With the help of appropriate funding, I propose the creation of the world’s first, man-made, living reef sculpture. This piece will be produced by the growth of captive, cloned fragments of tropical, small polyped, stony corals, graphted on to a human skeleton. The artist will work with reclaimed or abandoned pearl farms to grow a reef environment off this armature, and eventually produce a stable, archival art object. The creation of this piece will require three stages.
• Part I - Growth
Coral fragments will be symmetrically graphted on to a skeleton with specific attention paid to their placement in respect to creating a healthy, living model of a natural reef ecosystem. Different species of fast growing, small polyped, stony corals such as Acropora or Montipora will be utilized by their natural avalability. The placement of coral fragments will also serve to facilitate the fusing of joints on the armature once grown out (i.e. a fragment would be attached at the shoulder joint, growing until permanently fusing the humerus to the scapula.)
• Part II – Living Display/Documentation
Once complete, and corals are fused and sufficiently grown, the fully articulated liveing skeleton reef will be put on display in one of any local aquarium’s display tanks and shown as a living art object. During this stage, a myriad of animals will be added to inhabit this work and serve to promote its health as a miniature ecosystem. These animals may include schools of fish, crustaceans, cephalopods, mollusks, or larger predators such as moray eels. At the end, the artist will produce large color photographs documenting this piece as alive, and a video time lapse taken over a 24-hour period. This phase may coincide with talks given by local scholars on topics relevant to humanities involvement specifically with our reef ecosystems. A forum is to be created around this piece that will educate and inform the public about important topics related to the fragility of our environment, ramifications of involvement, and venues of available participation.
• Part III – Death and Dispersion
Upon reaching the end of residency, the coral sculpture will be removed from water and allowed to die. Once sufficiently bleached, dried and preserved, the final object, along with photographs and video pieces will be sold with profits going back to the artist and investors so as to support various aims of understanding and preserving our dieing coral ecosystems. The display of the stark white final object juxtaposed with documentation of its former living glory will serve as a potent image of drastic changes made to preserve form. The final aragonite sculpture will be the first of its kind, and important historically as it shows a community working with nature to produce an art commodity as apposed to against it in terms of manufacturing.
• Final Intent
This piece's pending success will be proven once it is shown to be valuable enough to warrant the production of serial objects that use a similar process in their creation. At this point, the aquaculture techniques will have been tested and proven in the laboratory like setting of (insert specific institution) and a large scale production plan can be mapped out as a sustainable alternative for open ocean aquaculture in a developing, tropical island community. The presence of any small ‘venture’ producing these sculptures in the wild would necessarily exist as a marine sanctuary while keeping the interest of sustaining the fragile reef habitat as profitable for the community that ran it.