me to take a photo of a cigarette butt flattened in a crack in the sidewalk, when it struck me – are these recyclable? They’re everywhere. Beyond grabbing my attention for arty butt shots, they really shouldn’t be everywhere I look. Turns out, yes, they are recyclable. And that was it. I finally knew WHAT TrashTara would be collecting in her Catch-All…
Since late April, I’ve been a Co-Create Artist in Residence at The IMC LAB + GALLERY, owned by James Tunick and Carrie Elston-Tunick. Loving it! While here, I’ve created my latest alter ego, TrashTara, and been out on the streets of Manhattan. She/me has been hand-collecting those butts, the most littered object in the world, while talking to people and gathering footage with a GoPro.
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.
It needs to seep into the mainstream knowledge that cigarettes have non-biodegradable plastic filters, and that nicotine is a very toxic pesticide. Each butt could spend 10 years tossing around in the ocean and water supply killing wildlife and polluting ourselves. One cigarette butt can kill fish in a liter of water. TerraCycle has initiated placing receptacles in cities around the world, and inviting people to join their butt brigades to send in cigarette butts. I’d like to set up a TrashTara Butt Brigade so that every pound of butts collected by those collaborating with me will result in $1 towards Living Sea Sculpture coral reef habitat.
The tar-filled filters can be cleaned and transformed into plastic pallets, anti-corrosives for steel, and textiles. If we can get the 4.5 trillion of them off the ground and into the up-cycling circuit – I heard SF spends $11 million each year on cigarette collection alone – we can save lots of lives and money.
When TrashTara is out at night, her headdress, or as synthetic biologist, Oliver Medvedik, co-founder of GenSpace calls it, her “GMO Tiara,” has fluorescing proteins that come from corals and jellies. With the addition of Ultra Violet LEDs, the GFP and RFP glow. I wanted to avoid plastic resins, and am fascinated with bioluminescence and fluorescence in nature, so we collaborated to create a potentially controversial object. Synthetic biology is complex; the layers of ethics, philosophy, politics, and science involved in genetic research are many and divisive, so I’m grateful I had the opportunity to experiment with proteins as paints to get closer to the reality of how vast this field is and how the concept of “GMO” is completely unknown to most of us in a hands-on way.
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.
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.
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.
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.)
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.
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.
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.
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.
Two incredible friends, well, many more than that when you look at all the people who will be required to bring these epic public art projects into being, are putting their creative energy towards expressing the reality of sea level rise and flooding. They are targeting urban places to interject something premonitory and visible. These artists are translating scientific data, personal observation, and human gut reaction into visionary humanitarian offerings. Using very different formats, they are inviting people to reflect about the effects of climate change and water events that will flow and submerge all in its path.
Heidi Quante used to be Creative Coordinator for 350.org. Now she’s teamed up with artist, Eve Mosher, to realize HighWaterLine in multiple locations. In 2007, Eve felt compelled to start chalking the streets in Manhattan, “I marked the 10-feet above sea level line by drawing a blue chalk line and installing illuminated beacons in parks. The line marks the extent of increased flooding brought on by stronger and more frequent storms as a result of climate change. I walked, chalked and marked almost 70 miles of coastline. As I was out in the public creating the work, I had a chance to engage in conversations about climate change and its potential impacts.” The fact that New York IS an Island, with highly deteriorated oyster reefs and no other sufficient breakwaters, makes it extremely vulnerable to storms, as experienced with Hurricane Sandy nearly a year ago.
Florida flood plains are being chalked this November, and London and Philadelphia are slated for 2014. Florida is in direct line for hurricanes and floods, so Eve and Heidi want to empower the neighborhoods that will be deluged by giving them means to physically mark the estimated perimeter of the floods. The project is as much about process as result. The chalk marker is passed from community to community to feed the grassroots project. So many people don’t feel welcome in making important decisions, or on the flip side, they feel entitled to overpower. This art is egalitarian. It creates a map in real space as a step to begin planning to divert catastrophe. The locals who will be directly affected are being given tools and ideas to further plot their own communally developed course of action in the case of disaster. HighWaterLine is a feat of community organizing through conceptual, public art.
Lars Jan, Director of Early Morning Opera and a TED Senior Fellow, is deep into the making of HOLOSCENES, a large-scale performance installation intended for urban public spaces. In this video, watch someone try to make ramen in am elevator-sized aquarium while water fills and drains, driven by a hydraulic system capable of pumping fifteen tons of water in one minute.
“The man ‘making ramen’ is simulating a behavior documented in a 10 minute video submitted by a Japanese graduate student in his dorm in Tokyo. This student is Shun Oka, previously my student at Swarthmore College. Apparently Shun makes ramen nearly everyday, and I have to admit he has his own particular way of going about it. There are more steps to making ramen than I could have ever imagined — very different from the instant version I associate with US college kitchens. By the end of the first time I watched his video, my mouth was watering. In turn, the creative team behind Holoscenes simulated this behavior and made our own video in which a figure is deluged repeatedly, but goes on making ramen all the while. Though I find the video more ostensibly humorous than others we’ve made so far, I also find this submission from Japan particularly resonant given the intrusion of the tsunami into the everyday at Fukushima.” – Lars Jan
Watching the videos, I feel zen, not panicked. It makes me want to practice getting out of a car if it gets tossed off a bridge in an earthquake. Something about breaking the horror into bite size vignettes is soothing and makes it possible to imagine the traumatic potentiality, or the reality for many along the coast, in a way that evokes the personal and mundane that is at the core of long-term design, viable approaches, and progressive solutions.
The beauty of the dancer -she looks like an hibiscus flower slowly blooming and wilting in a rain puddle- makes me breathe into my imagination and dispel any alienating fear that mucks up mental space. Lars’ work delivers eye-opening information through new media and seductive interactive means so all individuals can claim their vital roles in balancing world ecology.
A young woman in LA who still uses a land line.*
Artists synthesize and relay layered multi-sensory experiences so adeptly. These are just two examples of the growing cultural opportunities to recognize that both little and big actions are required to meet the future. Little acts really do have big impact to blow old paradigms out of the water.
With so many variables to consider, leaving things to the government, academic institutions, and people perceived as authority figures are common excuses to just wait and see, and then blame someone else, but with the US Government taking a break right now to squabble (embarrassing!), it’s a good time to remember the unique, often unsung, brilliance of our neighbors next door and online. What amazing brain power and community will is within reach to calmly consider how we might respond when overwhelming storms forcefully release our most valuable, powerful resource – water. (I’ll think about the sun in another post.)
*The sale of archival prints supports the continued development of the Holoscenes performance through 2015.
On July 1, GOOD featured Living Sea Sculptures just weeks after Art as Ecology: Coral Collaborations at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association (NOAA) headquarters in June. It’s been a good couple of months of public sharing about art and science working together for coral survival.
I remember Tamagotchis capturing our attention and nurturing hours when my aunt gave me one for Christmas years ago. In the middle of a ballet (in the audience), I remember having to look down in the dark to feed it to keep it “alive.” This little egg-shaped digital critter was counting on me. Letting it die was painful, in the way giving up on any semi-OCD behavior that on some level you imagine is linked to survival is painful, but it was not longterm heart-wrenching like losing a living being.
Alice Kim’s maternity vest is quirky-serious living brilliance.
“I’m grading student work and who do I see? @misssnailpail looking at me.” That was a welcome surprise tweet from @JessicaLeeGreen- University of Oregon professor, TED Senior Fellow, friend and colleague.
Restoring our Reefscape was posted by Shelby Adkisson. The Full Spectrum Biology blog is being created by students in the courses Population Ecology and Biological Diversity at the University of Oregon. It is one component of their work, and for each course will unfold throughout the term. +Jessica Green
Crafthaus curator, Greg Corman, created an online exhibit, Sculpture for Wildlife Habitat. It will be up from June 8 – July 8, and then the images will be in their archive. For the love of bees, birds, seas…very earthy. 1970’s meets the 2000’s.