Jason deCaires Taylor is a British
sculptor and creator of the world’s
first underwater sculpture park
- the Molinere Underwater Sculpture
Park - and underwater museum.
Environment, Art and Activism
In this current heightened climate of global environmental awareness, a new form of art that maintains aesthetics (in a traditional sense) but is also conceptually-based, aims to raise awareness of the broad health of the environment or highlight specific concerns. Building on the foundations laid out by the Land Artists, a new generation of artists has emerged that place environmentalism at the forefront of their practice, each with unique concerns and ways of addressing these concerns to draw the attention of the viewer. The art of Jason deCaires Taylor is situated within this emerging environmental paradigm of art, taking the viewer to the depths of the ocean.
Among the many strengths of art, is the ability to introduce the viewer to new ideas and thoughts. However, to be an artwork that is active in bringing about positive change, it must be more than thought provoking. Taylor’s installations provide wide reaching benefits on many levels. They are infused with complex concepts and social commentary while working with and enhancing the marine environments they are placed in. Whole coral reefs are subject to bleaching through rising sea water temperatures, changes in acidity, pollution from agricultural chemicals and removal of key species by over fishing, resulting in the destruction of entire marine habitats, and prompting initiatives like artificial reefs to be produced.
Taylor’s artworks are essentially artificial reefs, formed of carefully manufactured sculptures installed at various locations around the world. Each sculpture is created using non-toxic, pH neutral marine grade cement, free from harmful pollutants, becoming an integral part of the local ecosystem. The cement is highly durable, with a rough texture that encourages coral larvae to attach and thrive, while nooks and dark cubbyholes formed of folds of clothing provide homes for fish and crustaceans. The timing of installation is significant to ensure they are in place downstream before the larval coral spawning occurs, yet not so early that other sea life colonises it before the coral can take hold.
The placement of sculptures is further carefully considered to maximise positive environmental impact. In many cases deCaires Taylor’s sculptures are placed away from existing reefs often in areas of barren sandbanks to boost diversity, but also to draw tourists away from the delicate ecosystems and fragile corals of existing reefs, where divers may do more harm than good with their well-intentioned curiosity.
All of these careful considerations go into each of deCaires Taylor sculptural installations, yet there are further benefits to his artificially created sculptural reefs, as while each work is produced in consultation with marine scientists to maximise their impact, the scientists themselves can study and monitor the development of a functioning ecosystem from its very beginning through to becoming well established. There are also economic benefits as they can provide alternative employment for local fisherman working as museum guides to bring visitors to the underwater galleries either deep sea diving, snorkelling or in glass-bottomed boats. Entrance fees to the sculpture parks also provide crucial funding for further marine conservation efforts and coastal patrols to enforce protective laws.
Rosie Ettenheim is Oceana’s graphic designer. Regardless of where she is, she would rather be at the ocean, and is thrilled to be the designer for an organization she deeply believes in. Prior to this position, she worked at NPR, Gallaudet University (where she also got a Master’s degree), and Apple.
In his most recent work, McPherson combines found objects from his local coast, with a summary text that gives a potential identity and history to the collated flotsam and jetsam. These discarded items, wave worn and sun bleached are arranged sometimes by colour and sometimes by other specific taxonomies, thus using the new works again to reveal in subtle ways through the use of text, content and aesthetics, that truth, history and information are questionable and relative to our perception and use of it.