Beyond Coral White

Marie Lukasiewicz

2018 - Ongoing

France

Corals appear in history as talismans against evil, as coveted collector's items, as painted objects in art, as creatures with a healing power. Philosophers, naturalists and writers have filled our imaginations with these mysterious beings. In both fictional and real worlds, their multitude of shapes and textures and their enthralling colors have fascinated us for millions of years. They have a glorious past, but a present that falters. Over 40% of the world's coral reefs have been destroyed in the last thirty years, due to pollution, ocean warming and destructive fishing methods. How can such wonder and abuse coexist? In Beyond Coral White, this marine animal exemplifies humanity’s paradoxical attitude towards the natural world. Inspired by a 17th-century engraving by Philips Galle that represents the looting of the seabed, Marie Lukasiewicz has developed a multi-layered visual investigation of the bleaching and destruction of corals, and the exploitation of its properties in the parapharmaceutical industry. Blending both documentary and fictional narratives in her artistic practice, she questions our persistent and destructive habits of consumption. Her work whispers: we are nature destroying itself.

Text Cale Garrido.

« Beyond Coral white » is an investigation about coral bleaching and the exploitation of its properties in the para-pharmaceutical industry. It aims the inconsistency of our behaviors facing ecological crisis, related to the persistence of overconsumption and overexploitation of natural ressources.

Corals are essential to the balance of biodiversity. By forming reefs, they are home to nearly 30% of marine biodiversity, they are a natural and fundamental barrier, which protect shorelines against violent natural phenomena. Activities related to coral reefs, as fisheries or tourism, represent a significant economy and more than 100 million people depend on them financially.

Corals live in symbiosis with a micro-algae which basically feed them. When the water temperature changes due to pollution and global warming, the coral undergoes stress and expels the micro-algae, it begins to bleach and if it does not recover, ends up, in most cases, dying. Bleaching is the biggest threat to coral. About 60 cases of bleaching have already been recorded, with 3 disasters in 1998, 2010 and 2014. 20% of the world's coral reefs have already been destroyed, 15% could become extinct in the next ten years, while 20% are already threatened with extinction in the next forty years.

While conducting my researches on corals and coral bleaching, I was particularly intrigued to find para-pharmaceutical products such as toothpastes, cosmetics and dietary supplements made from coral.

To promote food supplement « Coral Calcium », marketers claim that the calcium contained in the coral is much more assimilable by humans than any other calcium and coral calcium would cure the most serious diseases such as cancer or heart disease.

I then learnt that the FTC (Federal Trade Commission) and the FDA (Food and Drug Administration) have sued several marketers of "coral calcium" product for misleading advertising. The ruling now prohibits them from making such claims.

Under a settlement with the Federal Trade Commission, Robert Barefoot, Deonna Enterprises, Inc., and Karbo Enterprises, Inc. are prohibited from making claims that the dietary supplement “Coral Calcium Supreme” or any other coral calcium product can treat or cure cancer, multiple sclerosis, heart disease, high blood pressure, and other serious diseases. The defendants also cannot make unsupported claims that the body absorbs coral calcium better than other calcium supplements in the market. » 


In my artistic approach, I use irony and sarcasm by playing on the edge between reality and fiction. I believe that astonishment created by humor is very significant. To reach that, I blend both documentary and fictional narratives, supported by scientific research and using the aura of a scientific aesthetic.

In "Beyond Coral White », articulating my research from several mediums, photography, video, object, sound recording and text, I deal with the topic from different points of view. Each piece is on the narrow border between reality and fiction, from the fake still life scientific pictures to the real quotations too silly to be true. This project tells a story about he manufacture and benefits of "Coral Calcium" food supplements and it questions our needs of this kind of products, our relation to natural resources, our habits of consumption and self-medication, our beliefs and hopes.

The project is made from six groups of artwork, the scientific still life representing the production of para-pharmaceutical product, using a scientific aesthetic which bring a certain belief ; the quotations (texts and sound recording) which are mostly from one Coral calcium marketer’s book ; the two loop videos representing one young and one old women eating coral calcium ; the documentary pictures of laboratory and coral farm ; manufactured products and the white dead coral, plus one engraving from 17th-century by Philips Galle that represents the looting of the seabed, and which is the perfect summary of our behavior related to precious natural ressources.

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