Corallium rubrum - Lost Species

Studio Orta - The Lost Species project: Corallium rubrum
Studio Orta - 5556
Studio Orta - 5557

Date: 2023
Materials: Terracotta, engobe, gold lustre, hand-blown Murano glass, rope, found plastic objects
Dimensions: 150 x 50 x 5 cm each
Exhibition history: 2024 Villa Les Zéphirs, Middelkerke, Belgium; 2023 Poush, Aubervilliers, France
Courtesy: Lucy + Jorge Orta

At a first glance, the long colourful chains optimistically affirm life. Yet, suspended from the loops are highly fragile ceramic coral branches and glass spheres, interspersed with ocean plastic, ropes and fishing gear. The work takes inspiration from Phocaea coins (600 BC) depicting the Mediterranean monk seal swimming with a string of pearls. Highly endagered, the seal along with other marine species are declining due to increasing ocean pollution, entanglement and ingestion of micro-plastic particles. The title refers to the coral endemic to the Mediterranean. Corallium rubrum –red gold– is also on the verge of extinction due to overfishing and ocean acidification. It has held religious and apotropaic meanings for millennia, and today is a symbol of good luck, offered to newly weds and infants.