The Story of Coral

Sophia Bernson
Practice Social Practices
Project New Earth
Major Illustration
Year Fourth Year

Nominee Drempelprijs Social Practices

My project started when I learned more about the global problem of dying coral reefs, which are a threat to the worldwide ecosystem and pose grave consequences for humanity.
Throughout my project, I explain what coral is, what is threatening it, and how coral responds to the life-threatening situation of rising sea temperatures. This interdisciplinary project is designed to allow viewers to feel the urgency, shared responsibility and necessity of coral preservation.

I invite you to look intently at the colours and structures of nature, as these signal the well-being of the environment, and therefore, our living conditions.

I have experimented with various ways to visualise this important information by using metaphors in several outputs. The use of different mediums allows you to see, listen and participate. The entirety of my work is an exhibition/installation for which I have written the poems, music, as well as made the choreographers. These works consist of two short-films, fabric pattern designs, and two interactive works.

The first poetry film visualises the last phase of dying coral. I visualise the behaviour of fluorescent coral by using my fluorescently painted hands. I also made instructions for visitors to create sea creatures through shadow play as an interactive piece. Coral is a crucial part of the marine ecosystem, necessary for the survival of sea animals. The importance of coral is shown here by using my hands, which stand for coral, and without which it would be impossible to cast the shadow of other sea creatures. Thus, coral is depicted as the essence of life in this ecosystem. This interaction invites you to use your interpretation and imagination, as well as to participate and to make a ‘sea’ of animals together, or to make figures with each other’s hands.



In the second film, you hear another poem over a dance performance. This poem tells the story about how the relationship between the polyp and the microalgae, which make up the coral, becomes disrupted as a result of its environment becoming hostile. In times of social distancing, this story gains new relevance, since our environment suddenly becomes dangerous, separating us from those we miss and need.

The costumes introduce the printed fabrics, which show that if the symbiotic relationship works well again, the coral regains its colour and texture. The pattern designs were inspired by the symbiotic relationship that gives the coral its colour and shape. I have illustrated fractal and rounded shapes to depict that coral is made out of multiple organisms, and to show that coral contains many detailed shapes and colours that form a whole. The composition of the illustrations manifest themselves organically and dynamically, and therefore bringing an ode to the repetitions found in nature.

The second interaction is a kaleidoscope goggle. When you look through these goggles you do not see one image, but you see an image duplicated and fragmented. Coral is a colony of genetically identical polyps and these goggles allow the viewer to experience how it would be if they were coral themselves.