Last week, artist Jason deCaires Taylor finished his monumental underwater installation titled Silent Evolution. The piece consists of over 400 life size concrete sculptures permanently sunk to the bottom of the National Marine Park of Cancun, Isla Mujeres and Punta Nizuc, spanning nearly 1,400 square feet.
Taylor chose a diverse set of people to model for the casts of Silent Evolution. The sculptures range a broad cross-section of society, mostly Mexican, and from all walks of life. Casts include a yoga instructor, a park ranger, a student, a fisherman, an 85 year old nun and even a 3 year old boy. The piece represents a coming together of people to not only experience a natural phenomenon in the natural reefs nearby, but also to face serious questions about our environment, our weight upon it.
Ideas for the sculptures began with the rise of tourism in the Cancun Marine Park. With over 750,000 visitors a year, the natural reefs were placed under a great amount of pressure and often disturbed. The sculptures act now as an artificial reef structure for marine life to inhabit while the natural reefs regenerate. As coral begins to grow upon the sculptures, the appearances will change, relinquishing all aesthetic control to the ocean. The establishment of living organisms within the sculptures reminds us of our symbiotic and deeply codependent relationship with nature. Though Silent Evolution is massive and concrete, it is still subject to the ever-fluxing temper of the ocean.
Silent Evolution also offers an incredibly unique visitor experience. The piece is almost interacitive; with no white walls, labels, or security guards visitors can swim around the sculptures, exploring their many facets. The environment itself, the shallow waters of a vast ocean is as much a part of the piece as the sculptures, with light constantly changing the perspective and new life growing upon and inhabiting the space.
This piece and a number of Taylor’s other underwater ventures is also meant to be a symbol of strength, that a human presence can be positive to the environment. We can be large and imposing but must work peacefully with nature in order to survive and prosper.