Midterm: Submergence

Aquarium

Aquarium FilledTitle: Submergence
Artist: Kathy Huynh
Completion Date: Feb. 17, 2015
Place of Creation: Home
Style: Sculptural collage, narrative
Technique: Sculpture
Material: Paper
Documentation: https://vimeo.com/119915082/

This sculptural collage was created largely through an assembly of tissue paper constructions of certain sea creatures. The tissue paper sculptures were suspended in an aquarium using thin string. While they are the focal inhabitants of the tank, there is also a plant cut from cardstock, and a plastic coral replica. The thin, fragile material used to construct the sea creatures represents their brief lives. Because flora is generally more resilient and long-lived than fauna, the material for the plant is thicker, but it is still vulnerable to water. The coral, of all the inhabitants, is the most enduring by far. Ideally, the coral would be a product of 3D printing, because additive manufacturing closely resembles the way in which coral grows.

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The piece engages in a dialogue with the films of Jean Painlevé, as a response to his poetic, almost surreal biocinema; the creatures I sculpted were specifically selected from a few of his films. While Painlevé’s films may serve to celebrate the beauty of aquatic life, my piece serves as a reminder of their mortality. Their ghostly, almost abstracted paper bodies are but a shell of their living counterparts, without any of the vivacity displayed in Painlevé’s films. Water is essential to maintaining the lives of these sea creatures, but in the end, it is also the solvent in which their corpses will eventually dissolve.

Technological progress has long served to extend the quality and duration of human life. While some attempts have been made at improving the lives of other species, humanity is almost solely responsible for bringing destruction upon their environments in the first place. My narrative also strives to make visible the struggle of aquatic life against human interference. The confinement of sea creatures to aquariums is an attempt to control the precarity of life, but it also limits their freedom. Water is brought into the aquarium by human hands, and it is because of this interference that the creatures perish. As the tank begins to fill with water, some of the creatures remain afloat, fighting to remain above the water. But by the time the tank is full, the paper sculptures have long since succumbed to the overwhelming power of the water.

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