SAN DIEGO – The Birch Aquarium at Scripps Institution of Oceanography at UC San Diego has opened “Hold Fast,” an immersive art exhibit that invites guests to explore the impact of climate change on the local kelp forest through the lens of three local artists and scientists.
Visitors to the aquarium can explore a labyrinth of cyanotype-printed giant kelp by photo-based artist and marine scientist Oriana Poindexter, come face to face with local species via gyotaku prints – the traditional Japanese method of printing fish – by artist Dwight Hwang and peer into the tiny world of kelp propagation with Scripps Oceanography doctoral student Mohammad Sedarat.
“Warming waters and giant kelp don’t mix. We have to be realistic about the outsized impact that climate change has on our local giant kelp forests,” said Megan Dickerson, Birch Aquarium’s director of exhibits and co-curator of the installation. “But at the same time, local people are doing beautiful things. “This ‘Hold Fast’ installation posits that the actions of local artists and scientists can give us hope that together, as a community, we can make collective change as we also acknowledge climate trauma.”
“Hold Fast” bridges “the worlds of art and science, and offers the opportunity to explore how our own talents can be harnessed as we work together to protect our ocean,” a statement from the aquarium read.
Poindexter is an artist and marine scientist who is documenting the changes in La Jolla’s local kelp forests through photo-based artwork. In “Hold Fast” her life-sized cyanotype prints on fabric create a kelp forest for guests to explore.
“The giant kelp forests off San Diego are ebbing and flowing despite the anthropogenic impacts that complicate their existence,” said Poindexter, co-curator of the installation. “My method to engage with the giant kelp forests is to free dive in, around, through them – and to collect specimens from which to artistically document both the environment and the experience.
“The physicality of this process is therapeutic for me as I grapple with the impacts of humanity on the environment,” she continued.
In “Hold Fast,” Hwang’s prints will focus on local kelp forest animals found off La Jolla shores.
Sedarat is a student at the Smith Lab at Scripps Oceanography whose research explores the impact of climate change on La Jolla’s kelp forest. His work in the exhibit is intended to demonstrate why giant kelp ecosystems have not returned since recent marine heat waves and explores what we can do to bring them back through genetic banking and propagation.
UCSD’s library is hosting an accompanying exhibit, “Ebb and Flow: Giant Kelp Forests through Art, Science and the Archives,” at Geisel Library now through April 21.
“Uniting archival material with contemporary art, this exhibit showcases works created as a result of continued observation of the local giant kelp forest environment by artists, scientists and community members over the past 134 years,” a statement from the university read.
“Hold Fast” will be on display until September 2024. It is included with the cost of general admission.