The Underwater Sculptural Magnificence of Jason deCaires Taylor
Environment, Art, Activism and Global Awareness Offshore and Down Deep
These works are unique and all affect. They impress upon our minds; they move our feelings; they are relentless.
Let me give you an example of contemporary art that, to me, is so powerfully affecting, both aesthetically and as evocation of thought and feeling for the ocean, the threats to it, and the intellectual and emotional connection it has for psyche and civilization.
I urge you to visit www.underwatersculpture.com to discover the work of Jason deCaires Taylor, the creator of underwater museums in which he installs sculptures of human figures on the ocean floor where current, wave, light, and marine organisms provide a constantly changing, dynamic patina of color and texture that speaks to the sacred and profane, to human folly and human joy, to the juxtaposition of natural forces that enable growth and decay just as they effect each of us in our transitory passage of life.
These installations are unexpectedly and deeply humanistic and alive; each figure embodies a story not so different from ours, but dislocated by the conditions of an inundated place. The figures at Pompeii are similar — simple people caught in sudden moments by a natural disaster, a primeval force that is inevitable and incontrovertible and brooks no contradiction. Climate change, sea level rise, extreme weather, coastal erosion, tsunami, underwater volcanic eruption — these are the natural oceanic events of our time and no amount of hubris will protect our coasts.
Here is an excerpt from Percy Bysshe Shelley’s great poem Ozymandias:
Half sunk a shattered visage lies, whose frown,
And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command,
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,
The hand that mocked them, and the heart that fed;
[visit the Poetry Foundation for the work in its entirety]
There are no curators for this underwater museum, no determining consciousness to tell us what to think, or what to value. These works are unique and all affect. They impress upon our minds; they move our feelings; they are relentless. By their place and time they challenge and question every premise and perspective that inform life and community on land. By their poignancy and honesty, these works ask for our identity, empathy, and understanding.
The ocean is at once a museum, a physical space where the ghosts of history swim with the fishes, and as well a library with its collection of all species and its catalogue of all knowledge on which we will found and form our future. Please visit this one, admission is free, walk the galleries and stacks, think and feel, and act, and give thanks for art that is authentic and genuine and shows us the way.
The Sculptural Magnificence of Jason deCaires Taylor: Art, Affect, and Ocean first appeared as a 5-minute audio episode on World Ocean Radio. Host Peter Neill is founder and director of the World Ocean Observatory, a web-based place of exchange for information and educational services about the health of the world ocean. Online at worldoceanobservatory.org.