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A Will




Underwater soundscape ecology can monitor the health of an ecosystem through long-term recording. A healthy coral reef is full of popping, crackling, whooping, and grunting sounds. However, because of climate change and anthropogenic pollution, more corals generally lose their colors, their inhabitants, and their sounds. Coral reefs are becoming silent. I investigate critical ecology, coral reef habitat, climate problems, and their relationships with humans, posing questions about modern civilization to the underwater ecosystem. My interdisciplinary art practice is an attempt to record and represent “the last words” of the coral community from a healthy to dying state. This exploration tends to establish a closer connection between underwater nature and human beings, appealing to emphasize the problem of carbon emission and artificial hazards to the ocean.


Critical Ecology, Coral Reef, Asemic Language, Hybrid Art

Project Details

A healthy reef buzzes with animal sounds.

Credit: Tim Gordon/Univ. of Exeter

Coral reefs can create sounds. These come from the marine life and other organisms that live there. For example, loud sounds produced by damselfish and squirrelfish, and quieter sounds by pearlfish and seahorse are the components. Relatively, the ambient sounds of a coral reef can attract certain reef fish, which forms a healthy ecosystem. (Lindseth & Lobel, 2018) Severe global warming causes thermal stress that contributes to coral bleaching and infectious disease. Anthropogenic pollution like toxic sun scream and underwater noise pollution leads to serious deterioration. These factors cause corals to lose their color, which is the first sign that shows the coral reefs are dying. This destruction will also become a disaster for tropical marine life that depends on coral reefs. Fish then leave, reefs fall silent. In 2006, severe coral bleaching attacked the world's largest coral reef - the Great Barrier Reef in southern Australia. Reports show that the most beautiful coral reefs in the world will disappear in the acidic ocean within 100 years.


This project tends to observe and record the soundtrack of a certain coral from healthy to dying. By analysing the frequency of the soundtrack, the algorithm transforms the sounds into stroke patterns to form a writing representation of “the last words” of the coral, as a will. This direct and serious art practice shows a living natural creature’s last time in this world. It applies technology and machine to extend the life of corals and retains evidence of their existence. It explores the language of coral reefs and communicates the voice that is hard to hear by the public. This project is an anxious alarm of the relentless situation of carbon emission and ocean pollution.


The ideal outcome is a performance with a physical writing machine and the soundtrack. The "words" written by this machine are generated by the recorded soundtrack from a coral. The text will be stroke patterns transformed by the frequency. There exists a risky point that how these "words" can be related to the meaning behind. Careful connection between the soundtrack and the generated strokes needs to be designed.

Feasible methods
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Prepare equipment (underwater recording) — Record one certain coral's sounds/ corals in different health state — Analysing the soundtrack — Design algorithm to generate strokes (position and direction) — Physical Computing Demo Testing — Installation Setup & Revision

​Consider different states for different canvas. Consider other influence (boats/people...) another drawing layer.


Related works and Articles :

Collection here

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