Ocean Tunnel Pop-Up Art Installation on View at Scripps Institution of Oceanography


An interactive art installation at Scripps Institution of Oceanography at the University of California San Diego opened to the public on April 13. The exhibit is the vision of Madeleine Hamann, a physical oceanography PhD student at Scripps Oceanography, who was inspired to use an immersive art experience as a way to educate people on the change occurring in the oceans.

Ocean Tunnel showcases how the oceans have changed over the past hundred years and how they might look in the future. A 125-foot-long, 8-foot-tall tunnel filled with murals of marine life, the installation features the work of various national and international artists on its five arching panels. Upon entering, visitors find themselves surrounded by a diverse, healthy ocean with large fish and a variety of species. As they progress, the diversity dwindles and the fish become smaller, reflecting changes caused by human pressure on the oceans. Visitors end in a very different ocean than where they began, surrounded only by jellyfish; a future projection that could become reality.

The installation is located on the south side of Sverdrup Hall, near the intersection of La Jolla Shores Drive and El Paseo Grande, and will remain open until April 30. It is free for visitors and Scripps hopes to attract the attention of and educate those on their way to and from the beach.

“In my time at Scripps I have learned so much about our oceans and climate – so much more than I realized was known before I came here, and it seems like there’s something missing there,” said Hamann, who studies the dynamics of internal waves in La Jolla Canyon. “By and large people aren’t connecting with the facts and figures scientists generate. Maybe that’s because it just doesn’t feel personal yet. Connecting people to scientists’ work through artistic experiences, though, might be a way to get people to realize and really care about the impact we make on a daily basis.”

The first several panels are the work of one or two individual artists, and the installation finishes with a panel that was collaboratively painted by visitors and members at the San Diego Collaborative Arts Project’s CoLab, where the exhibit was built.

Hamann was inspired by her experiences at Burning Man, an arts and culture festival held annually in the Nevada desert, and its local sister event YOUtopia. She partnered with San Diego Collaborative Arts Project and RouteUSA to develop the exhibit, which made its debut at Burning Man 2018.

“We wanted to create an immersive experience for people, something that gives a tangible, impactful view of what is happening on this planet that is out of sight and out of mind for so many,” said Hamann. “We hope it pulls out an emotional response that makes people realize that they are a part of the planet and that their actions matter.”

The following artists contributed to the panels of Ocean Tunnel:

The kick-off event begins with a beach cleanup that will gather south of the Scripps pier at 10 a.m. Afterwards, participants are invited back to the Surfside student lounge at Scripps to create a piece of interactive art with artists from RouteUSA and take a walk through the exhibit.

Parking is available on La Jolla Shores Drive, and the metered lots P002 and P003 on the Scripps campus are open for public parking during the weekends.

The project was funded by the San Diego Collaborative Arts Project, Emerald Kingdom Greenhouse, and donations from supporters across the country.


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