Dancers From the Deep Sea Shine on United Nations Climate Week

Little-known but crucial agent for removing carbon from the atmosphere – the siphonophore, which lives in what is known as the sea’s twi...


Little-known but crucial agent for removing carbon from the atmosphere – the siphonophore, which lives in what is known as the sea’s twilight zone – will be highlighted during United Nations Climate Week in a video screening of a Danish artistic collective.

The siphonophore is a strangely beautiful creature. Like a coral reef, it is made up of individual parts, called zooids, that perform specialized functions. “Some are digesters, some are swimmers, some are breeders,” said Heidi Sosik, senior scientist at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution. “But they all come together. It’s an interesting metaphor for humanity to think about.

Next week, September 21-24, in a light projection over 500 feet high across the entire north facade of the UN Secretariat building, a siphonophore will perform a twisty, thrilling dance every night between 8 p.m. and 23 h. delegates, who will discuss how to tackle man-made climate change, the “Vertical Migration” video aims to draw attention to the animal’s deep sea carbon removal system.

“This is an assembly where world leaders meet and decide the future of the planet,” said Rasmus Nielsen, one of the three founders of Danish art collective Superflex, who directed the video, in a commentary. interview with Zoom. “It seems they forgot to invite someone. It’s like a birthday party and you forget to invite an uncle. What has been overlooked, Nielsen said, are all the other species whose fate depends on human activities.

Superflex chose to highlight the siphonophore as a representative of the mesopelagic zone of the sea, known as the twilight zone, which receives little or no sunlight. The inhabitants of the Twilight Zone are eaten by more showy creatures, such as tuna and swordfish. But at least as important is their own activity as consumers, which removes carbon that would otherwise be released into the atmosphere. “They ascend at night when they can hide from their predators and feed on carbon-rich organisms, and lie down when the sun rises to hide in this area of ​​deep twilight,” Sosik said.

It is estimated that two to six billion tonnes of carbon are sucked into the twilight zone every year, where they are stored indefinitely. This is several times the amount of carbon emitted by all the automobiles in the world. “The carbon pump we are talking about is extremely important,” said Peter de Menocal, director of the oceanographic institution. “If that were to go away, atmospheric carbon dioxide would increase by more than 50%. These organisms make the earth habitable.

He added, “This is a very humble call to action by showing a humble organization which itself exemplifies the importance of cooperation.”

Superflex artists encountered the siphonophore in 2019 in the Coral Sea off the northeast coast of Australia, while leading an expedition sponsored by TBA21-Academy, a 10-year nonprofit in Europe. dedicated to the deepening and preservation of the ocean through art. “One evening, a marine biologist took us on a blackwater dive,” Nielsen said. “You go in the middle of the night and witness this giant migration that happens every night when these creatures come to the surface. They don’t have arms or two eyes, and they’re not afraid of you. They come to you. You have never seen anything like it.

When Superflex was approached to create a work for Climate Week by ART 2030, a non-profit organization founded in Denmark to recruit artists from around the world to highlight the United Nations agenda for sustainable development, they have thought of the siphonophore. “We had a strong sense of camaraderie with these creatures, which is strange because they don’t look like a golden retriever,” Nielsen said. “We end up with the pandas and elephants that appear in a Disney movie. We have decided, invite this one, an unusual guest. It’s like all the sci-fi movies you’ve seen every night in the world.

Filming a siphonophore is a challenge. “Sometimes they come and stick to your glasses,” Nielsen said. “Sometimes they’re five meters long, and when you get close they break. They are like fabrics. Nielsen and his colleague, Jakob Fenger, spent an hour strapped to a fall line during a blackwater dive to capture seconds of footage. (The third director of Superflex, Bjornstjerne Christiansen, was unable to make the trip that year.)

Based on their videos, as well as those made by other divers, they designed animated simulations to create a 20-minute piece that will play in a continuous loop. “We did something that is a combination of reality and animation to make you feel like you are close to the creatures,” Nielsen said. “In the film, you see a change of perspective. At first we look at the siphonophore, then it spins around and you almost see the world from an animal’s point of view. A siphonophore has no eyes. How to see the world from the point of view of the siphonophore? Thanks to your imagination.

In tandem with “Vertical Migration”, Superflex has created another work, “Interspecific Assemblage”, to install in Central Park near the Naumburg Bandshell. It is a 46-foot circle bounded by seven large slabs of pink marble, with the words of a contract engraved on it. “By entering the stone circle, you agree to the contract to remain inactive for at least five minutes,” Fenger said. “To understand the other creatures on the planet, you must be silent and listen.” Superflex chose pink marble as an allusion to the coralline algae that coral polyps eat and stain a reef. “Marble is going to be around a lot longer than we are,” Christiansen said.

Although the existence of siphonophores has long been known, research into their behavior is in its early stages. “One of the reasons they are so difficult to study is that traditionally we get to know the creatures of the deep sea by casting a net,” Sosik said. “Something like a siphonophore does not survive being caught in a net.” His project at Woods Hole developed and activated a slow robot called the Mesobot that stealthily prowls the ocean depths. Because the Mesobot generates little turbulence, the siphonophore does not take it for a threat and runs away. The research team also uses drop shadow images, which analyze the curvature of light rays that collide with gelatinous organisms. “We are able to put cameras down and take 15 frames per second for hours,” she said. “They are incredibly beautiful when they are in their habitat.”

The enormous amount of organic matter in the Twilight Zone sparked interest in commercial fisheries, which could harvest it for fishmeal used in aquaculture and for making krill oil and fish oil. “Humans have a history of overexploiting protein sources in the seas,” Sosik said. Because most of the twilight zone is outside territorial waters, international cooperation is needed to protect it.

By shining “Vertical Migration” on the Secretariat building, Superflex shines a light on a massive and vital phenomenon that is obscure. “Sometimes the research that is peer-reviewed and culminates in an academic article has very little impact on a larger audience or on reality,” said Markus Reymann, director of TBA21-Academy, who spoke associated with ART 2030 on the project. “This is the first time that we have done something on this scale. The flashy, splashy, huge monumental thing is an exception, an opportunity to communicate something iconic. “

Although the technology used to produce “vertical migration” is new, the goal is to accomplish what artists have traditionally sought: to illuminate a feature of life that is generally overlooked. “The oldest trick in the art book is that people fall into something that they’re not aware of,” Nielsen said. “We hope people stay two minutes and start to sympathize with the siphonophore. It’s like a mesmerizing alien that you can appreciate from afar.

And, if conservation-conscious creators are successful, this fun will raise awareness on a level that will motivate delegates in the building to take action to stop climate change and preserve the earth.

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Newsrust - US Top News: Dancers From the Deep Sea Shine on United Nations Climate Week
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