Three Questions For Coral Morphologic

Among the stunning video pieces currently enlivening the Media Center Gallery, is the incredible work of Coral Morphologic. Coral Morphologic exists as a hybrid art-science experiment comprised by marine biologist Colin Foord and musician Jared McKay. Together they present coral reef organisms as inspiring and archetypal life-forms through multi-media and site-specific artworks. Coral Morphologic finds itself firmly rooted in the present time and place of Miami: a city built primarily from limestone recycled from thousands of years of local reef-building, and home to a diverse cultural community that mirrors its colorful aquatic ecosystems.Years of scientific observation in both the wild and in the aquarium have led Coral Morphologic to identify metaphors that simultaneously govern both coral reef communities and the present human condition. We have concluded that there is an inseparable affinity between Miami and the reef, and seek to illuminate this relationship through our work. Miami serves as the contextual backdrop for Coral Morphologic to convey a new mythology of the coral reef relevant to the 21st century.

We asked them three questions:

1. What problem are you working on?

Currently we are in a race against time to plan and execute the removal of thousands of juvenile corals from a reef that is about to be blasted with dynamite in an upcoming Army Corps of Engineers dredge project here in Miami. After two years of uncertainty, the State of Florida is on the cusp of issuing us permits to remove these corals. Since we can’t possibly harbor all these corals ourselves in our lab, we need to find a place to relocate them to. So we are proposing to build an artificial reef (tentatively the ‘Miami Urban Coral Sanctuary’) in the heart of Miami’s urban waterway where we can transplant, research, and document them over the long term. An overarching goal with these ‘urban corals’ is to see Miami rebranded as the ‘Coral City’, since so many of our artistic metaphors are related to the similarity between the coral reef and urban human environments. A primary project is to direct and document these ‘urban corals’ in a 3D Fulldome planetarium film.

2. Who are the most important people to work with?

Miami artist Bhakti Baxter is a source of never-ending inspiration and support for Coral Morphologic. It was only with Bhakti’s encouragement in 2006 that we finally saw the potential in developing an artistic endeavor out of what had previously been science-oriented coral aquaculture goals. Now in 2013 we just finished ‘Coral Reef City’ with him (see photo attached) in which he permanently wrapped all 18 of the parking booths at PortMiami with our photos of a species of soft coral new to science… a species that we discovered living on PortMiami itself! It was logical for us to choose Bhakti to design the sculptural elements to our proposed ‘Miami Urban Coral Sanctuary’ project, since his art explores the realm between the geometric patterns found in nature and the spiritual symbolism sacred to human culture.  We consider him to be an unsung pillar in Miami’s current artistic renaissance. Follow him on instagram, he’s great!: @bhaktimar

3. What is the right thing to do?

At the moment, all we can think about is how we’ll need to drop everything we are doing to ensure that these ‘urban corals of Miami’ are saved, and not swept under the bureaucratic rug in a rush to start dynamiting. These are corals taking advantage of Miami’s man-made coastal infrastructure, and their tenacious existence allows us to creatively translate why we believe them to be be the most important corals on the planet. Colin first delved into this hypothesis in a TEDxMIA in 2011. The ‘urban corals’ are pioneers taking advantage of manmade infrastructure and surviving in totally unexpected environments (like living along the highway connecting Miami to Miami Beach).

The idea of Earth without healthy corals is a thoroughly depressing one indeed! Therefore we propose that the development of an empathic human-coral symbiosis is essential to the future well-being of the planet in general. And Miami (as the Coral City) is the logical nexus for us to make this connection. By tying our sanity to the salvation of these ‘urban corals’, we are attempting to elevate this idea into popular consciousness. This is our burden of dreams.

ED: Indeed.

For a detailed run down on the totality of their output, check out:

Coral Morphologic Blog

Coral Morphologic Mission Page



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