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Glowing CORALation – how they can signal the well-being of the environment.

Project details

New Earth

My project started when I learned more about the global problem of dying coral reefs, which are a threat to the worldwide ecosystem and pose grave consequences for humanity.
Throughout my project, I explain what coral is, what is threatening it, and how coral responds to the life-threatening situation of rising sea temperatures. This interdisciplinary project is designed to allow viewers to feel the urgency, shared responsibility and necessity of coral preservation.

Nominee Drempelprijs Social Practices

I invite you to look intently at the colours and structures of nature, as these signal the well-being of the environment, and therefore, our living conditions.

I have experimented with various ways to visualise this important information by using metaphors in several outputs. The use of different mediums allows you to see, listen and participate. The entirety of my work is an exhibition/installation for which I have written the poems, music, as well as made the choreographers. These works consist of two short-films, fabric pattern designs, and two interactive works.

The picture above (Bernson, S. (2020) shows the entire installation.

The first poetry film visualises the last phase of dying coral. I visualise the behaviour of fluorescent coral by using my fluorescently painted hands. I also made instructions for visitors to create sea creatures through shadow play as an interactive piece. Coral is a crucial part of the marine ecosystem, necessary for the survival of sea animals. The importance of coral is shown here by using my hands, which stand for coral, and without which it would be impossible to cast the shadow of other sea creatures. Thus, coral is depicted as the essence of life in this ecosystem. This interaction invites you to use your interpretation and imagination, as well as to participate and to make a ‘sea’ of animals together, or to make figures with each other’s hands.

The picture above (Bernson, S. 2020) shows a sneak peek from the first poetry film ‘Glowing coral’.The picture above (Bernson, S. (2020) shows the entire installation.

In the second film, you hear another poem over a dance performance. This poem tells the story about how the relationship between the polyp and the microalgae, which make up the coral, becomes disrupted as a result of its environment becoming hostile. In times of social distancing, this story gains new relevance, since our environment suddenly becomes dangerous, separating us from those we miss and need.

The costumes introduce the printed fabrics, which show that if the symbiotic relationship works well again, the coral regains its colour and texture. The pattern designs were inspired by the symbiotic relationship that gives the coral its colour and shape. I have illustrated fractal and rounded shapes to depict that coral is made out of multiple organisms, and to show that coral contains many detailed shapes and colours that form a whole. The composition of the illustrations manifest themselves organically and dynamically, and therefore bringing an ode to the repetitions found in nature.

The second interaction is a kaleidoscope goggle. When you look through these goggles you do not see one image, but you see an image duplicated and fragmented. Coral is a colony of genetically identical polyps and these goggles allow the viewer to experience how it would be if they were coral themselves.

Thank you for your time and interest in this project. Interested in the development of the project and the poetry films? Below you can find the corresponding links.

Here you can find my project development Glowing CORALation 2020: CORALation 2020:

Here you can find my poetry film 1 • Glowing coral 2020:

Here you can find my poetry film 2 • CORALation 2020:

Here you can find my research document:

About the Author
Hi there, my name is Sophia Bernson and I just graduated from the Willem de Kooning Academy as an illustrator with the social practice New Earth. I actively try to promote a world with more love for animals, plants and their ecosystems by using visual storytelling to raise awareness about global sustainability challenges. I get my inspiration from my surroundings, animals, people and organizations that are involved in the maintenance and protection of nature reserves and endangered species. My work visualises gloomy subjects in a light-hearted and positive way. By selecting my material carefully, I hope not only to share my passion with the world, but also to do this sustainably.