Photo Of The Day

Photo: Jason deCaires Taylor The Silent Evolution. MUSA Collection, 2010. Depth, 8 m. Manchones Reef, Mexico.

Photo: Jason deCaires Taylor
The Silent Evolution. MUSA Collection, 2010. Depth, 8 m. Manchones Reef, Mexico.

The Silent Evolution

A one-of-a-kind blend of art, nature, and conservation, The Underwater Museum re-creates an awe-inspiring dive into the dazzling under-ocean sculpture parks of artist Jason deCaires Taylor. Taylor casts his life-size statues from a special kind of cement that facilitates reef growth, and sinks them to the ocean floor. There, over time, the artworks attract corals, algae, and fish, and evolve into beautiful and surreal installations that are also living reefs.

Though shallow seas constitute only eight percent of the world’s oceans, they’re thought to contain the majority of marine life—life that is under constant threat from the disappearance of coral reefs, thriving ecosystems that house thousands of marine species (25 percent of all marine life, by some estimates). The decay of coral reef environments is caused in part by ocean acidification, which has increased 30 percent since the start of the Industrial Revolution. As the ocean absorbs the skyrocketing levels of human-made carbon emissions, almost 40 percent of coral reefs have disappeared within the past few decades—and scientists warn that nearly 80 percent could be gone by 2050.

Much of the ocean floor is too unstable to support a reef, so deCaires Taylor has created artificial reefs—statues placed anywhere from four to nine meters underwater—to encourage ecosystems to take hold and flourish. The statues are almost as diverse as the ecosystems they hope to foster.

They act as a stable base on which artificial reefs can form. Creating artificial reefs benefits marine life in two ways: by creating a reef system for life to thrive in, and by taking pressure off of natural reefs, which have been over-fished and over-visited. deCaires Taylor’s underwater statues promote algae growth, which in turn helps protect coral from bleaching, a consequence of warming waters that places fatal stresses on the coral. Algae can be seen growing on installations such as Vicissitudes, found off the coast of Grenada, a work that depicts a circle of children holding hands—symbolic, deCaires Taylor says, of the cycle of life. To date, deCaires Taylor has created hundreds of underwater statues in waters from Mexico to Spain.

In many ways, deCaires Taylor’s goal of promoting reef growth dictates his art: the sculptures are all made from marine-grade cement that is completely free of other substances, such as metals, that could be harmful to marine life; the material has proven to be the most useful substance in the support of reef growth. deCaires Taylor also leaves patches of rough texture on his sculptures to help coral larvae gain a strong foothold. He also considers marine life promotion when sculpting the curves and shapes of the statues, factoring in crevices and gaps to allow fish and other life to duck in and out of their new cement homes. In The Silent Evolution, an installation off the coast of Mexico that features 450 statues, the human figures create a sort of shelter for schools of fish—snapper often hover close to the figures, darting to shelter under their legs when a predator, such as a barracuda, swims by. The installation’s locations are also carefully chosen—when possible, the statues are placed downstream of a thriving reef in order to catch coral larvae and other marine life floating by.

The statues are formed above ground and thoroughly washed to remove any potentially harmful chemicals. Then, the statues are hauled to the ocean, using lifting rigs made especially for the statues, to help prevent damage. Once the statues are carried to sea, they are carefully sunk into their final marine resting place.

For more pictures and extensive details on each project: Jason deCaires official site.

http://www.smithsonianmag.com/


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