28. Aug 2015

The downside of marine phosphorescence

Installation and photos: Island Chen

The Matsu Islands are a minor archipelago of 36 islands and islets located in the Taiwan Strait on the east coast of China. Bioluminescent algae known as dinoflagellates bloom copiously in the water around the islands, causing the surface of the ocean to sparkle at night – a spectacle that attracts thousands of tourists. The dinoflagellates multiply quickly in waterways with an plethora of nitrogen and phosphorus. The result is an overabundance of ammonia, which not only kills marine life, but can also give rise to health problems in humans. Pollution of the ocean, mainly through agricultural waste actually promotes the growth of the bioluminescent algae. This generates more glow in the water, but increases the risk of death to marine animals.

With her bio-digital installation Blue Island, designer Island Cheng aims to capture the glow of the ocean and question how it arises. At the same time, she wants to draw attention to the problems and consequences inherent to pollution: what we humans may consider to be aesthetic or a luxury may mean a fight for survival for the environment and life on earth.

The installation takes the form of a cube with an incorporated Fresnel lens structure. The algae located inside are effected more intensely by the daylight, which in turn promotes their growth. When agricultural waste is added the dinoflagellates begin to bloom profusely: and when water flows over the structure, the blanket of algae begins to glow blue.


The BLUE ISLAND- Bioluminescent installation from Island Chen on Vimeo.

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