Sun Coral (nine headed hydra), 2020

Photo: Roman März | Comte Studio

106.5 x 29 x 25.5 cm
Commissioned by TBA21–Academy and Thyssen-Bornemisza Art Contemporary

In March-April 2019, Claudia Comte was invited by TBA21–Academy to undertake a six-week residency at the Alligator Head Foundation in Portland, Jamaica. Established by TBA21–Academy and the University of the West Indies in 2016, the foundation brings together scientists and artists to think innovatively about the future of the ocean’s ecosystems and “strengthen national, regional, and global policy for ecosystem resilience and adaptation to climate change.” 

Inspired by her earlier participation in Chus Martinez’s 2018 research trip to the North Islands in New Zealand, Spheric Ocean, Comte produced two groups of sculptures that engage with concerns to conserve marine life through coral and mangrove restoration. A group of coral forms set to be exhibited to viewers on land seeks to draw attention to issues of environmental sustainability and raise awareness of the work being done by researchers at the Alligator Head Foundation to protect Portland’s coastline and diverse habitats. Another group of sculptures, made in Comte’s signature style to resemble cacti, have been installed on the ocean floor of East Portland’s Fish Sanctuary, and provide a habitable surface that the artist and researchers at the foundation hope will support coral growth, simultaneously providing an attraction for tourists and the region’s divers who will be able to witness their transformation over time. The work is part of an ongoing conversation at TBA21–Academy that tries to utilize concepts in the art to support marine conservation and climate activism, and publicize the urgency of these issues to the public through artistic platforms and media. –Elsa Gray