We are fascinated less by floating than by sinking things, the ones that look up at the light breaking on water and salt. Abysses are full of forgotten and lost things, bequests of an epoch to the following ones: “wrecks”, precisely. Whole worlds to which seaweeds and little shells clung, long-lasting life forms that, sooner or later, take on an intense blue colour mixed with rusty brown, as if they had always inhabited the sea depths.
Camogli, 49 feet deep. From under the water two stretched out hands and a face completely covered with weeds, moss and other deposits. The Christ of the Abyss is the memory of a death underwater: that of Dario Gonzatti, one of the first Italians that ever ventured into the sea depths; and then also the death of Duilio Marcante, who was the designer of this submerged Christ. Weight 250 kilograms and height 98,5 inches, it was built by melting and then amalgamating several different bronze objects that could be recovered: cannons, medals, bells, ship components and submarine propellers. It would have been completely corroded by the action of water, entirely hidden by sea vegetation, if it wasn’t for the devoted few divers that every now and then weed it and make it visible again to everybody.
Caribbean, in the sea depths of Grenada the sculptures by Jason deCaires Taylor rise – individually or grouped together – as mysterious eco-friendly beings that reproduce a reef’s fragile richness and help its process of regeneration. Hundreds of individuals, silent, a group of children that form a circle holding hands, as if they were playing a game. Microorganisms and dancing multi-coloured fish participate in their game. Life is going back to those places, maybe attracted by the beauty of art.
But most things haven’t been arranged underwater by people on purpose. Not the thousands carcasses of ships sunken in the middle of the ocean or next to the shore: galleons, little boats, merchant vessels, steamers, galleys and battleships. Transatlantics. Mastodons loaded with goods, treasures and people. Not airplane fuselages that, when I think of them, call to my mind a movie that terrorized me when I was a little girl: Airport 99. Bodies. That often cannot even be spotted. Forgotten forever.
Sometimes it feels like a dream to think that, down below, all those existences are still going on, in a different and deep dimension. That little girls are trying to catch fish with butterfly nets, that sensuous housewives are hanging out stockings that will never dry, and that boxers are training. It feels like a dream to think that the Sinking World devised by Andreas Franke is likely to exist.
And it actually isn’t: because anything that sinks is left alone. It is a wreck.