Scuba divers in the Mexican Caribbean Sea have always had much to delight in. The colorful marine life, mammals, fish and foliage, are top draws at any time of year. However, off the coast of Cancún there is a little more to see.
'The Silent Evolution', a vast underwater art installation by Jason deCaires Taylor, already has 400 pieces in it. Last week, it received a new addition: an eight tonne Volkswagon Beetle car, designed to save the life of lobsters and crabs.
'The Silent Evolution' has been popular with tourists since its inception. The Caribbean Sea is so clear that those travelling on boats, from Cancún to Isla Mujeres, can simply peer down through the waves to view the sculptures on the sea-bed. Snorkellers and divers get the vest views of all though. It's a common sight to find people swimming above or around the area, which just adds to the surreal beauty of the place.
The VW Beetle was lowered into place on June 28th, joining hundreds of sculptures of people going about their daily business. The latest sculpture is called, 'Anthropocene'. It refers to the geological age, which we are currently in.
Anthropocene highlights how humanity has had such a significant presense upon the Earth, that we have actually altered the planet's geology. This may be through climate change or literally, with our capacity to physically reshape the world to suit our needs, in cities, quarries, tunnels through mountains, dams etc.
A car is a strong symbol of that. The metals that craft it and the oil and gas that power it are drawn from the Earth; the exhaust fumes that eminate from it affect our climate. Hence deClaires Taylor's choice to use it to represent the current age.
For humans, 'The Silent Evolution' may be a novelty beneath the sea, but there is a greater purpose here too. The world needs coral reefs. They're not just pretty, but perform a vital function as 'the rainforests of the ocean' (read more here), as well as providing homes for much of the Caribbean's marine life. However, generations of human irresponsibility and hurricane pressure has damaged the coral to the point of endangering us all.
All of the sculptures, including the latest, are made from specially treated concrete. In effect, they create an artificial, man-made coral reef. They are installed as a dull, grey object, but are quickly colonized by marine plant-life. These vibrant colors transform the sculpture into a living artform, which changes with the seasons and maturity. It will never look the same twice, as people visit it months apart.
The evolution of a previous sculpture.
Each sculpture is designed with a certain species of marine life in mind. Some provide sanctuary for fish and others, like the VW Beetle just lowered into the ocean, are for the crustaceans. 'Anthropocene' contains special features, like doorways for lobsters, gaining access to the hollow inside. Therein are places where these creatures can find a home and, more importantly, breed. The whole car is filled with such hidey-holes rendering it much more than unusual art.
To visit 'The Silent Evolution', you need to come to Cancún or Isla Mujeres. Trips are available from both places, where you may choose between viewing from above (boats and snorkelling) or scuba diving down for a close inspection. There are three main sites in the coastal waters here, including one close to the huge natural coral reef of Punta Nizuc.
Read more of our blogs on the subject:
Cancún and Isla Mujeres Underwater Art Museum
'The Silent Evolution': Life-Saving Art