Crystal, enchanting, inviting, but also murky, feared and obscure. This is the sea with its various nuances and perspectives. We, people of the Mediterranean, have learned to know it, to respect it as the source of life, but also scenario of death for those who try to cross it by lucky boats searching for a new future. They run away from wars, famine and poverty; they escape from Africa which can be a sweet or evil mother. So they place their hope into the sea, travelling on a porous “old crate” and praying to touch the land again. In 2016, five thousand migrants are dead trying to cross the Mediterranean to reach Europe. An average of 14 victims each day: a number, dramatic, whose size has never been recorded before. The latest disaster of the year just ended, has happened during Christmas Eve: a hundred people died while attempting to reach the Italian coast by two rubber boats. Some bodies were recovered, the others will lie forever on the seabed like a natural cemetery.
Further west, in the waters of Las Coloradas bay, Lanzarote, northernmost island of the archipelago of the Spanish Canary Islands, there is a rubber boat resting on sea bottom. It’s made of stone as well as people that there are on board. It’s the “Raft of Lampedusa”, a sculpture that evokes the famous painting by Théodore Géricault, 1819 “The Raft of the Medusa”, a masterpiece that represents the shipwreck of the French frigate Méduse, which took place on July 2, 1816 near the Mauritania’s coast. A touching and evocative art installation, which reminds the plight and the suffering of many refugees who find death in this sea that separates them from the European continent. On the rubber boat there is a guy who observes the horizon, who let himself go in a lovely gesture, who crouches down, who waits and who, devoid of hope and strength, falls down.
It is one of the works of Jason deCaires Taylor, British sculptor who created, in the waters around the Canary Islands, the “Museum of the Atlantic” project, the first European submarine museum officially opened on January 10, 2017. After three years of work and at 14 meters deep, the artist has shaped 300 life-size sculptures, an underwater exhibition of 12 installations that allegorically represent the aspects and contradictions of contemporary life. A walking mass of people with closed eyes, others with their heads bowed towards a smartphone or tablet as a representation of deafness and blindness of virtual era which wastes life without looking around, but projected into another dimension. There is also a couple without face, so without identity, intents to do a selfie while, in the background, there is, like we saw before, the shipwrecked boat. Nearly, there is a seesaw-shaped pump used for the extraction of oil with a man on the top dressing a suit and tie, a symbol of the arrogance and usurpation made by multinational corporations. The theatrical and sacred location brings silence and a thought of drift, it must be said, of modern society.
Furthermore, the deCaires Taylor’s work focuses on the respect for nature: sculptural installations, in fact, are made of environmentally-friendly materials, non-contaminating and neutral pH, and immersed in an ecosystem that, over the time, will become a real artificial reef which can aggregate local fishes and can increase marine biomass. In fact, other British artist works made in Mexico were colonized by algae and fishes, creating a unique and special world.
These sculptures tell the dilemmas and the paradoxes of contemporary world: the museum is completely able to be visited (with suits, scuba oxygen tanks, and all the necessary equipment) and it’s paradoxical to go down voluntarily in the sea to see what, everyday, we ignore.