The Immersion Project



COLLABORATORS
Dr. Erik Cordes, Biologist
Austen Camille, Artist
Dr. Mandy Joye, Microbiologist
Malte Leander, Artist
Christine Lee, Artist
Rebecca Rutstein, Artist

The Immersion Project is a concept for a large-scale, multisensory art installation that will have a second life as an artificial reef in the deep sea.

The dual role of the Immersion Project as both traveling art exhibition and future artificial reef underscores a key mission of the project: to create connections through immersion, both between the viewer and the deep ocean environment, and between the artificial reef and the ecosystem that it supports.

The Immersion Project is designed to bring the restoration efforts following the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico to the public. One of the key resources damaged in the spill was the deep-sea coral ecosystem. Cold water corals are reservoirs of ocean memory in holding paleoclimate records and signals of genetic adaptation to past extreme events. The corals impacted have lost this memory of previous oceans.

This project could have a significant positive environmental impact. Through a coordinated effort with Dr. Erik Cordes, Biologist at Temple University, and NOAA, a modular installation will be deployed as a form of remediation through direct human intervention. These modules will be designed to provide new habitats for ecosystems normally supported by cold water corals, and will also deliver nutrients to propagate the formation of new living corals.

A seed grant from the Ocean Memory Project (funded by the National Academy of Sciences/Keck Futures Initiative) along with additional funding from Temple University allowed our team to create a 48″ tall prototype, proof of concept for our long term vision for a large-scale immersive installation. The 3D printed and assembled suspended form is inspired by Lophelia and Paramuricea cold water corals endemic to deep parts of the Gulf of Mexico. The prototype was part of an exhibition called “Seeing the Anthropocene” at Tiger Strikes Asteroid Gallery in Philadelphia from Oct 28 – Dec 2 2023. For more information on the exhibit, go to https://www.staphilly.com/

Overlaid onto the sculpture is an augmented reality (AR) layer, viewable through individuals’ mobile phones. Through this component, the audience can experience some of the ecosystem that has been lost due to the oil spill, but can be restored through restoration efforts. Hand drawn and animated falling marine snow, diatoms, comb jellies and brittle stars are made visible through this interactive element. Composed hybrid soundscapes combining field and hydrophonic recordings with various synthesized qualities immerses the viewer sonically into this marine world.

The Immersion Project will be a modular, monumental art installation incorporating sound, light, video projection and AR technology to create a multisensory traveling exhibition at art and science institutions along the Gulf Coast of the United States, with eventual deployment of the modules in the deep waters of the Gulf of Mexico.

This project represents an opportunity to respond to contemporary environmental issues by engaging the public with interactive art experiences. The project resonates beyond the aesthetic experience by helping to restore the damaged reef ecosystem caused by climate change and human borne impacts.