The The Abyss uses sculpture and new media to explore extraction in the deep ocean. In July 2023, permits will be opened for mining in the Clarion Clipperton Zone - a region 6000m under the ocean, rich with polymetallic nodules that have grown over 500 million years around organic material like a shark tooth or a piece of coral. Metals from these nodules power technological devices and the green car revolution. Deep ocean communities that live in and around the abyssal plain and hydrothermal vents thrive in extreme environments. We cannot predict the harm that deep sea mining will cause them.
Vilem Flusser calls the deep ocean ‘the luxuriant garden,’ a loud, dark, and cold environment where ctenophores thrive. The Abyss imagines an alternate world where ctenophores (comb jellies) are guardians and harbingers, protecting the integrity of the deep ocean environment and imparting the wisdom of deep time. They guard the burial grounds of life on earth, keeping it for tomorrow. We seek their slow treasure for a world riddled with speed. The Abyss asks us to consider what is lost in the face of deep sea mining, and at what cost.
Drawing from mythology, the work reimagines an underwater deity that guards the moon, the deep ocean, and the polymetallic nodule resources. Ctenophores are one of the oldest groups of animals on the planet, branching off from the evolutionary tree around 500 million years ago. The work ruminates on the perspective of creatures that embody a distinct scale of evolutionary time - what does the speed of our progress look and feel like to them, creatures who have been alive as long as the nodules? What generation memory do they hold in their DNA? The piece ruminates on the contradiction of mining a mineral that has taken over 500 million years to accumulate for the purpose of powering our extremely fast capitalist societies, yet also the potential for green energy. As a media artist who depends upon technology created using these metals, this question feels prescient and rich to dig into.
‘To our fast eyes they look still’ uses underwater photogrammetry models and scenes created in cinema 4d as well as poetic language to explore new mythologies of the deep ocean. I am pulling language from the U.N. Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) and my own creative writing to narrate the creation of a new origin story for the deep sea. These words pepper the video work and provide narrative background for the issue. The UNCLOS agreement foreground forthcoming mining activities in areas like the Clarion Clipperton Zone. This document has been criticized for its lack of clarity and protection for the deep sea environment.
4D animation, 2D animation, glass, projection mapping
to our fast eyes they look still
4d animation, 2023
What is 500 million years to a shark tooth?
stained glass, fishing line, 2023
"What is 500 million years to a shark tooth?" Depicts an exploding nodule and the resulting cloud of dust. The shards of glass reference the violence of deep-sea mining, and the color gradients reference the ecological impacts that mining will impart on the ocean. The work considers deep time and the ontologies of deep-sea organisms. What has taken millions of years to grow is plucked from the seabed and sucked up through the vertical space of the ocean. Organisms in this part of the ocean also create the largest daily migration by mass on the planet, called diel vertical migration. In the safety of the dark, they swim up to shallower waters to feed in the moonlight. This movement contributes to the function of the oceans at large, to their enormous carbon sequestration capacity, and as a result, to the health of our planet.
UNCLOS: These are mockups of glass tablets that will include etchings of text from UNCLOS, legal documents that dictate protection (or lack thereof) and mining practices in international waters. These are inspired by historical artifacts like the Sumerian Tablets and other early forms of written language.