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Artificial Reef Catastrophe to Become Art Exhibit: Four Tons of Ocean Tires Headed to Wynwood

Categories: Flotsam
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Osborne Reef: bad science, good art
​In 1972, a nonprofit group came up with a brilliant idea: Create a three-mile-long artificial reef off the South Florida coast using 2 million old tires. Goodyear donated the rubber, Broward County forked over the funds, and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers signed off. The plan quickly went to hell, however. Coral didn't grow on the tires. Fish didn't flock to the rubber reef. Then the tires began coming loose, crashing around in the current and destroying natural reefs nearby. The environmental effort became an ecological disaster.

Flash forward four decades, and the tires are still sitting 70 feet underwater. But not for long. This week, a young German artist named Hannes Bend is planning to pull up at least 300 of the rotting radials so he can dump them in Wynwood's Charest-Weinberg Gallery. "It's a trash cemetery on the bottom of the ocean," he says.

Bend, a handsome 31-year-old Miami transplant, hopes the project will draw attention to the 30-acre monstrosity while raising questions about our environmental crimes.

The struggle between man and nature has fascinated Bend since his childhood in Roge, a tiny German village on the Baltic Sea. He visited nearby fjords every summer and was collecting signatures for Greenpeace by the time he was 5. After graduating from art school, he started secretly filming Berlin's public pools: elaborate tropical paradises of plastic. Later, in his sculpture series "CandY," he melted confections into multicolored casts of humans, animals, and everyday objects.

"The candy sculptures were about artificiality and imitating nature," he says. When an art fellowship brought him to Miami last year, he began hearing about another grotesque environmental imitation: the tire reef.

"It's like Atlantis down there," Bend says. "Put in a gallery, it becomes apocalyptic. But it will also be a back-yard scenario where people can walk around the tires and play with them."

Bend plans to pull up the rubber doughnuts sometime this week, weather permitting. If all goes well, the exhibit will go up next weekend. He hopes that seeing the tires in a gallery will remind Floridians what they've done to nature.

"I am making visible something that has been hidden," he says. "That's what art is all about."

Follow Miami New Times on Facebook and Twitter @MiamiNewTimes. Follow this journalist on Twitter @MikeMillerMiami.


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9 comments
Don1954
Don1954

Show me the data demonstrating that this is an "ecological disaster."

Chelsea Guerdat
Chelsea Guerdat

Congratulations Hannes on the project and nice article Mike.

Staff
Staff

Who was he NGO?

James G. Camp
James G. Camp

Who came up with the idea ? The same brilliant leadership we've always had for politicians.

Juan R. Pollo
Juan R. Pollo

Hindsight is 20/20. They tried, it didn't work.

Ex-vegan
Ex-vegan

Hey! Got an idea. Let's line the bottom of the ocean with 2,000,000 tires. Genius!

RevealingLens
RevealingLens

 Trash doesn't belong on the bottom of the ocean. You apparently are ignorant in the field of ecology.

James G. Camp
James G. Camp

I don't know ? only thing I've ever seen attach to tires are algae and barnacles. Outside of that, how long would the test have taken ? I don't empower some people any more when they say they've done all that they could've.

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