In “Selfish,” what opens with a benign scene at a sushi restaurant quickly turns into a dire assessment of plastic pollution. Created by Canada-based animator PoChien Chen, the appropriately named film begins by a chef plucking a detergent bottle from a pile of fresh fish, assembling various dishes made entirely of waste material, and subsequently serving them to a horrified trio of aquatic life. It then dives into a disturbing series of facts and figures about the current state of our oceans and the effects of pollution on wildlife.
Chen said in a statement that the critical animation was inspired by a visit to a small island in Taiwan two years ago:
It was the closest I’d lived to the sea, being only a 10 minute drive away. Everyone can enjoy the beach with its white sand and turquoise ocean. At the time, I went snorkeling almost every week. Seeing such alluring tropical fish and coral reefs sill lingers in my mind. However, I also cannot forget the scenes of tons of human waste lying around the shore as if it were a part of nature.
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In the early 18th century, publisher, bookseller, and apparent fish enthusiast Louis Renard compiled the seminal compendium of color-illustrated ichthyological studies. The volume contains more than 450 species rendered in vibrant hues that, while somewhat anatomically accurate, feature embellishments in color and characteristics. From beak-like mouths to extraordinarily patterned skins, the vast illustrations of marine life are unusual, bizarre, and sometimes psychedelic. One of the most fantastical illustrations even depicts a mermaid (shown below).
A digital copy of Renard’s work—which officially is titled Fishes, crayfish and crabs, of various colors and extraordinary figures, which one finds around the Moluccas islands and on the coasts of the Austral lands—is available in the Biodiversity Heritage Library, an incredible open-access digital archive. Overall, the library estimates that about 9 percent of the illustrations are fabricated, a detail that’s unsurprising considering the Dutch publisher never traveled to the East Indies to complete his studies. Instead, he copied 460 hand-colored copper engravings from other artists, many of which were contributed by soldier and painter Samuel Fallours who was based in Ambon, Indonesia. In a similarly duplicitous manner, the library also believes that Renard identified himself as a secret agent to the British crown as a way to sell more copies of his work.
The tome was published in three editions, and only 16 of the initial printing, which happened between 1718 and 1719, are known to exist. Thirty-four copies of the second version from 1754 remain, which is also the iteration shown here. There are just six books left from the third printing in 1782.
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The Coral Greenhouse: Jason deCaires Taylor's Latest Installation is an Underwater Sanctuary for Vulnerable Sea Creatures
About 50 miles from Townsville, Australia, an unassuming structure created by Jason deCaires Taylor (previously) rests on the sandy floor the John Brewer Reef. Currently, “The Coral Greenhouse” is in pristine condition with little algae or tiny organisms stuck to its sides. Over time, though, the sculptural work is designed to amass vibrant clusters of the sea creatures as they colonize the submerged form.
Constructed with corrosion-resistant stainless steel and pH-neutral substances, the biomorphic frame is modeled after nature’s patterns. The materials help inspire coral growth and are designed to be absorbed into the oceanic environment as the colonies sprawl across it. Workbenches line its sides and are adorned with simple patterns that create small enclaves for ocean life to hide from predators or rest. To keep divers away from the fragile ecosystems, Taylor tends to install his marine projects in less vulnerable areas.
Weighing 165 tons, the sanctuary is the Museum of Underwater Art’s largest installation to date. The A-frame structure is comprised of triangular sections and a massive cement base, which provide stability from waves and adverse weather. Its slatted sides allow divers, filter-feeding organisms, and schools of fish to swim in and out, and floating spires that protrude from the beams’ apex oscillate with the currents.
Figurative sculptures, which were made from casts of kids around the world, populate the inside to serve as a reminder that the coral needs care. They’re shown cradling planters, peering into microscopes, and watching over the vulnerable environment. “Thus they are tending to their future, building a different relationship with our marine world, one which recognizes it as precious, fragile, and in need of protection. Our children are the guardians of the Great Barrier Reef,” Taylor writes about the piece.
Dives to tour the site-specific installation will begin in 2021. Until then, get an idea of how some of Taylor’s previous works have transformed after being submerged for more than a dozen years on his Instagram. (via Fast Company)
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Face Masks Hold Fish Tanks and Overgrown Patches of Botanics in Surreal Illustrations by Kit Layfield
A long way from the packs of blue, disposable masks many of us bulk purchased at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, the face coverings Philadelphia-based illustrator Kit Layfield envisions are a bit more complex and otherworldly. He draws intricate contraptions featuring the traditional nose-and-mouth covering that then are connected to larger collars adorned with luxuriant shrubs, miniature ecosystems, and tiny fish tanks. The individual subjects all are situated within the diverse environments, providing the necessary structure to keep the micro-systems flourishing.
Layfield shares with Colossal that his surreal illustrations reflect a fascination with what he terms digital climate change. “I like to think of the various information ecosystems online in the same terms I would think of a natural ecosystem,” he says. “A fact can not exist alone, in the same way a flower can not exist alone. It needs to be rooted in something.” As media floods online, it becomes more difficult to wade through, which he expands on by saying:
The perfect example of digital climate change is the information ecosystem surrounding actual climate change. Every year, the information supporting climate change has become more and more undeniable, and simultaneously Americans’ belief in climate change has dropped. I think the information online backing up the truth of climate science is out there. However, the ecosystem that allows that information to survive and spread has been severely endangered.
Although Layfield’s illustrations are interwoven with fantastical elements, he hopes they inspire people to understand how connected they are to others and their environment. “Could somebody see a mask online, one that is so absurd it could never exist in reality, and make them think about wearing a mask in reality? I think it’s possible,” he says.
Find more of Layfield’s bizarre projects that merge social and environmental commentaries on Instagram.
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Plunge into the serene depths of the Indian Ocean through new 4K footage from the Schmidt Ocean Institute’s recent dive into the Ningaloo Canyons off the western coast of Australia. Previously unseen by researchers, the exploration captures aquatic life and swaths of the seafloor that have gone unexplored for years. Spanning 180 hours in total, the underwater adventure led to the discovery of more than 30 new aquatic species, in addition to the longest animal ever recorded. A member of the Apolemia genus, the record-breaking organism reaches an unprecedented 154 feet.
The humanless dive used the ROV Sebastian, a robotic underwater vehicle that can bear the pressure of 14,750 feet below water for lengthy durations, far more than people are capable of. See more of the institute’s mesmerizing videos on YouTube and find an extensive collection of deep-sea footage on its site. (via PetaPixel)
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“Does everything you throw in the ocean eventually come back to you?” asks Amsterdam-based director Ben Brand. His new short film, titled “Sea You,” opens with a gray-haired woman sitting at her dining table, except rather than a tear rolling down her cheek, it retreats to her watering eye. This sets in motion a series of events chronicled in reverse: the protagonist is shown riding her bike backward toward the market, while the fish she intended to eat earlier undergoes a packing process in which it’s unwrapped.
Brand said the sincere animation was born out of a story of loss. “When my girlfriend told me the story of her family spreading her deceased grandmother’s ash over the sea (like a lot of people around the world do), I started wondering what actually happens to all that ash,” he writes. As the director reveals in “Sea You,” everything released into the water somehow returns.
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Editor's Picks: Illustration
Highlights below. For the full collection click here.