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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Complete with spiraled tentacles, textured features, and toothy grins, the yarn-based creatures that Indonesian artist Mulyana knits and crochets take a playful, bizarre approach to ocean life. The artist frequently recreates what he refers to as the mogus, or octopus, as a mainstay in his underwater environments. Dotted with multiple sets of eyes, the creature has various iterations ranging in size, color, facial contortions, and number of tentacles. Each billowing mogus is presented suspended from the ceiling, giving it the appearance of floating through the ocean.
While many of Mulyana’s formations are brightly colored, the pieces in his Bety series (shown below) are crafted entirely in white to draw attention to coral bleaching caused by pollution. To maintain his own commitments to sustainability and community, Mulyana re-purposes the yarn that forms his textured corals and ocean life.
If you’re in New York, Mulyana’s sea creatures can be seen at Sapar Contemporary through August 21. Otherwise, keep up with the artist’s vibrant projects on Instagram, and check out where the mogus heads on its next adventure.
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The Breathless Grit and Determination of South Korea’s Iconic Female Divers Are Captured in Life-Size Portraits by Hyung S. Kim
Between 2012 and 2014, Seoul-based photographer Hyung S. Kim frequently visited Jeju Island, which lies off the southern coast of South Korea, to document the impressive women carrying on a centuries-old practice. Named the haenyeo—which literally translates to ocean women—the iconic divers harvest shellfish and other sea life without oxygen, requiring that they hold their breath for up to three minutes while plunging 10 meters underwater. Today, many have surpassed age sixty: the youngest diver Kim photographed was 38 at the time, while the oldest was more than 90.
Captured just after they exited the water, Kim’s life-size portraits situate the women against a stark, white backdrop, which emphasizes their dirt-speckled shoes and wet, shining gear. Their equipment includes a tewak, the orange sphere slung over some of their shoulders, that floats at the surface during each dive and lead weights attached to their waists to hasten the descent.
“They are shown exactly as they are, tired and breathless. But, at the same time, they embody incredible mental and physical stamina, as the work itself is so dangerous; every day they cross the fine line between life and death,” Kim explained in an interview with The New Yorker immediately following the series’ release.” I wanted to capture this extreme duality of the women: their utmost strength combined with human fragility.”
In 2016, the haenyeo were added to the UNESCO List of Intangible Cultural Heritage as the number of divers has dwindled from around 20,000 in the 1960s to just 2,500 in recent years. Although the work was male-dominated originally, it began to reflect the semi-matriarchal society of the Jeju by the 18th century and continues to be led by women today.
Explore the full collection of Kim’s portraits and see where the remarkable series will be exhibited next by following the photographer on Instagram. You also might enjoy Kimi Werner’s short film documenting her visit to Jeju Island.
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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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In a short clip captured during a blackwater night dive in the Lembeh Strait, a blanket octopus unfolds and displays a colorful web multiple times her original size. The aquatic animal’s iridescent body and tentacles glow against the nighttime water before she releases her translucent blanket that connects her dorsal and dorsolateral arms. Only adult females are equipped with the lengthy membrane that reaches as long as six feet and dwarfs male octopi, which are less than an inch in size and most often die immediately after mating. Generally, the females only unfurl their color-changing blankets to appear larger and more intimidating to potential predators. Shared by NAD Lembeh Resort, the underwater video was taken on a RED Gemini with a 50 millimeter Zeiss Macro lens. You might also want to check out this footage of a blanket octopus in waters near the Philippines. (via The Kids Should See This)
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For young striped eel catfish, there really is safety in numbers. A recent Instagram post shares a video by Marie-Laure Vergne of about one hundred juvenile fish moving across the bottom of the ocean. The Abyss Dive Center, a scuba diving school located in Amed, Bali, explains in the post that until the fish are fully grown and gain all of their deadly capabilities, they protect themselves by swimming in dense groups. Similar to other catfish, this species has four pairs of barbels on the upper and lower jaws. In their pectoral and first dorsal fins, though, the fish have a highly venomous, and sometimes fatal, spine.
As suggested by The Kids Should See This, the aquatic animals appear to take turns as they move, diving toward the bottom before appearing back at the top only to repeat the cycle. If you focus on one of the fish’s movements, you’ll spot the undulating pattern. The dive center does have a cautionary tip for anyone who encounters the phenomenon: “The young ones can only produce a mild version of the venom, tingling the fingers of the people putting their hands in the school (which we don’t recommend you do! ).”
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