Uncovering Legends in Cocos Island
Part I
March 12 – March 24, 2014
Costa Rica

Photo: José Alejandro Alvarez.

This TBA21-Academy expedition led the Dardanella to Cocos Island, Costa Rica. Once again we had an extraordinary group of fellows onboard. Artist Carsten Nicolai joined the Academy for the first time and we look forward to his response to Cocos Island’s unique context, and his engagement with our state of the art Ambisonic recording equipment and facilities. TBA21-Academy is a champion of sound works that make use of undersea field recordings, and we were proud to offer a platform for such a distinguished artist. Regular Dardanella visitor Pascal Wyse continued his work with the ambisonic hydrophone and photographer José Alesandro Álvares documented our activities above and below water.

This expedition facilitated logistical research for TBA21-Academy’s next creative venture: Treasure of Lima: A Buried Exhibition, curated by Nadim Samman. This project involves the burial of a sealed exhibition architecture designed by Aranda/Lasch – containing numerous works by leading artists – at an undisclosed location on the island. Drawing upon the numerous legends of buried treasure associated with Cocos, and contrasting them with the island’s real status a natural treasure worthy of protection, Treasure of Lima challenges practices of ownership and spectatorship while endeavouring to provide an answer to the question ‘How can an exhibition create its own legend?’. In this initial expedition the TBA21-Academy team investigated possible burial sites in challenging terrain and considered practical issues in consultation with local guides.
Cocos Island is located about 550km off the pacific shore of Costa Rica – and is often dubbed “Shark Island” for the abundance of sharks that live in its waters, including white tipped reef sharks, whale sharks, and scalloped hammerhead sharks.

The uninhabited island is famous for being a target of many treasure seekers and offers not only a richness of myths, but also richness of flora and fauna. Costa Rica declared the island a National Park in 1978 and the UNESCO named it World Heritage Site in 1997. The Seamounts Marine Management Area – the marine reserve created in 2011 that surrounds the island – is larger than the Yellowstone National Park and second only to the Galápagos National Park in terms of marine protected areas in the Eastern Tropical Pacific.

The island is of volcanic and tectonic origin and the only one that appears on the so-called Cocos Plate. With four bays, three of them to the north side, the Island has several rivers and streams that drain the abundant rainfalls into them. The mountainous landscape and the tropical climate combine to create over 200 waterfalls throughout the island. The cloud forests at higher elevations are also unique as the high proportion of endemic species.