I came across something incredible that I would like to share with you – an absolutely beautiful combination of art and marine conservation: The latest cement sculptures of British sculptor Jason deCaires Taylor that are going to join the over 500 others off the coast of Cancun, Mexico. MUSA (Museo Subacuatico de Arte), a monumental underwater museum for contemporary art, formed in the waters surrounding Cancun, Isla Mujeres and Punta Nizuc. I am amazed by its aim to demonstrate the interaction between art and environmental science. It forms part of a complex reef structure for marine life to colonize and inhabit whilst increasing biomass on a grand scale. All of the sculptures are fixed to the seabed and made from specialized materials used to promote coral life. For many of his dramatic new works, Taylor used live transplanted coral to create thought-provoking narratives. You can see them all below, along with a brief description of each in Jason deCaires Taylor’s own words.
As he said back in 2010 when he started this ever-changing exhibition, “I have a whole team of underwater helpers that come along and do all the finishing for me. The coral applies the paint. The fish supply the atmosphere. The water provides the mood.”
No Turning Back
“No Turning Back” portrays a lone female form situated just below the sea’s surface easily visible for snorkelers and nestled within the reef system. Her curved back is designed to capture the flickering rays of overhead sunlight created by the undulating surface of the waves. The sadness portrayed in the piece references the recent statistics reporting how Caribbean reefs have seen losses of up to 80%.
A figure standing at a lectern the piece is propagated with over 200 fragments of Acropora Prolifera which is a hybrid species of Staghorn Coral and Elkhorn Coral. The piece is the counterpart to “The Listener” sculpture located nearby.
Using a highly developed grade of marine stainless steel “Vein Man” is constructed to form a network of tubular highways for the calciferous structure of Fire Coral to travel along. The internal void houses the coral who’s Latin name Millepora means a thousand pores and closely resembles human skin. It is also intended to be a space for juvenile fish species to take refuge. The figurative work references the transportation networks of the human body and the interconnection between the natural world and ourselves.
The second sculpture in the “Man on Fire” series depicts a solitary burning figure. Fixed to arrangement of stainless steel spines it has been extensively propagated with live Fire Coral (Millepora alcicornis). The fast growing, bright yellow species which besides its appearance gains its name from being able to inflict a painful burn like sting to human skin. Using black pH neutral marine cement the piece depicts self-immolation and represents a dramatic, stark protest to the loss of natural marine habitats. Over time the fire is predicted to engulf the figure in a bright yellow patina.
Using live purple Gorgonian fan coral (Gorgonia flabellum), which had been displaced and rescued from the reef system after recent storm activity, the “Resurrection” represents a female-avian form emerging from the seabed. The winged armature houses specially designed clamps for fan coral and its orientation towards the currents maximizes the coral’s potential to draw nutrients from the water column. In contrast to the “No Turning Back” piece it embodies the concept of rebirth and regeneration and the offering of hope that humans can affect change in a positive direction.
I am very sad about the fact that I did not have time for diving during my trip to Cancun two years ago. But I will definitely go back to Mexico to visit my host family and explore this beautiful dive site. No puedo esperar!
Would you like to see more pictures of MUSA? Click here