Doug Aitken in The New York Times

Off the coast of Catalina Island — At first, the fish avoided the intruder. A couple of beefy sheepshead hid in the kelp near the shore. The electric orange Garibaldi swam in the other direction. A small school of blacksmith darted away. By Jori Finkel

After a year in development and a month of delays, the first of three swim-in, swim-out pavilions by the artist Doug Aitken had just been submerged in a dive park off Avalon, Calif., and moored to the ocean floor.

The 12-sided structure, lined with mirrors to capture the sunlight, glowed with an otherworldly beauty as we approached it at a depth of 15 feet. This is what it must feel like to be inside a kaleidoscope, I thought as I swam through one of its open sides.

Only the fish, potentially the most colorful participants, weren’t biting. “I think all the activity scared them away,” Mr. Aitken mused when he was back on land, sounding exhilarated anyway as he recalled the play of the reflections off the mirrors. “It was just hypnotic, with this pulsing light — I could see the ocean floor above me and the sun below me,” he said.

 

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Image: Doug Aitken inside one of his “pavilions” before it was installed underwater off Catalina Island in California. Photo credit: Patrick T. Fallon for The New York Times.

The New York Times Posted 20 November 2016

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