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Living Sea Sculpture: contemporary art as coral refuge's video poster

A welded steel matrix, like DNA, will be electrified to build an ongoing calciferous collaboration with marine organisms in Cancun. Read more

Portland, OR Mixed Media
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pledged of $15,000 goal
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This project was successfully funded on April 12, 2011.

A welded steel matrix, like DNA, will be electrified to build an ongoing calciferous collaboration with marine organisms in Cancun.

Portland, OR Mixed Media
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About this project

NEWS! I received a matching grant from the Harnisch Foundation. All pledges are now worth DOUBLE! Thank you all for kickstarting Living Sea Sculpture by backing this project! Huge thanks!!

On January 4th I received happy news that some of my designs have been approved to join the living art of MUSA (Museo Subacuático de Arte). This monumental underwater museum in the waters surrounding Cancun, Isla Mujeres and Punta Nizuc was founded in 2009 by Jaime Gonzalez Cano of The National Marine Park, Roberto Diaz of The Cancun Nautical Association and Jason deCaires Taylor. The museum aims to “demonstrate the interaction between art and environmental science.” With your help, I’ll head to Mexico in June to embark on this adventure.

Over 750,000 people visit the Cancun Marine Park every year. These artworks will become unique habitat for diverse marine life and provide snorkelers and divers more things to discover as the natural reefs, rapidly dwindling, get some personal space. We’ll attach coral fragments to populate the sculptures and give them a chance to colonize.

WHY-- Corals are endangered. Ocean animals need homes. With low voltage direct current, pH of seawater can be raised to attract limestone minerals to adhere to a metal matrix. Since corals need calcium carbonate to build their exoskeletons, this process gives them an extra boost, a life supporting substrate to better withstand environmental stresses currently endangering, bleaching, and killing them. In the increasingly warming and acidifying ocean, Biorock sculptures supply corals with a localized alkaline environment. Soon fish and other creatures move into the new artsy neighborhoods.

EXPENSES-- The estimated fabrication and installation budget is $15,000-$20,000. Monies raised go towards welding equipment, metal, supplies, power source, workshop, boat rentals, deployment fees for installation and anchoring (this is a hurricane zone, so it requires special engineering with secure attachment points/pilings), SCUBA tanks, licensing fees, and all project-related expenses. To document the experience, I’m seeking a professional filmmaker to shoot footage, or I may buy an underwater camera to capture quality photos and video. MUSA is offering a few resources, but as a very young institution seeking to raise money for visitor centers and other programs, it is up to me!

UNTIL THEN-- During the next couple months here in cold Portland, I’ll be propagating various species of corals and experimenting with Biorock in tanks at Seahorse Aquarium, a place chockful of coral varieties which are carefully tended by owner and organic chemist, Woody Wood. These studies will give me intimate, hands-on understanding of the organisms I’m trying to help. I’ll share my findings with you as updates. Plus that's where your bit-o-Biorock will be born (no, it's not alive! not sending corals to you.)

One of the things I love about art is that it can be any scale, created by groups or in solitude, simple or complex, formula to follow; just like living organisms, the processes are so varied and the outcomes lead to more curiosity and sometimes a sense of utter joy. I'm excited about doing some quiet research and observation of these mysterious aquatic gems to prepare me for June.

THE VIDEO-- above was directed by Peyton Wilson for a Nokia Responsiveness campaign highlighting the work of TEDFellows 2009. Heidi Sowa and Matt Cartwright helped haul the Biorocker around that day. The Gossamer Crocheted Coral Reef is entrusted to me to promote awareness about coral endangerment and solutions to the crises facing our ocean. I continue to do symbolic coral restoration re-enactments and exhibit the reef in public. Currently it’s on display in the windows of KnitPurl (downtown Portland) attached to hanging steel sculptures simulating Biorock restoration. If you’re in town, please check it out.

latest press:

grateful to so many people involved in this work: I can think of many more, but I have to stop. (there are 3 more links by my bio...)

special thanks to Dr. Thomas Goreau, President of the Global Coral Reef Alliance, for introducing me to Jason deCaires Taylor and endorsing this project.



  • You selected
    Pledge $1 or more

    19 backers

    Thank you! I will say your name as I plant a polyp.

  • You selected
    Pledge $10 or more

    30 backers

    You will receive an e-photo of a coral I propagate at Seahorse Aquarium here in Portland.

  • You selected
    Pledge $22 or more

    76 backers Limited (46 left of 122)

    22 is my favorite number! (122 is the symbol of the snail in some native lore). you will receive an "escarglow"--a handmade candle in a snail shell made by Miss Snail Pail + an e-photo of a coral. note: this reward for $22 pledges only.

  • You selected
    Pledge $25 or more

    23 backers

    e-photo + a download of "Reef Reborn"-- a documentary about the largest Biorock coral nursery in the world.

  • You selected
    Pledge $50 or more

    34 backers

    the above + a limited edition digital print of one of my detailed pen-ink drawings with ocean theme (your choice from a selection)

  • You selected
    Pledge $75 or more

    18 backers

    All of the above + a bit-o-Biorock pendant

  • You selected
    Pledge $125 or more

    15 backers

    All of the above + a pdf with photos and findings from my adventure

  • You selected
    Pledge $250 or more

    4 backers

    All of the above + come to Mexico (transport not included) and plant corals! + 10 cards (blank inside) with underwater photographs from Coral Perspectives,

  • You selected
    Pledge $500 or more

    1 backer

    All of the above + a pass to MUSA. The entrance to the museum is by boat tour.

  • You selected
    Pledge $1,000 or more

    3 backers

    All of the above + you will receive the Friends of MUSA package: an official MUSA video, a book that will be published in early 2012 with your name in the back, your name listed in the Friends of MUSA book at all visitor centers + one more pass to MUSA

  • You selected
    Pledge $1,222 or more

    1 backer

    All of the above + If you live in the Bay Area, I will come to your garden and take you on a snailing expedition. (If you live elsewhere and want to pay my transport, you too can partake in garden mollusk collection!)

  • You selected
    Pledge $2,500 or more

    0 backers Limited (3 left of 3)

    All of the above + I will lead a coral restoration re-enactment in the Pacific NW at a public or private event, school, or exhibition. Can be for a one day happening or 3 month exhibit.

  • You selected
    Pledge $3,000 or more

    0 backers

    All of the above + a 16 X 24 limited edition print by Coral Perspectives

  • You selected
    Pledge $5,000 or more

    0 backers Limited (1 left of 1)

    All of the above + the steel Biorocker (in the video). Corals not included.

  • You selected
    Pledge $10,000

    0 backers

    All of the above + a trip to MUSA with a private tour of the museum with Jason deCaires Taylor and myself. (US only)

Funding period

- (90 days)