Environmental groups get a bad rap for begging, bullying, or guilting the public into begrudingly becoming environmentally active—they mean well, but it's not hard to scroll right past their exploits in our Facebook feeds. That's why artist Jason deCaires Taylor takes matters into his own hands with his series of captivating underwater sculptures. Rather than telling us that we should care about the health of the ocean, he shows us why.
"When we see incredible places like the Himalayas, or the Sagrada Familia, or the Mona Lisa, we understand their importance," he says in a newly published TED talk, shot last October. "We are the ones to have to assign that value, otherwise they will be desecrated by someone who doesn't understand that value."
See deCaires Taylor's process in our documentary, "Building the World's Largest Underwater Sculpture."
His work captures the eye on its aesthetic merits alone, then allows natural curiosity to convey the value he and many environmental activists see in the sea. "I think we all share a fear that we don't protect our oceans," he goes on. "We don't regard our oceans as sacred, and we should."
Throughout the video, deCaires Taylor recounts his journey from artist to activist, showcasing many of his gorgeous sculptures along the way. Even more stunning than his surreal concrete characters is how the ocean reacts to them. "The really humbling thing about the work is that as soon as we submerge the sculptures, they're not ours anymore," he says. "They belong to the sea." DeCaires Taylor designs each sculpture as an ideal home for fish, coral, algae, sea worms, and any other sea creature likely to happen across one of his coastal "museums." Whole ecosystems bloom where he plants his work.
As you see in the video above, installing these works isn't easy, but for deCaires Taylor, it's worth the work to convince us landlubbers that the ocean is a sacred place. "If someone was to throw an egg at the Sistene Chapel, we'd all go crazy. If someone wanted to build a seven-star hotel at the bottom of the Grand Canyon, we'd laugh them out of Arizona. Yet every day we dredge, pollute and overfish our oceans," he laments. The reason for this, he believes, is simple: damage to the ocean is out of sight, and out of mind. With his stunning pieces, he hopes to put the health of their habitat at the forefront of your thoughts. Next time you buy engangered fish, dump harmful chemicals down the drain, or leave garbage at the beach, envision the damage to deCaires Taylor's sculpted ecosystems, and reconsider.
Check out deCaires Taylor's full TED Talk and artworks in the images and video below.
See more of Jason deCaires Taylor's work on his website.