Colleen Flanigan’s Biorocks rock

LIKU-LIKU (ZIGZAG) by Colleen Flanigan (photo: Wolf Hilbertz)

The ocean is a living organism, which means it is regenerating all the time. Visual and performance artist Colleen Flanigan helps the process along with her underwater Biorocks, sculptural metal matrixes that use low-voltage electric current to raise the pH of seawater. The higher alkalinity attracts limestone minerals that adhere to the metal, giving live corals the calcium carbonate they require to grow their exoskeletons. 

Flanigan’s interventions are needed, because global warming is raising the temperatures of the oceans, which lowers the natural alkalinity and kills off coral reefs, habitats for many marine creatures. She explains:

Corals are endangered. Ocean animals need homes…. Since corals need calcium carbonate to build their exoskeletons, this process gives them an extra boost, a life supporting substrate to better withstand environmental stresses currently endangering, bleaching and killing them. In the increasingly warming and acidifying ocean, Biorock sculptures supply corals with a localized alkaline environment. Soon fish and other creatures move into the new artsy neighborhoods.

Maria Popova, editor of one of my favorite websites,, has said Flanigan’s work “embodies our highest ideals, a beautiful cross-pollination of art, science and moral imagination.” The TED Fellow has just been invited to contribute her artworks to the Museo Subacuático de Arte in Cancun and Isla Mujeres, Mexico, which hosts 750,000 visitors yearly. The world’s first underwater museum, founded by underwater sculptor Jason deCaires Taylor in 2009, MUSA features submerged artworks that will become artificial reefs for the area’s submarine life. 

For more about Flanigan’s environmental “artivism,” watch her delightful three-minute Kickstarter video, “Living Sea Sculpture.”

Photo © Wolf Hilbertz, from the website

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