For his current exhibition in Mexico, European artist Jason deCaires Taylor combined his two loves: sculpture and scuba diving. He's created 403 chillingly life-size sculptures across a 420-square-meter patch of barren sea bed.
He calls it “The Silent Evolution”.
The exhibition is off the coast of Cancun, Mexico in the national marine park. The coral reefs in the area are suffering from over-fishing and being poked and prodded by curious tourists. Taylor is hoping that his work will not only gather awareness and attention for the beauty of the sea bed, but also serve as a diversion away from the natural reefs to give them a chance to recover.
Eventually, the sculptures will double as an artificial reef, letting fish and marine life colonize the area.
Taylor says it's incredible to work underwater: “The colors are different, the light patterns are very different, the atmosphere and mood is otherworldly. The piece takes on a very different tone underwater — it has a lost feel to it and brings up all these questions that you wouldn’t have on land.”
Because only up to 15% of the world's sea bed has enough substratum to support the growth of natural reef, people have been creating artificial reefs for several years. This work is generally done by biologists and conservationists, not artists, and Taylor is the first artist to incorporate an art exhibition into the building of the new artificial reef. He uses a special cement that attracts coral growth, which will eventually be able to sustain entire marine life ecosystems.
Check out some of Taylor’s other work, featured below:
“The large number of angles and perspectives from which the sculptures can be viewed increase dramatically the unique experience of encountering the works,” says Taylor.
“Circular in structure and located five meters below the surface, the work both withstands strong currents and replicates one of the primary geometric shapes, evoking ideas of unity and continuum.”
The sculptures transform from man-made objects to functioning parts of marine life. The visual results are startling and provoke incredible questions and feelings in their viewers.
“Hombre en Llamas” (Man on Fire)
This statue was cast from a local Mexican fisherman and weighs over one ton. It's been pierced with pieces of fire coral, a particularly fast-growing marine organism. Taylor calls this "Man on Fire" because of the yellow, amber and brown hues created by the coral.
Some of the coral was artificially grown by Taylor and the rest he sourced from fragments damaged by people or violent storms.
“El Coleccionista de Sueños” (The Archive of Lost Dreams)
The "Archive of Lost Dreams" is in an area where the marine life has been damaged by tropical storms and hurricanes. This was also made to bring the park's 750,000 annual visitors away from the recovering reef space.
Within these bottles in the piece are real messages, collected from hundreds of people from communities of different backgrounds, awaiting the eyes of future generations.
“The Lost Correspondent”
Taylor draws inspiration from the sunken remains of history like the Titanic or Pompeii.
The newspaper clippings on this desk date back to the 1970s, detailing Grenada’s alignment with Cuba in the period immediately prior to the revolution.
“The Fall from Grace”
Short film on “The Silent Evolution”
Credit: James deCaires Taylor