Seaweed Bouquets 2016
“Our woods on shore do not harbour so many animals as the woody regions of the ocean (…) that if the immense sea-weeds of the Southern Ocean were removed by any cause, the whole Fauna of the seas would be changed” Charles Darwin 1847
Seaweeds and marine algae are flowerless plants that live in the oceans. Nourished by substances held in solution, seaweeds transform impurities in the water into materials essential to life. Several thousand species varying in size from 1/1000 of an inch in diameter to 1000 feet in length are indexed by colour. Pigmentation varies with depth, light exposure, temperature, tides and shorelines. Some species have fibrous tendrils ‘holdfasts’ that adhere to submerged material, rocks and shells, for stability against winds and waves; others float tether-less, adrift in the Sargasso Sea. The seaweed I find in the ‘littoral belt’ between the tidemarks is exposed to sun, air and desiccation, and then totally submerged in constant reoccurrence.
The one hundred minerals and trace elements found in the ocean and in living tissue of seaweeds are contained in human blood. Edible seaweed and marine algae have more concentrated nutrition than vegetables grown on land and are the most completely mineralized food, high in protein, rich in iodine and micronutrients. Seaweed is a salt substitute; it detoxifies heavy metals, dissolves tumors, lowers cholesterol, reduces water retention, alkalizes the blood and benefits the thyroid. Yet seaweed is paradoxical; it can both transforms toxic metals into harmless salts, and absorb and concentrate toxins from polluted areas to become toxic itself.
Beneath forests of kelp and canopies of large seaweeds, sediments are swept away by waves and current. Sewage outfalls and fertilizer run-off multiply turf seaweed and plankton blooms, trapping these sediments in layers that destabilize seaweed anchors. Blooms accumulate on the seabed, oxygen decreases, thick organic sludge cuts light and destructs the habitat. The ecosystem is damaged with monocultures replacing fragile coral, sponges and oysters, and heaps of rotting seaweed emitting toxic gas.
Like the natural historian I do fieldwork on the beach gaining knowledge and experience through patient observation of what nature tosses out. Working at low tide, I gather sea plants to create site-specific installations. Set in a black background like the floral ‘paper mosaicks’ of Mary Delany, these styled bouquets are digitally detached from their background and habitat, re-presented as ceremonial gifts of life and death.