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5 Artists Take on Dan Rather's Monument to Climate Change Deniers

Coral Morphologic, Marlon Preuss, kyttenjanae x Philip Rugo, Grace Miceli, and Michael Kerbow imagine the former CBS News anchor's idea for a wry monument to environmental folly.
A view of the entrance into PortMiami through Government Cut between Fisher Island and Miami Beach. Image courtesy of Bhakti Baxter and Coral Morphologic

Last week, Dan Rather had an art idea: "I think we should erect a monument built from materials impervious to the elements and list the names of all the elected officials and others in positions of power today in the United States who refuse to stand with the science on climate change," the former face of CBS Evening News wrote on Facebook.

"We can put this monument on the coast—say off Miami—and have its base equal to the lapping waves of high tide. As sea levels rise, the monument will begin to be submerged, at increasingly greater depths. It will become a symbol of the cynicism, stupidity, and folly of our age. And it will be important for future generations to know who was responsible for this failure of action and imagination as this global crisis crescendoed."


The post was shared by longtime friends of The Creators Project, Coral Morphologic, the subjects of our 2015 documentary, Coral City. The marine bio-art duo, in fact, had already come up with a proposal for a project that sounded quite a bit like Rather's monument. We think the monument is a wonderful idea, so we reached out to Coral Morpho for more info, and also commissioned a few of The Creators Project's favorites—Marlon Preuss, Michael Kerbow, kyttenjanae + Philip Rugo, and Grace Miceli, a.k.a., @artbabygirl—to come up with alternate takes on what a marvelous, melancholy monument to climate change deniers might look like.

Marlon Preuss (@marlonpruz)

by Marlon Preuss for The Creators Project

Marlon Preuss: This is how I envision this monument. We start with an off shore oil rig and add cranes to the sides of it that act as legs and add barrels for eyes to show the oil rig's true form: a huge water arachnid that sucks the nectar from the earth. This will be the base for the globe that sits on top of it. At the top of this Earth, Donald Trump can be seen playing golf on the holes of the ozone layer. The evidence of the ozone depleting is right next to him, yet he decides to treat it as a game. The huge EXXXXON sign consuming the Earth represents the former C.E.O of Exxon, Rex Tillerson, being appointed as Secretary of State. He is using the fate of the world for business and profit, branding our entire planet with greed, ignorance, and the logo of one of the corporations that run things. Also, EXXON just sounds like an evil company that exterminates things.


Michael Kerbow (@michaelkerbow)

by Michael Kerbow for The Creators Project

Michael Kerbow: The Sinker is a symbolic figurative monument. I see it being made of limestone, or some other soft material, so it would gradually dissolve away in the increasingly acidic ocean. The names of climate change deniers could be carved into the sculpture deeply enough that it would take some time for their names to disappear.

The sculpture is a somewhat punny take on Auguste Rodin's The Thinker, or in this case, The Non-Thinker. The sculpture would be of a businessman or politician sitting on a rock with his arms crossed and a bag placed over his head. Perhaps a number of these statues could be installed together in a group, each figure posed slightly differently. Each one could be a "portrait" of a specific climate change denier.

kyttenjanae (@kyttenjanae) x Philip Rugo (@philiprugo)

by kyttenjanae + Philip Rugo for The Creators Project

kyttenjanae: This piece is a physical iteration of a kyttenjanae virtual avatar, adapted as a landmark and data gathering device. Unlike the virtual avatars, which live infinitely in coded image, the physical sculptures will decay and become a part of the environment they are placed in. The sculptures will evolve with the wildlife they surround, mirroring the warm embrace of the two figures.

Grace Miceli (@artbabygirl)

by Grace Miceli for The Creators Project

Grace Miceli: I designed a 200' tall monument made of recycled plastic in the shape of a thermometer/gravestone hybrid that will track rising tides as it would rising temperatures. The names of climate change deniers are engraved along the sides in a bright pink color and there is a cute landscape and background because humor is the only way I know how to deal with the impending apocalypse.


Coral Morphologic (@coralmorpho)

A yacht passes through the spiral monuments for scale. Image courtesy of Coral Morphologic

Coral Morphologic: In late 2013 Coral Morphologic approached Miami artist (and frequent collaborator) Bhakti Baxter with an idea to build a series of monumental sculptures that would emerge from the water at the entrance of PortMiami. Our idea was that these monuments could simultaneously serve as needed navigational beacons at the entrance to Miami Harbor, an artificial reef habitat for fish and coral (like this ultra-rare hybrid staghorn coral we discovered living in the shipping channel), and perhaps more subversively, as a symbolic gauge of sea level rise for South Florida.

Baxter drew inspiration for the monuments from two diametrically opposing sources: pre-colonial conch shell tools of the Tequesta people that previously lived at the mouth of the Miami River, and the propellers of post-Panamax ships. The monuments would be constructed from reinforced concrete (which itself is constituted by carbonates of marine origin quarried from the Everglades), and serve as a pair of navigational beacons at the mouth of Government Cut; one at the eastern ends of both the north and south jetties.

twist.png A basic rendering of Bhakti Baxter's conch/propeller spiral monument marking a post-Panamax PortMiami reaching at least 60' above mean high tide, and extending 20' below the surface. Image courtesy of Coral Morphologic

To captains and passengers aboard approaching ships, they would appear on the horizon like a pair of spiralling Colossuses. As part of our collaboration, we proposed the idea to Baxter that his design should offer a significant surface area for corals to colonize, so that when the sea levels rose, the corals would encrust upward over time.


The height of the sculpture would attract seabirds to perch on… and poop on it. Rain would wash the spiral then would act like a slide, channeling the bird poop down to the sea below where it would fertilize the corals with nitrogen and phosphorous which will fuel their growth. As the sea levels rise, the intertidal 'Vice' Zoanthus will begin slowly creeping up the spiral. Stony corals and sea fans would encrust the subtidal parts of the sculpture, and the open spaces beneath the 'legs' of the spiral would attract fish large and small to create a genuinely diverse artificial coral reef. A permanent 360-degree webcam installed on the monument below the waterline would livestream the reef view directly to the internet, while scientific probes would log water temperature, pH, pollution, and tidal height to better analyze the biological, chemical, and physical status of Miami's coastal waters. For several hours after sunset, blue LED lights trained downward into the water will activate the fluorescence of the corals for the camera. Atop one of the monuments, a weather station and webcam would livestream the marine conditions, as well as offer the world an aerial view of sunrises and sunsets over an iconic city. Appropriate red and green US Coast Guard navigation lights at the top of the monuments will serve to delineate the ends of the hazardous jetties at night.

Follow Dan Rather@marlonpruz@michaelkerbow@kyttenjanae@philiprugo@artbabygirl, and @coralmorpho for more. 


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