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Yarn Artist Tries to Save Ocean, May Have Damaged It Instead

by Laura C. Mallonee on August 19, 2014

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Artist Olek yarn bombed a bomb in Mexico. (image courtesy the artist)

A New York–based artist trying to raise awareness about the ocean’s health is being accused of damaging it. Agata Oleksiak, the yarn artist better-known as Olek, traveled to Cancun earlier this month for an installation highlighting the ocean’s declining shark population, according to La Jornada

Olek’s project centered around an underwater museum called Museo Subacuatico de Arte, located within an artificial reef meant to attract scuba-diving tourists away from the delicate Mexican Caribbean Coral Reef. The museum includes a series of ticking bombs created by sculptor Jason de Caires Taylor, who intended them as a metaphor for the state of the ocean.

Ticking time bomb sculptures by Jason de Caires Taylor (image courtesy the artist) (click to enlarge)

Ticking time bomb sculptures by Jason de Caires Taylor (image courtesy the artist) (click to enlarge)

Olek wove her famous yarn creations around Taylor’s bombs in an effort to underscore their point. But museum director Jaime Gonzalez alleges that, aside from not asking permission to do so, she destroyed vital organisms living on the sculptures in the process. La Jornada reports he is now preparing a lawsuit against the artist. 

“If they want to sue me, I don’t know. I can pay them back with crocheting more underwater sculptures,” Olek told the Associated Press. “I don’t know why would they sue me but maybe they’re a little bit upset that I did it there.” 

You can see the pre-yarn bombs, frosty with algae, in one photograph taken by Olek. She appears in another image donning a crochet needle in one hand and crimson yarn in the other. Her hair in pigtails, she doesn’t look like your average eco-terrorist (or tourist).

One thing is certain: Olek’s project in Mexico may be her most visually striking work yet. In addition to the yarn bombs, she outfitted scuba divers with quirky, multicolored wetsuits; photographer Tre Packard of marine conservation nonprofit Pangeaseed captured them swimming alongside sharks in Cancun’s turquoise waters. And, for what it’s worth, seeing the images does make you think a little more about the ocean. “[My] intentions were positive and that’s the most important thing about my work,” Olek said. “I really want to create a positive message.”

It will be up to Mexican authorities to decide if that’s enough.

(image courtesy of)

Olek at work (image courtesy the artist)

(image courtesy of)

The bomb crocheted by Olek (image courtesy of the artist)

A scuba diver

A scuba diver in crocheted wetsuit (image courtesy of Tre Packard)

A scuba diver swimming alongside a shark

A scuba diver swimming alongside a shark (image courtesy Tre Packard)

A crochet mermaid

A crocheted mermaid (image courtesy Tre Packard)

A crochet mermaid

A crocheted mermaid (image courtesy Tre Packard)

Correction: A caption in this article previously misidentified one of the wetsuits as knitted rather than crocheted. It has been fixed.

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  • Zach Alan

    yawn, bummer-ing.

  • http://c-monster.net/ Carolina A. Miranda

    Seems like the artist failed to read anything about ocean ecology before doing this…

  • wirkkala

    Probably the part I hate the most is her reaction to this… she can pay with more crocheted sh¡t, really? How self centered you have to be, how ignorant, how spectacularly stupid?

  • Daniel Fleming

    “[My] intentions were positive and that’s the most important thing about my work,”

    Well the intention of fishermen is to feed people (which is positive), not eradicate sharks…so I suppose we should forgive them as well.

  • Connor Lemp

    Call me confused, but I don’t see how this represents significant damage to the local ocean ecology. While I can appreciate her ignorance in destroying that sculpture’s algae, I don’t understand how 20 square feet of algae could be such a resource that it would matter?

    The algae grew there naturally in the first place, did it not? It will grow back, yes? It doesn’t seem like she did any permanent damage to anything, ecology included.

    • B4U812

      I think the damage is minimal but sufficient for a museum to make a case of her. They don’t want people coming in doing arty shit to their art.

      • Connor Lemp

        Thanks for responding. Hadn’t considered that possibility.

    • Daniel Fleming

      You are very confused…let’s just wipe out that section of rainforest while we’re at it…it’ll grow back.

      • Connor Lemp

        Well it comes down to one’s definition of a section. Are we cutting down 20 acres of trees, or bushwhacking down 3 shrubs? One of these things is not like the other.

        • Daniel Fleming

          and if your point is the preservation of the forest, you probably shouldn’t do either.

      • B4U812

        Daniel, your comparison is as off as your insult is.

        The Time Bomb piece was created in 2011. When it was installed, I don’t know, but we know we have not yet 4 years’ worth of algae growth on the object.

        It takes more than 4 years for a single tree in the rainforest to reach full height. Yet you suggest wiping out, not more than one, but a section of mature rainforest – let’s say that section consists of two trees. You are still way off.

        • Daniel Fleming

          Yes, for a rainforest, 4 years is nothing. For the millions of animals, plants and bacteria that lived on that sculpture, four years was generations.

          it’s about scale. In the grand scheme of the planet, a small section of rainforest doesn’t matter and will come back in an instant in the geological sense of time (even though we, as humans, understand it as generations) but that same section is vitally important to the animals that have built there homes there. Just as, in the grand scheme of the ocean, 20 sq. ft of algae won’t make a difference…except, again, if you were one of the millions of little creatures who inhabited it.

          So I guess no permanent damage was done…unless you were one of the millions of animals living there…and the only reason we don’t care about them is it’s a lot harder to get support for microbial algae than cuddly monkeys.

          I’m not saying she destroyed the ocean…just pointing out that, in support of one form of ocean life, she destroyed another…and because ‘it will grow back” in what is a short amount of time to us, you don’t care, even though that “short time” is a lifetime for those organisms involved.

  • Guest

    Suing this artist is killing the messenger. Worse, it is a clear demonstration that, as a society, we are unable to stop those — people, small and big corporations — who do real harm to the oceans and kills every life on the earth just for a little more profit.

    Poursuivre l’artiste, c’est tuer le messager. Pire, c’est l’indéniable démonstration que nous sommes incapables, en tant que société, d’arrêter les vrais pollueurs, gros et petits, qui détruisent toute vie autour d’eux pour un peu plus de profit.

    • Daniel Fleming

      so don’t punish the artist because she proved we have a hard time stopping crappy people from destroying the ocean, including the artist herself? Kinda like “Don’t send the murderer to prison. All they did was clearly demonstrate we suck at stopping murder.”

      • Lapin

        Yeah, sure! Killing one people or hundred of thousands sounds the same. My point is that we usually send to jail the one who kills one people, while at the same time those who kills hundred of thousands are mysteriously keeping their liberty of action. So it seems that our willingness and ability to prosecute is inversely proportional to the damage caused.

        • Daniel Fleming

          Well no, it’s not the same at all…but killing one isn’t acceptable either. I wouldn’t be OK letting a one-time offender go just because we couldn’t get evidence on a serial killer.

  • Lapin

    Suing this artist is killing the messenger. Worse, it is a clear demonstration that, as a society, we are unable to stop those — people, small and big corporations — who do real harm to the oceans and kills every life on earth just for a little more profit.

    Poursuivre l’artiste, c’est tuer le messager. Pire, c’est l’indéniable démonstration que nous sommes incapables, en tant que société, d’arrêter les vrais pollueurs, gros et petits, qui détruisent toute vie autour d’eux pour un peu plus de profit.

  • cc

    Where does Olek get off wrapping another artist’s sculpture? If I were de Caires Taylor I’d be pissed.

  • xurxsper

    the yarn would be a good thriving medium for algal growth, wouldn’t you say so?
    i could be wrong, but it gives more surface area than the sculptures themselves.

    so if they are to sue her because she disrupted algal growth, perhaps she can sue back in 3 years time

    awareness-wise, she has done her point

  • Steve Veatch

    Maybe Jason de Caires should be sued for the billions of micro organisms his work murdered by the creation and installation of his work. Further, sue the Jains in India for their micro organism and insect holocaust as they sweep in front of their walks.

    If Olek’s installation was unauthorized, let them sue her for that.

    And if people REALLY want to do something to help, they should start by having far fewer children.

  • Rhiannon Platt

    Knitting and crocheting are not the same. Hook not needle. Come on guys.

    • Jillian Steinhauer

      Thanks for pointing out that caption error. We will fix.

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