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Underwater art doubles as artificial reef in Mexico

By Susannah Palk for CNN
  • Artist Jason deCaires Taylor is the creator behind the world's first underwater sculpture park
  • Over 400 life-size figures, each cast individually, have been lowered onto the sea bed
  • The sculptures are made of a special cement mix to encourage coral growth

(CNN) -- In the clear shallow waters off Cancun in Mexico, 200 ghostly figures are slowly lowered to the seabed.

It's the final installment of an extraordinary underwater art exhibition, which spans 420 square meters of barren sea bed in the area's national marine park.

Officially due to open next month, the exhibition entitled "The Silent Evolution," is the work of British sculptor and scuba diver Jason deCaires Taylor.

Consisting of 403 life-size human figures, each sculpture has been individually cast by deCaires Taylor and made using special cement mix to encourage coral growth.

The atmosphere and mood is otherworldly.
--Jason de Caires Taylor, British sculptor.

Created to highlight the decimation of the world's coral reefs, deCaires Taylor told CNN he wanted to "create a monumental artificial reef, a habitat space that would encourage fish to colonize and inhabit the area."

It is hoped the artistic reef bed will lure some of the park's 750,000 yearly visitors away from the natural reefs, which need time to recover and develop.

"It's incredibly interesting working underwater," said deCaires Taylor, who explained how the work had created a new and dynamic perspective for audiences.

"The colors are different, the light patterns are very different, the atmosphere and mood is otherworldly. The piece takes on a very different tone underwater -- it has a lost feel to it and brings up all these questions that you wouldn't have on land," he said.