Jason deCaires Taylor’s Underwater BioCulture Sculpture at the Museo Atlantico, Lanzarote Island

A leading figure in art and ecology, John K. Grande is author of a range of books that include ‘Balance: Art and Nature’ and ‘Art Space Ecology’. In this article he discusses the work of sculptor and environmentalist, Jason deCaires Taylor, in particular his major project Museo Atlantico, a collection over 300 submerged sculptures and architectural forms in Lanzarote, Spain, the first of its kind in European waters. His pioneering public art projects are not only examples of successful marine conservation, but works of art that seek to encourage environmental awareness, instigate social change and lead us to appreciate the breathtaking natural beauty of the underwater world.

Jason deCaires Taylor: Crossing the Rubicon, Museo Atlantico, Lanzarote

Jason DeCaires Taylor’s underwater sculptures involve a dramatic re-location of the human presence. In 2006, he established the first underwater sculpture near the coast of Grenada in the West Indies. The Grenada sculpture site is now designated by National Geographic to be one of the 25 wonders of the world. A more ambitious project, MUSA (Museo Subacuático de Arte) was brought into existence in the waters surrounding Cancun, Isla Mujeres, and Punta Nizac.  The Cancun underwater marine park covers 420 square metres of seabed, and includes over 500 of Taylor’s continuously evolving permanent sculptures, in Cancun. Visited by over 350,000 visitors each year the site and sculptures are active catalysts in generating the recovery of coral habitats and reefs. Art engages life!

As sculptures they migrate like some obscure species (homo sapiens) to the underwater seas, a place we consider out of bounds, far from the human sphere, and yet in our times so affected by human intervention due to climate change and the ongoing and pervasive pollution of the global environment. Through the manufacture, choice of subjects, and eventual entropic change, Taylor’s sculptures propose a new definition for sculpture that seems more about its place in a broader sphere of global change. Gone is the Romanticism, or aesthetics of fine art, and the art in this Museo Atlantico project facilitates and underwrites the inevitability of change.

Jason deCaires Taylor: Plasticide, National Theatre, London

Jason deCaires Taylor comments on the experience that led him from street art, set design and diving instruction to underwater sculpture:

Street art gave me the ability to think of art as a temporal encounter. My objects are moments in passing (…) now the role of defacing surfaces has been reversed. Instead of leaving my mark on the environment with my work, the environment is leaving its mark on my work (…) My work as a diving instructor helped me work out the physics of water, and gave me an understanding of how coral and marine life function. My theatre and set design work taught me about load bearings, cranes, transportation logistics and, perhaps most important it gave me the ability to think on a large scale.”1

The series of underwater installations at Museo Atlantico, a site located at Playa Colorado near Playa Blanca are subtle, almost hidden, but they appear subtly, as if in the aftermath of some global event, like memories of other places, other times, but the realistic cast sculpture figures are contemporary. Scuba diving, these sculpture scenarios emerge at twelve to fourteen metre depths some hundreds of metres offshore.  They look like migrants put into some surrealist and theatrical scenario. We can appreciate them as a series of “sets” with thematic and cultural ramifications, an outgrowth of deCaires experience as a set designer. Nature itself is a theatre we are a part of, isn’t it?

In Museo Atlantico we can find all manner of scenes. Collectively it’s a kind of reflection on life itself, all its permutations.  Los Jolateros, The Rubicon, The Human Gyre, the Hybrid Forest, a cube-like mirror supported by plants with an allegorical female who looks down into it, and the young couple looking upwards whose faces we cannot see (Between Somewhere and Nowhere). A thirty metre long, four-metre high underwater wall demarcates the site.

Jason deCaires Taylor: Crossing the Rubicon, Museo Atlantico, Lanzarote.

The wall has magnificent Gaudi-esque bio-tree protrusions that reinforce the sense this whole arrangement is a nature museum. Three men are attached to the wall. Walls usually close you in, but these walls are like immense lungs or gates that let the sea move in and through this place where these realistic human sculptures are interfacing the undersea nature. The rawness, the sense these scenes are somehow harsh intrusions into nature’s underwater playground are softened over time as seaweed, algae, sponges and a variety of micro-species and fish begin to colour the surfaces and inhabit the surrounds. It all begins to feel like a museum of memory, dedicated to the humanistic as much as to the natural. The most poignant and deeply resonant statement on humanity’s present situation historically is The Human Gyre, which is nothing if not a powerful reification of human arrogance and folly, but executed with kindness and a classic sense of pathos. Here civilization is staged as if in a giant myth, a circle of human bodies naked to the truth, elegiac and moved by something beyond their control. Are they alive or dead? A series of questions are raised, and the answers are not so clear, or historically evident as in past centuries.

Jason deCaires Taylor: The Human Gyre, Museo Atlantico, Lanzarote.

Set among the rocky shoreline directly below the International Museum of Contemporary Art (MIAC) at the Castillo de Jan Jose in Puerto Naos in the Municipality of Arrecife, on Lanzarote in 2016, Jason deCaires Taylor’s Rising Waters highlights the effects on global warming, but with a historical and intuitive creative twist. We see children and businessmen riding what look like London Shire workhorses. These Shire horses were part of the early industrial age in the 19th century and hopeful, symbolic, agents of progress. The heads of these horses at MIAC are like heads of oil drilling equipment and so these horses, beasts of burden in the 19th century, mirror the oil industry in our times, as the oil economy has replaced the more rudimentary horse. The businessmen riding these horses look out of place, event arrogant. Their facial and bodily gestures seem awkward. Like the figures in Jason deCaires Taylor’s underwater Corporate Playground who can be seen riding crude oil pump, another a dolphin, these businessmen seem completely oblivious to the rising waters around them, for these horses do submerge when the high tides arrives on this shoreline setting below the Castillo de San Jose.

Jason deCaires Taylor: The Rising Tide, Lanzarote.

Horses have ancient human connections. Horses and humans were witness to each other over thousands of years. The cave paintings at Lascaux in France or the modernist Italian sculptor Marino Marini’s horse and rider sculptures exemplify that ancient horse and human relationship. Some deep intrinsic communication exists between horse and human… Jason DeCaires Taylor’s hybrid horses are part natural and part mechanistic like British sculptor Jacob Epstein’s sculpture The Rock Drill (1913-15) casts of which are in the British Museum of Modern Art and MoMA, New York. Both Jacob Epstein and Jason deCaires Taylor have seized on a point of change in society, and declare it through their art. Jacob Epstein’s was a comment on the dehumanization of humanity by machines at the outbreak of the 1st World War and deCaires Taylor’s is a declaration of the seeming silence and lack of co-ordinated actions in the face of global climate change and economic shifts as a result 21st century technological and trade. The four horses and riders in The Rising Tide are symbolic of how humans are so out of place even as they innovate in industry. The dehumanizing effects on the human condition, such as global warming, and consequent rising sea levels will undoubtedly have as significant an effect on human economy, on migration, as world economic production accelerates with no regulation.  Like the tides that rise and fall, causing horse and rider to seemingly vanish only to reappear, Taylor’s The Rising Tide is a clarion call, a warning about climate and the simple physics of global warming.

Jason deCaires Taylor: The Rising Tide, Lanzarote.

The Canary Islands context of Lanzarote has a Romantic aspect otherworldly character as if in a Jules Verne novel, or a civilization transformed by nature’s actions. Taylor’s underwater realizations, these people all with their eyes closed, comprise a community of sorts, but equally recall lost civilizations of the Romantics including John Wesley, Lord Byron or the painter John Martin. These sculpted figures and their horses carry with them echoes of our Romantic imagination and inspired Stephane Mallarme to write,

We were the last Romantics – chose for theme
Traditional sanctity and loveliness;
Whatever’s written in what poet’s name
The book of the people; whatever most can bless
The mind of man or elevate a rhyme;
But all is changes that high horse riderless,
Though mounted in that saddle Homer rode
Where the swan drifts upon a darkening flood. 2

It is this epic level of expression that captured the Romantics imagination, that Taylor seizes on, but his vision rephrases our relatedness to nature’s ecosystems. Taylor provides a sculptural template for a reinterpretation of our place in nature. In so doing, he enables us to conceive and imagine other worlds. It is less about conquest and compartmentalization of resources, and God is not omnipotent to this era of the anthropocene, where human activities now impact geology and ecosystems.  The underwater context emphasizes ecosystems rather than egosystems to carry a message we all recognize through Taylor’s underwater sculpture in ecology interventions.

James Lovelock was one of the first of our times to sound the alarm about climate change and our denial that it is actually happening. In an article published in The Independent he commented, “ to pass into a morbid fever that may last as long as 100,000 years. I have to tell you, as members of the Earth’s family and an intimate part of it, that you and especially civilization are in danger.” which are the equivalent of the pathology lab of a hospital, have reported the Earth’s physical condition, and the climate specialists see it as seriously ill, and soon The climate centers around the world. 3

Jason deCaires Taylor: The Raft of Lampedusa (detail), Museo Atlantico, Lanzarote.

Irreversibility is not a concept generally understood in a postmodern era, for we believe all can be manipulated at will. We are the Gods of our own consumption.  From being a part of nature, humanity now separates itself from nature, seeking only to withdraw from the economy of nature what humanity believes is rightfully its own. Jason DeCaires Taylor, on the other hand, intervenes, with a future vision, hoping to establish actions that regenerate nature while likewise commenting on the human condition. There are precedents for Taylor’s art, notably among land artists whose escape from the orthodoxy of minimalism in New York’s galleries led to the land. Dennis Oppenheim joined Peter Hutchinson in Tobago, West Indies where he constructed one underwater piece and others on the beach and sea surface.  Both Dennis Oppenheim’s and Peter’ Hutchinson’s artworks from this trip were exhibited in the Two Ocean Projects show at MOMA, New York in 1969.  Hutchinson’s Threaded Calabash has resonance, and exemplifies an underwater kind of art that “could not be seen”. It recalls Claes Oldenberg’s burial of a sculpture in a ceremonial act in Central Park New York, or Alberto Giacometti’s hidden stone sculpture located somewhere in the glacial Alps. These too are “hidden, invisible artworks”. Even as his sculptures explore a new domain, just as art always has, these new underwater frontiers Taylor is exploring are landscapes that suspend our disbelief and become places for the human imagination to explore. Conventional associations reconfigure in this “other” underwater territory.

Jason deCaires Taylor: Disconnected (installing), Museo Atlantico, Lanzarote.

Taylor is engaging in producing what Goethe referred to as morphology or the science of formation and transformation of organisms… and he does it with a conscience, and a sense of the human legacy and its continuation. The art, these underwater sculpture scenarios becomes the agent of change. In 1769 the overwhelming black lava flows from Lanzarote’s volcanic eruptions near the location of Museo Atlantico likewise changed the landscape and underwater shorelines forever. The act of “making” or “creating”, for Jason DeCaires Taylor, is a transformative act both in aesthetic and political terms. It is never fixed or final. It could even be a kind of metamorphology. Culture and nature are in an intense exchange on our planet as never before. Increased resource use as a result of increased populations and modes of technology we chose to use. Jason DeCaires Taylor’s sculptures are facilitators that produce an intermediary mutation, a dialogue between human culture and nature. They are also freeze-framed reminiscences on the state of contemporary culture. We see a photographer wandering with his eyes closed now under the seas. The photographer who cannot see embodies a state of contemporary culture that can only be called anaesthetic. We strangely shut the physical world out from our perceptions. Cell phones, flat screens, and computers have produced an unreal sense of connectedness, while disconnecting us from the physical world, the natural world.  Our sense of continuity and connectedness to the flow of life has been disrupted. The machines have framed us as readily as any industrial giant. The tools and the mindsets they produce negate the natural environment that we are a part of. This photographer/sculpture captures looks like he is capturing images but seen here he himself is an objectified 3D image. The great gap between the image and the physical is so pronounced that we actually now have physical environments of advertising and imagery that challenged the traditional fluid natural forms of the world we are a part of.

Jason deCaires Taylor: Disconnected, Museo Atlantico, Lanzarote.

Art can never supplant life, or nature, for that matter. Art can only engage in a temporal dialogue with the world we are in. Taylor’s art accepts nature’s force, its ability to surpass, supplant and transform his process and art. This nature culture process recalls Betty Beaumont’s Ocean Landmark project (1978-80) where recycled coal ash in brick form were dumped off Fire Island, New York. A fish habitat was generated that has since been recognized as a World Heritage Site. As Beaumont comments,

It is in this new transformative space that I will continue to work.  It is a political space that has the potential of aligning and integrating how we support life economically and ecologically. To imagine this space, it is vital we change our belief systems.  I am suggesting a cultural transformation that will encourage our community to consider Nature as an integral part of the human value system. (…) Ocean Landmark is not meant to encourage the use of fossil fuels. While fossil fuels are used they generate tons of waste material, Ocean Landmark considers stabilized coal waste as a new material and plans for its sustainable future.  Renewable energy such as solar and hydrogen cell technology are energy sources that we must embrace.”4

Like earlier land artists, Jason DeCaires Taylor recognizes that power of the unknown, the near invisible scene, what we cannot usually see as a territory for art action, and one we should become more aware of. Underwater is a different zone of experience. Sounds travel differently. Our eyes accustom to a light filtered world we are not generally aware of. As explorer, conservationist, and filmmaker Jacques Cousteau has commented…

Water and air, the two essential fluids on which all life depends, have become global garbage cans.”4 As Fabien Cousteau’s, grandson of Jacques, has revealed from extensive ocean research the ocean’s floating debris (estimated to be 90% plastic) goes up to 90 feet in depth, and has killed, millions of sea birds, turtles, and even whales… We should be aware of this tremendous resource we all rely upon. It is not unlimited.”5

Jason deCaires Taylor: Crossing the Rubicon, Museo Atlantico, Lanzarote.

Ironically, the oceans are our point of origin, so to see these sculpture/figures’ journey is to see peoples from so many origins headed for a metaphorical home. And that home represents a kind of wisdom. The oceans are intangible, invisible, hidden, an eternal, even timeless home. Jason deCaires Taylor’s underwater sculpture figures are like artefacts, manifestations of a kind of instant contemporary archaeology. They are detritus and they are objects and they are mementos of an age of overproduction. They mirror our times. They are souvenirs of this age of overconsumption, overproduction. They challenge our vision of the world we live in, proposing a hypothetical futurist scenario. Indeed the underwater “wall” they exist in relation to, recalls Russian writer Zamyatin’s Wall in Z a novel that presaged and was an inspiration for George Orwell’s 1984. In this science fiction novel Z, the controlled people are within the walls, and the unknown “other” people live beyond the wall.

For Jason deCaires Taylor, the wall is a point of expectation, a gate or an entrance into the unknown. The unknown quantity is nature – a nature museum. The wall likewise challenges notions of public and private. What is public? What is private? In the natural world, a wall cannot contain the effects of human exploitation of resources. Toxicity, pollution, moves easily through barriers, underground, underwater, through the air. Taylor heightens our concern over pollutants and resource use on the planet Earth. The wall that traverses and defines the undersea space and siting of these live body cast sculptures near Playa Blanca in an area called Los Colorados is close to where lava flow and volcanic eruptions occurred in 1769. A demarcation zone or a gate of sorts, the wall establishes a point of reference for the figures, cactuses, the hybrid forest and various groupings of sculptures. The wall exists in an unclaimed territory of the imagination. Every one of these figures is in a spatial relation to the “gate” or “arch”. The arch is ecological, even biomorphic, with natural tree forms and biomorphic shapes attached to it. And this wall separates two zones of undersea contemplation. The open structure of the gate enables the seas tidal waters and fish and sea life to pass through as if the gate itself were a filter.  These people are walking with their eyes closed towards the arch, towards what Taylor calls the “museum”. With the installation of these sculptures, environmental factors have to be taken into consideration, such as potential storm surges, tides, and temperatures underwater. Indeed as the world’s temperatures rise by a degree or two  – the coral reefs of the oceans are put in a fragile state, and can die and the fish that feed on the coral growths and that cleanse and cull various elements enabling healthy growth are no longer be around.

Jason deCaires Taylor: Hybrid Forest, Museo Atlantico, Lanzarote.

Culture and nature, an undersea world, and those figures recall Atlantis, a mythical world, a symbol of the temporary and ephemeral nature of civilizations past. And now we truly have a global civilization, cultures interchange, languages too, and we understand something of our commonality of the human state of being. At the same time there is a denial of what is happening in the world due to excessive exploitation of carbon fuels.  Resistance and denial to climate change are proof positive of the way technology drives history. We seem to be sitting in the sidecar, though each and every one of us can change our small worlds through direct action. The British sculptor Antony Gormley reaffirms this point of view when he says,

We can no longer assume that more is better. We have to change our cultural heroes from generals and captains of industry to Meditators and mediators, from Rambo and terminator, to Ghandi and the Dalai Lama. (…) Our tool systems, no longer stone, having separated us from the rest of the planet and biosphere, are now what will, without this revolution, destroy both.  (…) Technology that was in some senses made to make life better has now become the problem”6

The danger is that aesthetics and art, the cultural equation may be diminished by the neglect of nature, the source of all life and art. Our place in nature’s cosmology involves an understanding of where we belong. The earth is our home.  Jason DeCaires Taylor’s installation in Lanzarote, involves generating s mental landscape in a territory that evidences nature’s actions, the volcanic activities on Lanzarote, that reveal the force of nature and set it in contrast with and complimenting a human cultural interaction in the form of these walking figures. Walking presupposes migration, perpetual movement, and just as humans have always migrated over the centuries due to war, pestilence, ecological and climactic change, Taylor’s walking figures, put in a new context – underwater – challenge our notion of what home is. And the answer is …. ?  The earth is our home.

Jason deCaires Taylor: Crossing the Rubicon, Museo Atlantico, Lanzarote.

The words ecology and economics derive from the same Greek word, oikos, which means household or home. Ecology (logos meaning study) is the study of the home, and economics (nomics meaning management) is home management. The forces of economies and their consequent exploitation of the environment in this period of late capitalism have done nothing to enhance the management of our true home, the planet Earth. Instead, nature and life itself have been relegated into a small corner of our experience. Most of today’s art expresses the disruption of the self by the forces of our consumer-based ephemeraculture. It denies the process of living within a permaculture and perceives expression in relation to the ephemeral dictums of material growth.

The language of art is itself a landscape that uses materials and processes to emphasize our place in life. Artists often without a sense of physical materials and the real life environment risk sacrificing the connection between art and life, instead producing a parallel reality that has no ethical or responsive mechanisms that link the art to life itself. Taylor has done the contrary invoking an art that is truly a part of nature, and nature is the art of which we are a part. Like Christo Jeanne-Claude’s Islands project in Florida, or the Running Fence project, or The Gates in New York, Jason DeCaires Taylor’s is in the scale of life.

Jason deCaires Taylor: Silent Evolution, Mexico

Like Andy Goldsworthy, David Nash, Nils-Udo and other artists who work outside the museums, Jason does not seek to mould nature to his aims.  His sculptural environments, underwater, enable nature to participate in the artwork. Indeed with global warming, these sculpture already in situ in Cancun, Mexico where corals were effectively replanted on sculptures after a storm, new growth occurred on one side due to Mexican undersea currents.  The sculptures became sites for generating coral and undersea growth, and this in an era when CO2 levels are one of the causes of dying coral reefs. While the French mathematician Jean-Baptiste Joseph Fourier first described the Greenhouse effect as early as 1824, it was the Swedish chemist Svante Arrhenius who realized the connection between CO2 levels and a rise in the planet’s temperature in 1896.  At the 2012 Rio+20 conference on climate change observer Jim Leape reported, “We are using 50 per cent more resources than the earth can provide; if we all lived like Americans or Europeans, we would need three planets to support us.”7

Taylor’s sculptures become an example of art with a function. As bio-art, an art that nature overwhelms with time, they establish a dialogue on permanence and ephemerality. The contrast with nature’s abstraction, an artform itself, and with a variety of species, underwater forms and geologies, creates a landscape of the imagination. While realist, these figures are re-enactments of the global community, cast from actual living persons’ bodies. A reflection of community, they also challenge an environmental history of transformation, appropriation, exploitation of nature for industrial purposes. We need a new vision. This is the hidden message in all of Taylor’s underwater scenarios.

Jason deCaires Taylor: Portal, Museo Atlantico, Lanzarote.

A mirror supported by cactus sits mysteriously on the edge of the underwater sculpture garden. The mirror reflects the surface of the ocean’s water producing illusionary effects. For Taylor this piece recalls The Garden of the Hesperides from Greek mythology. In this garden, Hera’s golden apple tree (a single apple tree or an orchard) was said to produce golden apples that made you immortal if you ate one.  Gaia originally gave Hera fruited tree branches as a wedding gift when Hera chose Zeus. The Hesperides who looked after the apple trees would pick apples themselves.  Hera put Ladon, a multi-headed dragon in the garden to help protect these sacred trees. The classic myth is reborn now and exists in relation to, and as a reflection of this hidden underwater world…

Immersion resistant, fully functional sculpture set on platforms in the ocean enable coral life to evolve. The world they inhabit seems so large, extended, and silent. These figures are in the process of migrating, as if some historical event had occurred, less a question of choice than necessity. Exodus. And they also resemble the clay soldiers buried with Qin Shi Huang Di, China’s 1st emperor. Like the Egyptians the ancient Chinese believed in object burial as a way of engaging in an eternal dialogue.

Jason deCaires Taylor: The Raft of Lampedusa, Museo Atlantico, Lanzarote, Spain

The Raft of the Lampedusa, one of the featured installations, has a Zodiac inflatable (locally referred to as Pateras) with thirteen figures on it. The piece is made in pH neutral concrete. Taylor recounts how the original sea tragedy that inspired Gericault’s Raft of the Medusa, (now in the Louvre in Paris) occurred not so far from the Canary Islands. From a tragedy of another century to a 21st century tragedy, the migrants from Africa, leaving from a variety of regions for so many different reasons that include Ebola, war, famine. And they arrive on Lanzarote, as they do in Spain and Italy, in a sense with their pasts erased, removed.  And so the undersea non-space is a fitting place for Taylor’s casts of these migrant people and of other individuals drawn from the community. Like Spencer Tunick’s performance events that he produces and photographs worldwide, such as the Aletsch Glacier in Switzerland (2009) with Jason’s there are likewise multitudes of humans. Taylor provides something of a context, for they are ordinary people wearing their accoutrements, and they moved naturalistically seemingly unaware of their surrounds. Just as the United Nations has declared water rights for all humans, like the right to water, the right to a home should be something all of us have a right to, wherever we come from. Seen from the long view, aren’t we all migrants?

Jason deCaires Taylor: The Human Gyre (colonised), Museo Atlantico, Lanzarote.

The first thing we see with The Human Gyre is a circle of naked human bodies seemingly moving as if out of their own control in a gyre or whirl… As an independent sculpture, The Human Gyre recalls the works of Norwegian sculptor Gustav Vigeland (1869-1943) whose Monolith, a 14 metre tall pillar of human bodies stands in the centre of his fountain project at Frogner Park, Oslo, Norway.  We can see this mass of humanity of all ages and stages of life brought together. They all share life in common! In Jason deCaires Taylor’s The Human Gyre all these people are drawn by an invisible force into a circle. The cycle of life, or a vicious circle? This expressionist sculptural theme, this The Human Gyre not only deals with life in all its intensity, but references the ocean’s “gyres”, that affect the global climate, and likewise are a cooling system for the planet Earth. With Jason’s The Human Gyre the sense is less of stages or progressions of life, than of humanity’s loss of control, humanity’s profound sadness, its recognition of neglect, an inability to make choices, to tackle the problem of climate change, pollution and overproduction.

Jason deCaires Taylor: Los Jolateros, Museo Atlantico, Lanzarote.

Los Jolateros is more innocent, an expression of joy. Here, a playful series of sculptures recreates a boat race made of made-made craft made from recycled oil drums that takes place every year on Lanzarote. Children embark on these locally crafted boats and paddle furiously using small wooden paddles. Some fall into the water, capsize, while others make it to the finish line. The Jolateros boat race is a Lanzarote tradition that happens each year in the narrows on an inlet near the city of Arrecife. Los Jolateros identifies and celebrates a well-recognized part of the island of Lanzarote’s identity and culture.

In the shadow of the volcanoes on Lanzarote that fuelled such change to the landscape and seas nearby, the figures in Jason DeCaires Taylor’s Waters Rising recall those of ancient Pompeii entombed and cast in perpetuity by the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in AD 79. Ironically, this small village of Pompeii in Italy was immortalized by the forces of nature. And these figures frozen in time included a dog. All were caught in daily actions, with a theatrical sense of that instant, that moment in time. Their plaster casts bring a sense of life to these entombed figures. The same goes for DeCaires Taylor’s but in this case they serve also as a place for the corals and undersea growth to attach to in an era when increasingly the acidification of the oceans causes a chain reaction, whereby the life forms essential to the pyramid of life in the oceans, is diminished and threatened in perpetuity.

The intention is to produce a stage set, a visual journey for visitors to Lanzarote.  The undersea experience is out of body, and a world where gravity does not act on your perceptions so directly.

Jason deCaires Taylor: Cactus Man, Museo Atlantico, Lanzarote.

Nature is so much more powerful than humanity. Museo Atlantico is a visual, multi-sensory journey into a silent world and an “out of body” experience. It can be a metaphoric journey, a space for the imagination to interpret completely differently. The underwater world is so vast, and even so these sculptures maintain a perspective. They look so small in the entirety of the ocean. This community of sculptures exists as if in a sanctuary in the middle of the bay… Waters rising…. Migrant figures exist in a Zodiac inflatable boat like the many Zodiacs’ migrants from Africa arrive in at the Canary Islands. Aren’t we all migrants? Weren’t we always migrants? Availability of resources often determines who is indigenous and who is migrant… The plane is always shifting, over centuries, millennia. The scientist and environmentalist David Suzuki comments,

There are some things in the world we can’t change – gravity, entropy, the speed of light, and our biological nature that requires clean air, clean water, clean soil, clean energy and biodiversity fro our health and well being. Protecting the biosphere should be our highest priority or else we sicken and  die. Other things, like capitalism, free enterprise, the economy, currency, the market, are not forces of nature. We invented them. They are not immutable and we can change them. It makes no sense to elevate economics above the biosphere.”8

Jason deCaires Taylor: Photographer, Museo Atlantico, Lanzarote.

Jason deCaires Taylor’s newly created Museo Atlantico becomes a place of exploration, of rediscovery of our place in that biosphere Suzuki refers to. We find ourselves here in this unquantifiable space underwater. These sculptures and the environment introduced into Los Colorados near Playa Blanca have already after one year generated a 200% increase in underwater biomass. Here is an aesthetic of devolution, where the human imprint becomes faint, less obvious, as the transformation continues, as nature overtakes the art, as the calcarius worms, octopuses, barnacles, orange sponge, scorpion fish, angel shark and barracuda come to inhabit the artworks. Biology, even life, surpasses function, procreates and evolves independent of humans’ output. Outside history, inside nature, we can hear this multi-sensory vocalization of Jason deCaires Taylor’s vision… Museo Atlantico, now brought into being, will change forever… with or without us!

Nature is the Art of which We are a Part!



  1. Jason deCaires Taylor in The Underwater Museum; The Submerged Sculpture of Jason deCaires Taylor, Chronicles Books; San Francisco, 2014, p. 8.
  2. George Steiner, In Bluebeard’s Castle; Some Notes Towards a re-definition of Culture, Faber & Faber; London, 1978, p. 85
  3. James Lovelock, “The Earth is about to catch a morbid fever that may last as long as 100,000 years,”, The Independent, January 16, 2006
  4. Betty Beaumont cited in Art Nature Dialogues, SUNY Press; New York, 2004,
  5. Jacques Cousteau, web citation, www.coolaustralia.org/the-great-pacific-garbage-patch-primary/
  6. Antony Gormley, “Art in the Time of Global Warming”,  in Long Horizons; An Exploration of Art+ Climate Change, Jules Bicycle/British Council, np, no date.
  7. Barry Lord, Art and Energy; How Culture Changes, Washington DC: AAM Press, 2014, p. 217- 218
  8. David Suzuki, cited in Facebook https://www.facebook.com/KnowledgeOfToday/posts/615849705103878


Jason deCaires Taylor is a sculptor, environmentalist and professional underwater photographer. Born in 1974, Taylor graduated from the London Institute of Arts in 1998 with a BA Honours in Sculpture.

His permanent site-specific works span several continents and predominately explore submerged and tidal marine environments. His multi-disciplinarily sculptural works explore modern themes of conservation and environmental activism; Over the past 10 years Taylor has created several large-scale underwater “Museums” and “Sculpture Parks”, with collections of over 850 life-size public works.

A prolific sculptor, he became the first of a new generation of artists to shift the concepts of the Land art movement into the realm of the marine environment. He gained international notoriety in 2006 with the creation of the world’s first underwater sculpture park, situated off the west coast of Grenada in the West Indies. Now listed as one of the Top 25 Wonders of the World by National Geographic the park was instrumental in the government declaring the site a National Marine Protected Area. This was followed in 2009 when he co-founded MUSA (Museo Subacuático de Arte), a vast collection of over 500 of his sculptural works, installed between Cancun and Isla Mujeres in Mexico.

Other major projects include Museo Atlantico (2016), a collection over 300 submerged sculptures and architectural forms in Lanzarote, Spain, the first of its kind in European waters. The Rising Tide (2016 Thames London) and Ocean Atlas a monumental 60-ton single sculpture located in the Bahamas.

He has received numerous sculpture and photography awards and is a member of The Royal Society of Sculptors, Ocean Ambassador to DAN (Divers Alert Network), Ocean Exemplar of The World Ocean Observatory and a featured TED speaker. In 2014 he was awarded The Global Thinker by Foreign Policy, described as the Jacque Cousteau of the Art world.


Jason deCaires Taylor website


All images copyright and courtesy of Jason deCaires Taylor

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