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These Underwater Sculptures Make Ocean Pollution Look Gorgeous

The beautiful work of Forlane 6 captures images of floating garbage that are so enthralling, it might almost make you forget how much junk is in our oceans.

What happens when trash makes its way to the ocean? Nothing good. But the eerie found-object sculptures from Mathieu Goussin and Hortense Le Calvez’s studio Forlane 6–staged underwater to evoke sea-life gone awry and lost civilizations–at least make the trash look beautiful, before forcing you to think about just what it means to have an ocean filled with garbage.

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The team has only been at it for a few months, and is just in the early stages of getting their art out to the public. “The challenge during construction is not knowing how the materials will react,” Le Calvez says. “Will they float, sink, stay stiff?”


All the photos on their website were made this past winter on the Greek isle of Crete. Goussin and Le Calvez rented a studio in a small village where they’d assemble the sculptures. Then, they’d head to the beaches, and experiment with installing and photographing the works in shallow waters (around 5 meters deep) to preserve good light.

That mystery is inherent in the randomness of the materials they work with, culled from the street, the harbor, or even their own wardrobe. “The problem is that in Greece they don’t have a great recycling system,” Le Calvez says. “It’s all mix and match, so it’s hard to find specific materials at the dumpster,” she adds. If a material is successful, they’ll attempt to reuse it in their next project.

The approach is fitting with the duo’s explicitly environmentalist mission. They write on their website:

In response to our time of alarming climate change, the work presents an immersion of the objects that compose our daily surroundings. The certainty that in a near future, global issues will bring disastrous consequences on the environment creates a disturbing atmosphere. However, the mass production rate of artificial materials seems unstoppable.

Check out “Soup,” another photo series that finds beauty in the plastic in our oceans.

According to Le Calvez, she and Goussin have been passionate about diving and deep sea environments for years. Goussin worked at sea for 10 years and is now focused on building an underwater robot. La Calvez is a London-trained artist who experimented with underwater art during her art school days–then honed her skills as a scuba instructor and underwater photographer for a production company in the Philippines.

What’s next from Forlane 6? Le Calvez hinted at a “series of light sculptures with LEDs” that will be installed 20 to 30 meters below sea level. Given our curiosity in innovative uses of LED lights, I’m sure they’ll continue to spark our interest.

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About the author

Zak Stone is a Los Angeles-based writer and a contributing editor of Playboy Digital. His writing has appeared in TheAtlantic.com, NYMag.com, Los Angeles, The Utne Reader, GOOD, and elsewhere. Visit his personal website here.

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