The cliffside at Lighthouse Point will soon be the scene of a unique showcase of multimedia and performance art, honoring the abundant wildlife swimming below.
Bloom Santa Cruz, coordinated by UCSC graduate student Gene Felice II and sponsored by UCSC’s Digital Arts and New Media (DANM) program, is a new event that will bring art and science together with a single unifying theme — our oceans.
The exhibit explores human relationships with the ocean and brings awareness to ocean and freshwater ecosystems, local water issues and scientific research, with a focus on sustainability.
“It’s all about the intersections of art, science and ecology,” Felice said. “It’s about bringing these three worlds together and seeing what happens.”
The “bloom” in Bloom Santa Cruz has a few different meanings. First, it refers to the beam of light that rotates in the cupola, located at the top of the lighthouse. The moment the light reaches its brightest peak and becomes visible is known as the bloom.
The term also refers to the seasonal upwelling cycles of the ocean and the bloom of oceanic microorganisms such as phytoplankton.
About 20-30 artists and scientists are involved in the exhibit, most of them volunteers, current UCSC students and alumni. The pieces range from sculptures to performance art to technological works.
Multimedia artist Eve Warnock will partner with Kate Harrington, the creative director of Ludika — an organization promoting collaborative, hands-on learning — to bring together a team of artists. The team will perform a science fiction piece called “Emergence.”
“It’s a moving performance, almost like a moving sculpture,” Warnock said. “The idea is of a new creature that is adapting to these spaces where no oxygen exists.”
This fictional creature is based on a species of tiny multicellular organisms called the Loricifera, which do not need oxygen in order to reproduce. Warnock explained that spaces without oxygen can be caused by red tides, resulting in animals with these kinds of adaptations. Red tides, also known as harmful algal blooms, occur when algae from the sea or freshwater grow out of control and produce toxins harmful to surrounding life forms.
“The performance piece was conceptualized maybe five months ago,” Warnock said. “In the last month and a half we’ve been starting to put teams together, so I’m working with about seven artists. Some of them are UCSC grad students, some of them are professional artists.”
Much of the artwork in the exhibit will feature sound, lighting and projections. Event organizer Gene Felice II will collaborate with longtime friend Nathan Ober to create a two-hour long video presentation with accompanying music.
“We set up four different movements throughout the piece,” Ober said. “The first one is working with microorganisms, then the movements go into human interaction with the ocean.”
For the music, Ober said he draws inspiration from musical instruments he collected while living abroad in India and Sri Lanka, creating “very meditative, sort of vibrational tones.”
The visual portion will include imagery of oceanic wildlife such as the bioluminescent phytoplankton, a glowing microorganism that Felice studied in the past.
Bloom Santa Cruz is the first of an event series Felice hopes to establish, which will move from lighthouse to lighthouse in various coastal locations. He is even open to the idea of going around the world, as long as the location has one crucial element: “No matter what, you’ve got to have a lighthouse.”
The event will take place from 6-11 p.m. on April 19 at Lighthouse Point. It is free and open to the public