Giving the Ocean a Face: An Exploration of Jason deCaires Taylor’s Submerged Museums

Researcher: Molly Williams (MLitt Art History, 2021)
Supervisor: Dr Stephanie O’Rourke

School of Art History

This project by former MLitt student Molly Williams explored how broad themes of art, climate activism, and science intersect within the works of Jason deCaires Taylor. His work is uniquely successful at displacing the tightly held anthropocentric focus that is often present in environmental art because his sunken sculptures also provide a habitable base for reef life to flourish. Molly Williams’ main foci for the project included the fluctuating perceptions of the ocean within art historical thought, the use of the reef as both a medium and a collaborator, and the phenomenological impact of scuba diving on the viewing experience.

This image is a close-up of a figure who is part of the larger group that makes up “Crossing the Rubicon” – a central piece in the Museo Atlántico, Lanzarote. Roughly 12 meters below the surface, it is surrounded by other, similar figures who listlessly amble in the same direction. The once hyper realistic cement sculpture has been given a maritime makeover by algae and other life forms. The Museo Atlántico and its sculptures are a case study within student Molly Williams’ paper and she took this photo while diving there in July 2021.

Photography: Molly Williams