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

Author/researcher: Molly Williams
Supervisor: Dr Stephanie O’Rourke

School of Art History

I am looking into 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. My main foci for the project include 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 single figure who is part of the larger group that makes up “Crossing the Rubicon” which is a central piece in the Museo Atlántico, Lanzarote. It is roughly 12 meters below the surface and is surrounded by other, similar figures who listlessly amble in the same direction towards a point of no return. 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 major case study within my paper and I took this photo when I dove there in July. In the background you can see the other divers swimming amongst the cement figures as the clouds of bubbles they exhale rise toward the surface.

Photographer: Molly Williams