Explore a Giant Underwater Installation Off the California Coast. By Jack Stewart
Catalina Island is just 22 miles off the coast of Los Angeles, but it feels much farther. As our boat pulls into the small harbor, past people fishing on the pier, nearly every first-time visitor proclaims that it looks like a Greek island, or the south of France.
But I’m not here for the quaint old fashioned harbor, I’m here for a futuristic art installation just off the coast, under the sea surface.
These waters are the site of a new installation by artist Doug Aitken. Called Underwater Pavilions, the piece comprises three massive, geodesic structures. At around 12 feet in diameter, each one is big enough to swim through, for divers and fish alike. Aitken sculpted the pavilions from mirrors and artificial rock, and collaborated with a range of specialists to submerge them in the local dive park and moor them to the ocean floor.
But building and installing these structures wasn’t easy. Aitken wants his exhibit to raise awareness about the declining health of the oceans. At the same time, the Pacific Ocean between the island and mainland is a federally protected essential fish habitat. This required Aitken and his team to carefully select the site of the installation and the materials of the sculptures themselves, to make sure they weren’t harming the cause they were highlighting.