Jellyfish are among the oldest creatures on earth and one of the most venomous marine animals for humans. Jellyfish have specialized stinging cells with which they inject their prey with poison within microseconds. Some Jelly fish like the sea wasp (box jellyfish, which occurs in Australia), have up to 60 tentacles of several meters in length armed with hundreds of thousands of stinging cells. 98% of the body of a Jellyfish is water. They swim using a form of jet propulsion reaching a speed of 10km/h. Jellyfish have very advance survival skills that may compete with human evolution. In the article “ Jellyfish are taking over the seas, and it might be too late to stop them,” Gwynn Guilford explains how and why Jellyfish overgrowing population is consequence of our misuse of our natural environment. The Jelly fish few predators such sea turtles, salmon, mackerel and albatross are increasingly scarce. As Jellyfish compete with smaller fish for the same food, and also eat those fishes’ eggs, they can collapse entire fish populations. Jelly fish, can put away 10 times its body weight in food in a single day, even though it needs to eat only 16% of its body weight to grow.
Not only Jelly fish may have evolved but also Humans are helping them to reproduce. Jelly fish are world-class proliferators reproducing by creating little bundles of clones (Polyps) that attach to hard surfaces waiting for their opportunity to be released as small jellyfish. While they’re waiting, polyps clone themselves, creating more bundles of future baby jellyfish. One reason jellyfish blooms are so disastrous and are almost impossible to get rid of is the capability of exponential reproduction by some species, as well as cells release through post-mortem decomposition, which somehow find each other again to form a whole new polyp (as in Benjamin Button jellyfish). A few centuries ago, the hard surfaces available for polyps to cling included mainly seabed rocks and oyster shells; those polyps that couldn’t find such surfaces couldn’t clone. The proliferation of modern human structures provides surfaces to which polyps can cling to as their new oyster shell. Piers, drilling platforms, plastic cigarette packets, offshore wind turbines, and boats enable Jellyfish ability to bloom in such incredibly rapid fashion and shocking numbers.
The intricate lattice of ocean life has kept jellyfish in check. In written human history, jellyfish blooms have never before infested the seas until now. Thanks to overfishing, pollution and other factors, jellyfish populations are exploding into superabundances and exploiting these changes in ways that we could never have imagined. Overfishing of, say, salmon removes one of the jellyfish’s few predators. Jellyfish also wreak havoc on the food chain when they’re introduced to new ecosystems, usually via ballast water that shipping tankers take on and release as a counterbalance to cargo. Other contributors to the jellyfish boom are the “dead zones” created by what scientists call “eutrophication.” That occurs when farming pesticides and sewage pumped into rivers meet the ocean. This affects phytoplankton, the tiny aquatic plants that are the dinner buffet for vast numbers of sea creatures. Normally phytoplankton live on nutrients from chemicals the seabed releases. But their populations explode when doped up on nitrogen and phosphorous, forming algal blooms like the one in Qingdao, China, each summer. The whole food chain starts chowing down, creating more excrement and more dead creatures. Those float to the bottom, stripping the water of oxygen. Since most creatures can’t survive in areas with little oxygen, their numbers fall. As jellyfish need very little oxygen to survive their colonies expand. The best example comes from China, where pollution from the Yangtze River in western China has formed huge dead zones in the East China and Yellow Seas (paywall). Scientists think dead zones are behind the surge in Nomura jellyfish in Japan.
This installation project includes depictions of human and animal interaction sharing the space with equal level of importance and relevance in the composition. My intent is to create a Liminal effect in which the viewer can feel immerged in an underwater scene.
The mural 1: two young male figures are framing the composition: on the left side the phoenix female forces embrace and protect the youth and on the right side a similar relation is created by the male forces given by the dragon. The same young man is depicted twice symbolizing the presence of the male and female energies present in every human. In my mind the framing of the composition in this way brings us to the moment of creation in which the egg is fecundated; and when for an instant just before mitosis every person carries both, male and female forces, which then are split to define the gender of this new being. Two spirals are created also on both sides relating to the magical growing system of many organisms in nature like ferns, seashells the galaxy, etc. Inside the spirals both figures in movement and static are grouped related to the spiral form. On the closing of the spirals eternal love is depicted; on the left-side by two seahorses mating and on the right-side two starfish. The groupings of people dance and move on triangular arrangements. Then after the split circle and the two spirals a central square space is left thinking in the universal geometrical forces that control our existence. Circle, spiral, square and the creations of human triangular compositions rule the story. Angels as alien messengers come into scene to protect our continuation and guide us through our own existence. Infinite sea plants and creatures dominate the lower half of the scene. Dancers move and jump all over the place, commanding our attention. Jellyfish swim toward the center in which a central woman touches her own chest and looks at us to make us participants and understand that this is our own story. A light comes from behind to illuminate the space and leaving us with hope from an optimistic message.
Mural 2: A diagonal divides the picture space into two triangles; the lower section resides underwater and the other above water. Iconographic symbolism plays an important role in the composition. Above ground a crouching positioned woman, whose feet root her to the water, looks with a concerned glance to what happens in the waters. She pulls from the water a jellyfish with her right hand and with the left hand holds a scarf that partially covers her head. A man, also crouching, also pulls something from the waters, but his attitude portraits him unaware and with no interest on what happens. Three blue jays, the warrior bird, fly around the man’s head to battle into razing his attention. The man and the woman are divided by the presence of the Quetzalcoatl, the Plumed Serpent,” which plays a dominant role as a god, model, myth, historical figure and symbol in ancient Mexican consciousness of Aztecs, Mayans and other cultures. He was an hombre-dios (“man-god”), who incarnated on earth, to bring spirit and matter into harmony. He was a figure that united spirit and matter. His name can be divided into Quetzal, a beautifully plumed bird, and Coatl, a snake or serpent. The quetzal bird represented the spiritual urge to take flight and transcend the bounds of corporeal existence and the serpent represented being grounded in physical reality to the rhythms and cycles of nature. At the tale of the Quetzalcoatl a man and a woman use their bodies to create a circle. And behind the Quetzalcoatl a peacock and an angel extend their winds and seem to be covering and protecting the scene from the bright light of a sunrise. Vanity, represented by the peacock, is contrasted by the humility, associated with angels. Bright reddish stones create the limits between waters and land. The almost radioactive look of the stones heats the space and creates awareness and tension to the scene. Under the water, human-size jellyfish swim along people in a triangular composition. An angel completes the scene on the left side creating a triangular shape with his own body extending his arms and legs to unite the deep sea and the sky. Behind this scene, remains from a stone monumental composition (similar to the Carnac stones) are studied geometrically and represented in red lines to remark that our ancestors were more aware of the importance of aligning our monuments to the stars and create a harmony between everything existing in our planet with the outer space. Equally animals, plants and humans would share the space depending on each other to exist.
The sea jellies are represented by textile and mixed media pieces plus floating spherical elements. The term medusa refers exclusively to the non-polyp life-stage; the intention of this installation is not only to show the medusa stage, but to also to incorporate different stages of the life spam of sea jellies such as egg, planula, polyp, and ephyra. A group of sea jellies is sometimes called a bloom or a swarm; another collective name for a group is a smack. In spring when sunshine and plankton increase, they appear rather suddenly and often in large numbers, even when an ecosystem is in balance. Swarm usually implies some kind of active ability to stay together. Thus the arrangement on the installation is in spiral groupings.
The textile cocoons act as a representation of the ephyrae and are incorporated in the installation to symbolize the bird of a sea jelly represented by dancers and a singer.
Male and female medusae reproduce and form thousands of very small larvae called planulae. The larvae then settle on the bottom of the ocean on rocks and oyster shells and form a small polyp that looks just like a tiny sea anemone. Each polyp will bud off many baby sea jellies called ephyrae that grow very quickly into adult medusa.
Floor Bells (representing polyps) are used to represent different theories that try to explain the humming of our planet, and why the earth rings like a bell; this sound is known as ‘Earth’s chorus’. One of the theories is coming form the movement of the ocean waters, which is deeply altered when there is an earthquake. And the other theory relates to the solar waves. The solar wind also interacts with the Earth’s magnetic field, causing it to vibrate in sympathy. As charged solar particles hit the inner and outer radiation belts around our planet, they get caught and whipped around, emitting the sounds. This sound inspired me to create ceramic bells that are placed in this installation on the ground. These ceramic bells when seeing them upside down, look like Ephyra and when placed facing up, look like polyps (the other stage of sea jellies). When hitting the ceramics with a small stick a bell sound is produced. I have also created a series of vases forms, as polyp strobilates, which end on a similar bell, to allow them to be played as musical instruments as well.
Created by Steven Whalley.
Written by Cesar Forero and Proofread by Eileen Egerer.
French Translation Colombe Hinse