A haunting sight awaits scuba divers on an Atlantic seabed. Over two hundred life-size human figures have been arranged in a circle to create the ‘Human Gyre,’ the last exhibit in Museo Atlantico, Europe’s first underwater museum officially completed this month. Located off the coast of Lanzarote, Spain, the artistic installation forms a complex reef for marine species to inhabit and speaks to the fragility of our ecosystem and our relationship with the natural marine environment.
The monumental Museo Atlantico complex is the project of British artist Jason de Caires Taylor, who installed over 300 works across a dozen large-scale installations. Constructed around 14 meters underwater, the sprawling museum was created to promote conservation and education. The sculptures, made from environmentally friendly, pH-neutral inert materials, were specially created to double as artificial reefs and attract local fish species. The installations are made to last for hundreds of years and help raise awareness about the threats facing our world’s oceans and climate. Early works installed less than a year ago—construction began in February 2016—have already seen an increase of over 200 percent in marine biomass.
Some of the hauntingly beautiful artworks double as political commentary, such as ‘Deregulated,’ which depicts suited businessmen in a playground-like environment to suggest that corporations are irresponsibly abusing nature as their play area. The life-size human figures used in the Human Gyre and in other installations are based on models of all ages and from all walks of life.
“The artistic installation reminds us that we have evolved from marine life, and are all subject to the movements and will of the ocean,” says a statement in the museum press release. “The piece embodies our naked vulnerability to its inherent power, and our fragility in the face of its cycles and immense force. It provides the oxygen we breathe, it regulates our climate and it provides a vital source of nutrition to millions of people. A visit to Museo Atlantico may lead us to a closer understanding of our relationship with the natural marine environment and appreciate the need to value and protect this fragile ecosystem in order to save ourselves.”
Images via Jason de Caires Taylor