Lonely Planet Writer

A California artist is installing giant sparkly structures under the sea

For three months this autumn, divers and swimmers off the coast of Catalina Island will be lured into the sea by more than just the colourful fish.

One of the three part mirrored, part rock-like geometric sculptures.
One of the three part mirrored, part rock-like geometric sculptures. Image by: Courtesy of artist Doug Aitken

Southern California-based artist Doug Aitken is unveiling his first underwater art installation in the bay just off the coast of the island’s popular town of Avalon.

The Avalon City Council reports that three geometric sculptures, part mirrored, part rock-like, will be positioned outside of a marine protected area “moored to the bay floor and floating under the surface at varying depths in order to make this artistic experience accessible to divers/swimmers of all skill levels.”

The polished exterior will act as a kaleidoscope, reflecting the marine life and underwater panorama, and will especially shine at night when the structures will be lit. According to California’s boating and fishing news outlet The Log, Aitken says “when we think of art we often think of paintings on walls. With this project we’re really looking at creating some things very unique, kind of a moment in time.”

The artist may be best known for his video installations — one entitled Electric Earth earned him the coveted International Prize at the 1999 Venice Biennale — and a survey of his work with the same title opened at L.A.’s Museum of Contemporary Art on 10 September to coincide with his underwater exhibit. Besides video works, Doug Aitken: Electric Earth will highlight other career-spanning pieces from the artist, including sculptures and rarely exhibited drawings and collages.

Catalina Island is located off the coast of Southern California and accessible by one hour ferry or private 15 minute helicopter ride. The underwater sculptures will be free and open to the public, and there will be a floating platform in the harbour where viewers can rest and observe the art from above.