Underwater sculptures of Jason deCaires not only offer a completely new way of experiencing art, but they also add important considerations to the debate on environmental awareness.
First, Do No Harm
While the coral reef scuba diving foments tourism, and consequently, economic development in many parts of the world, it can likewise have a disastrous effect on the marine life. Although divers usually don’t realize it, studies confirm that the coral reef diving leads to gradual, yet irreversible damages to the environment, which combined with the climate change – threatens the survival of marine life.
In 2006, in an effort to put a spotlight on this issue, James deCaires Taylor, British sculptor, photographer, and diving instructor, created Molinere Bay Underwater Sculpture Park, the first subaquatic project of the kind.
Situated in Granada near the site affected by hurricane Ivan in 2004, the installation comprising 75 concrete underwater sculptures intends to divert tourists’ attention from the local coral reef, weakened by the excessive tourism and the natural disaster. Furthermore, it gives the reef a new base to develop and gives shelter to other marine life.
The Silent Evolution
Then, in 2009, came the idea for a subaquatic museum in Mexico. Featuring about 500 human-size figures cast from local villagers, The Silent Evolution – the central piece of the Museo Subacuatico del Arte in Cancun, Mexico – is probably the most ambitious undersea art project up today.
Whilst there are many interpretations of the artwork’s message, they all point to the interplay between humans and nature. To stimulate the growth of coral reef, the artist employs a pH-neutral concrete, reinforced with fibreglass. As a result, over the years the marine life has slowly colonized the villagers.
“As soon as we submerge the sculptures, they’re not ours anymore, because as soon as we sink them, the sculptures, they belong to the sea,” said Taylor, explaining the motivation behind his work. In a sense, with time, the underwater sculptures become the canvas for the real art to blossom. Additionally, what makes it even more unique is the never-ending nature of this process.
In Memory of the Forgotten
Last year’s project of deCaires Taylor, located in Lanzarote, Spain, is Museo Atlantico. Along with environmental concerns, the museum explores one of the most discussed social issues in recent years, that is, the refugee crisis.
One of the artworks, Raft of Lampedusa, represents figures, some of which were cast from actual migrants who reached Europe on raft boats. Invoking The Raft of the Medusa, early 19th century masterpiece by French painter Théodore Géricault, this undersea installation immortalizes the tragic fate of hundreds of refugees who crossed the Mediterranean Sea or died in the attempt. “The work is not intended as a tribute or memorial to the many lives lost but as a stark reminder of the collective responsibility of our now global community,” wrote the artist in a statement.
Another sculpture series, Rubicon, consists of a group of thirty-five people “walking towards a gate, a point of no return or a portal to another world.” The apathetic group, looking at mobile phones and taking selfies, is unaware of what’s ahead of them. The work calls for action in the face of environmental dangers.
Behind the Artworks
Jason deCaires Taylor is a British artist, passionate about marine conservation, and creator of the first subaquatic museum in the world. Born in 1974 to an English father and Guyanese mother, Taylor spent his childhood in Kent, UK and subsequently received a degree in sculpture from London Institute of Arts. Simultaneously, at the age of eighteen, he became a scuba diving instructor. Taylor’s artistic installations arise from combining those two aspects of his path: sculpture and underwater life.
All Photos Courtesy of Jason deCaires Taylor
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