The Lost Species project: Corallium rubrum
Materials: Terracotta, engobe, gold lustre, hand-blown Murano glass, rope, found plastic objects
Dimensions: 150 x 50 x 5 cm
Exhibition history: 2023 Poush, Aubervilliers, France
Courtesy: Lucy + Jorge Orta
At a first glance, the long colourful chain optimistically affirms life, yet suspended from the loops are highly fragile ceramic coral and glass spheres, interspersed with ocean plastic, ropes and fishing gear that are synonymous with ocean pollution. Corallium rubrum –red gold– is a highly endangered coral endemic to the Mediterranean, on the verge of extinction due to overfishing and ocean acidification. It held religious and apotropaic meanings for millennia and even today amulets and good-luck charms are offered to infants and newlyweds across the Mediterranean. The chain takes inspiration from Phocaea coins (600 BC) depicting the Mediterranean monk seal (another threatened species) swimming with strings of pearls, yet the stark reality today is the phenomena of entanglement and plastic ingestion that is an increasing factor in biodiversity loss.