Pacific pavilions: Doug Aitken and Parley for the Oceans take art under the waves. By Ali Morris
Clad in wetsuits and flippers, a line of art enthusiasts waddle their way along the shore of California’s Santa Catalina Island, 22 miles from Los Angeles, before easing themselves into the turquoise waters. Their destination is Californian artist Doug Aitken’s latest work, a series of three geometric pavilions hidden from view below the ocean’s surface just a few minutes swim away.
With oxygen tanks and masks in place, they descend beneath the surface where among kelp forests and shoals of multicoloured fish, they encounter three geodesic spheres floating at different depths, about five, ten and 50 feet below the surface. Divers can swim inside and around their open structures, reflected in mirrored panels that glow in the sunlight, changing the pavilions’ appearance with the tides, currents, and movements of visiting sea life.
The installation, which coincides with Aitken’s 20-year home survey at LA’s MOCA, 'Doug Aitken: Electric Earth', is the result of a year-long period of research and consultation with environmental group Parley for the Oceans, who called upon its network of marine experts, scientists and engineers. Experts including renowned oceanographer Sylvia Earle and submarine builder Liz Taylor ensured that the pavilions were pressure tested, neutrally buoyant and tough enough to withstand life underwater.
Photography: Shawn Heinrichs