Art with a purpose, underwater people reef complete

‘The Silent Evolution’ by Jason deCaires Taylor is comprised of 400 permanent sculptures in Mexican waters.

Isla Mujeres in Cancun, the site of “The Silent Evolution” Photos courtesy of Jason deCaires Taylor

Coral reefs are an integral part of oceanic wildlife. They make up less than 0.2 percent of the world’s oceans, but they are home to one-fourth of all marine life. They filter the water, feed the fish, buffer coastal areas from storms, and provide homes for oceanic life. And as the Los Angeles Times recently reported, a coral reef-like structure can also take the form of an impressive underwater art exhibit.

Taylor views the statues as a metaphor for the evolution of human life, but they also exist as part of actual marine life, operating as an artificial reef. The installation will be inaugurated on November 27, 2010 to coincide with the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Cancun, Mexico.

Artist Jason deCaires Taylor recently completed “The Silent Evolution,” an underwater museum and permanent sculpture exhibit set up in the waters near Cancun, Mexico. It is located in the National Marine Park of Isla Mujeres, Cancun and Punta Nizuc.
Experts hope that the exhibit, easily accessible by snorkeling, will alleviate some of the tourist traffic on the nearby natural coral reefs. Cancun Marine Park is in close proximity and receives up to 750,000 tourists annually.
Called “awe-inspiring” and “surreal” by the L.A. Times, the exhibit is 400 sculptures of people standing silently on the ocean’s floor, eyes closed, heads tilted towards the surface. As deCaires Taylor shared with the Times, the exhibit has “taken 18 months, required 120 tons of cement, sand and gravel, 3,800m of fiberglass, 400kg of silicone, 8,000 miles of red tape, 120 hours working underwater and $250,000.”
Coral reefs are under assault all over the globe. Sewage and agricultural run-off from coastal areas poison many reefs via toxic algae blooms that can cut off their much-need oxygen supply. Human visitors also cause extensive damage by literally knocking into the ecosystems, breaking off pieces of souvenir coral, and dragging boats and anchors across its fragile surfaces.

"underwater sculpture", "artificial reef", "marine life", Mexico, "Jason deCaires Taylor"

We probably don’t have to mention the life-threatening conditions natural reefs are under today due to human behavior. However, artificial reefs, which are quite a new phenomenon, have proved to be a very good alternative as they are durable, environmentally friendly and offer relief to the natural ones as they can regenerate. With 400 life-size human sculptures installed 9 meters below sea level, Silent Evolution plays many roles, but it is foremost an artificial reef encouraging the growth of marine life. Taylor’s sculptures are created with a pH-neutral concrete, reinforced with fiberglass, which (surprisingly) attracts marine life. Taylor also ‘rescues’ coral damaged in storms or by humans, and replants these on his sculptures.

In all its beauty there’s something a bit eerie about The Silent Evolution. Is it the closed eyes, the surrounding blue hue of the sea, or perhaps the emotions the lifeless sculptures still seem to express? There’s a strong feeling of hope in the work, even though the physical structure of the sculptures look as though the people have been tied together. Taylor’s message can be read in many different ways and voices, but what he does succinctly is to remind us of our close relation to – and not to mention dependency on – nature. It definitely causes one to pause.

Made from environmentally friendly materials, deCaires Taylor’s sculpture promotes awareness of the plight of coral. The artist says his sculpture garden in Mexico is only in the first stages of development. As he told the Los Angeles Times, “I would also like to point out that this installation is by no means over and the second phase is dependent on nature’s artists of the sea, to nurture, evolve and apply the patina of life.”
Jason de Caires Taylor’s underwater sculptures create a unique, absorbing and expansive visual seascape. Highlighting natural ecological processes Taylor’s interventions explore the intricate relationships that exist between art and environment. His works become artificial reefs, attracting marine life, while offering the viewer privileged temporal encounters, as the shifting sand of the ocean floor, and the works change from moment to moment.

One Comment

  1. willow wessman says:

    wow, that was touching and amazing I wish I could go there some day !


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