Unedited conversations between artist in a productive critique discovering thesis and processes behind the work.
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Coral City, 2014
36 min., 46 sec.
thank you for joining me
McSwain: yeah! excited
Ramos: me too, I was just reading the article you wrote for VICE
McSwain: Are you listening to music? should we listen to the same thing at the same time?
Ramos: what do you have in mind?
McSwain: i'm wide open. I've been listening to Sebastien Tellier all morning and it's been very pleasant. I could go anywhere.
Ramos: you got it, give me a sec
what album do you recommend i start with?
McSwain: How about the Narco Soundtrack, since it's instrumental
He's incredible. The Mrzyk & Moriceau video for Look is one of my favorites.
Sorry, off topic.
Ramos: not at all - it is relevant to the topic, since music is a big part in the work of Coral Morphologic
Ramos: this works... the music
back to the subject
Ramos: the article you wrote for Vice was like watching the documentary again
McSwain: Yeah, they're similar.
Ramos: and you don't mention the documentary in the article
unless I missed it
The doc was intended to come first, but the article needed to be written first in order to make it to print for the issue that we wanted it to be in.
Unfortunately the film took much longer to finish so they've been released a few months apart. Nonetheless, though they're similar they were intended to function as distinct pieces, and didn't need to reference each other.
Ramos: the article is a script
McSwain: I was planning for the article to supplement the film, to give insight to information that might not have been conveyed in the film. But because it had to be written before the film I ended up telling the story that I wanted to tell, and my way of writing is fairly conversational.
So when I began editing the film I had to keep the article in mind, and try not to make them the same, though the key points are still there. I get to say things in the article I couldn't in the film and show things in the film that I couldn't in the article. Either way, hopefully you could have only one or the other and still take away the same feeling.
Ramos: there are two overarching concepts in the narrative, one being the impending doom of Miami and the other the proposition that the work of Coral Morphologic is an art form
Ramos: which one do you prefer to discuss?
I really can't decide, the images produced by the work are absolutely mesmerizing
Corallimorphs, from which Coral Morphologic derives its name, are thought to have evolved without skeletons in order to adapt to climate changes.
McSwain: Tough! I love CM's work-work, and I really love the notion that these hybridized creatures function as an art form themselves. Pushing the notion of what art is and could be is close to my heart.
But the loss of major American city, one that's still very new even, and the subsequent denial of this by a majority of the country's residents is probably more interesting to me.
That's such a vast, insane concept.
That said, I'd probably rather talk about CM. Though, the two concepts are intertwined.
Ramos: For some reason I think of Enrique Gomez De Molina, and perhaps contrastingly so since in CM's case the organism are kept alive.
In both cases, the artwork is made with rare and sometimes extinct animals
Enrique Gomez De Molina
Mythical: The surreal sculptures feature a doubles head swan on the body of what appears to be a goat.
McSwain: WOW, I haven't seen these before. That is bizarre.
Ramos: when Colin Foord mentions that in school they looked down upon on keeping coral in captivity - there was a bit of a correlation to Molina
McSwain: Yeah. They being the teachers, not Colin and Jared.
McSwain: But of course, that wasn't breaking the law like Molina is being accused of.
It just wasn't understood well because the field is so understudied.
Ramos: yes, Molina didn't get permits for these animals, which can be an arduous process
it took months for Colin and Jared to get permits simply to transfer coral from one place to another
McSwain: Right. That was difficult for everyone. We were intending to be there for the first dive, expecting the dives to take all summer. But out of nowhere it happened and had to happen very fast, so I wasn't able to get there for them.
Ramos: it makes no sense if the place was going to be destroyed anyway
the place being where the dredging is taking place
McSwain: Bureaucracy at its finest.
Ramos: I like the optimistic spin CM puts on Miami's doom with the corals being happy about it
there is a sense of excitement to crisis/catastrophe
perhaps coming from a place of resentment towards the Bureaucracy
or existing social disorientation
gMcSwain: Yeah, like Lucas Leyva puts it: "it's really depressing to think about but it's really exciting as well."
Ramos: it will be a slow death
so slow we might be able to do something about it
unless there's a hurricane
McSwain: We should be worried about storms.
Ramos: but we haven't had one in almost a decade
we (Miamians) forgot what that is like
McSwain: Yeah. And that's scarier because many places are probably unprepared.
As for doing something about it, there is very little to be done about the rising water. It's not easily reversible. A lot of climate stories still hang on to that "if we don't stop now we're screwed" ideology. But in reality we're already screwed. It's just coming very slowly.
Our only hope for coastal cities is preparing in time, fortifying. Miami Beach, try as they may, will probably not be able to do very much.
Coral City isn't really about doomsaying though. I'm more interested in looking past that. Sure, the city may go under, but you don't have to. It's a cycle and Miami just happens to be in the smaller rings, spinning faster.
Ramos: there is definitely a lot we can do so that we don't go under
starting with detaching buildings from the infrastructural grid
you can say that building can work like coral
McSwain: I like that. Would you elaborate on the detachment?
Ramos: sure. If a building collects solar energy, rain water, and is designed to reuse fecal matter and compostable products, it has a steady source of resources
consumerism would have to change as well, all must be compostable
that way all waste can be used for food production
which eliminates yet another layer of infrastructure
McSwain: Like Waterworld meets Bartertown.
Ramos: yeah i suppose fashion would have to change as well
i've always dreamed of having an entire waterproofed wardrobe
McSwain: We're already moving the way of William Gibson, fashionably.
It's a shame Seapunk died so early, we could have used the input.
McSwain: I think that direction, in infrastructure as well as lifestyle, is fascinating. I think it's reasonable to assume that a lot of our population would rather be consumed by the sea than live that way but it's not impossible that once a city is lost that people could reuse structures to build up new self sustainable communities. Future squats.
i think it would be wonderful
nature would thrive
luckily we don't need that much technology to make this happen
McSwain: Yes, it's sad. But people are people. And currently in the grips of a consumption culture. It would require a drastic ideological shift.
Younger generations are shifting thought process. Though it's become a bit cliche, and often is used only in terms of making your life easier to do nothing, "disruption" is a common thread. Once "Disaster Disruption" comes into play maybe we'll see some larger changes.
But really this is Coral Morphologic's story. I was just fascinated with the fluorescent coral and that's all I intended to film, but once you start talking to them you're instantly brought into their narrative.
Ramos: Why is Miami's doom so integral to their narrative?
How does it tie in?
McSwain: They see Miami as one giant coral reef, slowly raised to the surface - inhabited by humans - and slowly returning underwater. Coral Reefs are made by corals growing on the skeletons of dead corals. A lot of the limestone in the structures in Miami are made with coral, so the thought is that when the water's risen high enough and the land and buildings are underwater, the corals will crawl back in, reattach themselves and continue to grow upward. It's like a reef interrupted.
They're essentially these human extensions of the coral. They work day and night at the service of coral. They protect them underwater, they fight the government for them, they raise them in their lab and tend to them constantly. It's their mission to help the coral see themselves back onto the Miami reef. And along the way, some of those corals will be Coral Morphologic's own special blends, their hybrids.
Ramos: alien corals have taken over CM's minds