by Jose J. Babauta

Painter and art professor, University of GUAM

The Deep Sea Storage Project involving a twenty foot sculpture envisioned by conceptual artist Christian Hornsleth destined to be dropped into the Marianas Trench reverberate with a myriad of connotations when first announced on our island.

Here's a native of Denmark who journeys to the Pacific with the intent of submerging metal art full of human and animal dna deep down the seven miles of ocean located just off the island shores of Guam. “Is he for reals?” they asked. Depending on one's perspective one might consider his seemingly odd behavior to be abnormal, eccentric and rather loony. Or some may be inclined to view his work somewhat culturally insensitive and abrasive.

Many may see the project as a threat increasing environmental endangerment. And still, others extoll his creation a kind of healing from industrial wounds bringing us back to the womb of earth mother.

What are all these voices flowing quietly off the whispers of the Pacific? Confusion abound when islanders consider the implication and consequence of project “Deep Sea Storage” impact. Community response offer insight into the mindset of the Pacific.

Opinions that range from the uninformed, political activist, environmentalist to the ancient traditionalist challenge the myth of the passive nature of island people. Modern islanders seeking justification and validation to changes imported rationalize significance and consequence of impact. The uneducated and the uninformed are bewildered and bedazzled with the thought of activity outside the expected and familiar. Dropping metal down deep water makes no sense to them at all. They prefer metal contractions functional. Something useful. And dna storage to them is a waste of resource and energy which could be better put to use helping the poor.

Political activists intent on corrective measures to the unjustics of dominant culture define deep storage as another example of colonialism aggression. Environmentalists resent any cause of contamination attributed to industrialization of the islands by western nations. And traditionalists see the project as another form of disrespect to earth spirits they hold as sacred.

While all these voices echo concern from the islands rationalizing to make some sense of it all, I offer my view hoping to alleviate the confusion burden. As an artist of forty years, with twelve years of college graduating with a terminal degree called an MFA, and as a university art professor for twenty years or more my stance on the matter be of a perspective informed.

The ability to understand the full import of deep sea storage require an awareness and understanding of the global nature current to our lifestyle as we progress into the post-industrial era. A period of harmogenous of cultures and people influenced by the computer age high technology of instantaneous communication and exposure. Information generated faster than before with more data than we could adequately assimilate. Another “dark age” in historical development. Not the absence of knowledge but the presence of increased knowledge. Looking at our past may be helpful to our understanding.

Art historically have always been about survival of the human species. Physical and metaphysical survival. We need to feed the body and nurture the spirit. From the basic of the Paleo world, the political of Neoclassical times, to the emergence of the modern in the Renaissance, up to the advent of industrial revolution of Impressionism, to our recent post-industrial style of conceptual, art functioned to address those particular needs relevant and specific. A journey into the development of human evolution offer a background of highlighting critical steps we taken towards our voyage of growth and progress.

to be continued...