An Aquatic Treasure in Cyprus by Jason deCaires Taylor

The Museum of Underwater Sculpture Ayia Napa (MUSAN) which was opened on July 31, 2021, at the Pernera beach in Cyprus marks a new beginning for the country by enriching its tourist experience through promoting diving, environmental and cultural tourism.

The next time you search for the perfect vacation spot opt for a place that helps you preserve the environment like the underwater treasure troves that British artist Jason deCaires Taylor strives to bring to life. Jason is passionate about bringing oceans into living rooms and underlining the importance to urgently conserve them. “Many of the sculptures are aimed at opening up debates about our relationship to our seas, the Anthropocene, and highlighting our inherent apathy or denial,” he says. Visiting Jason’s underwater museums allows visitors the opportunity to broaden their minds and educate themselves on fields that are outside their daily lives, and experience samples of worlds beyond their own in a safe and non-destructive manner.

MUSAN, another of Jason’s gifts to nature, is an aquatic treasure for Cyprus, an underwater forest, consisting of over 93 artworks by the artist, some of which are in the form of hybrid trees, others which are figurative in nature.

The artworks, in particular those which represent trees, are designed to attract marine life on a large scale and as such will develop organically. These installations are placed at various depths from the seafloor to its surface and laid out to resemble a path through a dense underwater forest. Some of the tree forms will float just beneath the surface so that the whole structure provides a complex environment for marine life at all levels of the water column.

“Marine life in the Mediterranean Sea has been seriously depleted over the last 20 years. The area in which the new museum is sited consists of a flat channel of sand, 8-10m deep, within a marine protected area. The sculptural forest made from inert pH-neutral materials aims to replicate a terrestrial forest by becoming a focal point for biodiversity. Placed 200m from the Pernera beach in crystal clear water it is accessible to scuba divers, freedivers, and snorkellers,” explains Jason.

The creation of MUSAN was a result of the joint effort of the Department of Fisheries and Marine Research, the Ayia Napa municipality, and the Ministry of Tourism.

In her speech, the director of the Department of Fisheries and Marine Research, Marina Argyrou, expressed her great satisfaction and excitement that a unique and innovative project that was envisioned with the Ayia Napa municipality becomes a reality. “I firmly believe that Jason’s 93 artworks will be a haven for many sea creatures and will contribute to the development of biodiversity in the area. The underwater museum will be a living visual and ecological experience, with works of art interacting with nature and evolving over time and I’m certain it will bring people closer to the marine environment and the conservation and protection of our marine ecosystem.”

All of de Jason’s works are part of an eco-art movement in which the artwork interacts with its surroundings and evolves in unpredictable ways. There is no final product, but an ever-changing seascape. Eventually, the work of nature will supplant the work of the artist. The sculpted trees and the children that play amongst them will be consumed and colonised by marine biomass, providing food and shelter for a variety of creatures but importantly reminding us that we are natural ourselves.

“Among the sculpted trees children can be seen playing. They remind us of our need for the natural world as a place to explore, discover and fire our imaginations. Over the last 50 years, children have become more excluded from the wild places that once existed. The forest children, camera in hand as they play hide-and-seek in the woods, point their lenses at the human race. They hope for a future in which the mystery and magic of nature will return. The need to re-wild our oceans is as pressing as the need to re-establish our connection to the natural world,” believes Jason firmly.

Describing these collections of underwater sculptures as a museum highlights another conceptual layer of Jason’s works.

“We call it a museum for a very important reason. Museums are places of preservation, conservation, and education. They’re places where we keep objects of great value to us, where we value them simply for being themselves,” said the artist at a TED TALK.

Include this educational, fun, and insightful experience into your next travel plans to be a part of the new marine museum movement.

All Photography Courtesy:
© MUSAN / @JasondeCairesTaylor
© MUSAN / Costas Constantinou