Leaning back as the lights dimmed in London's Royal Greenwich Observatory planetarium, the 45 minute film was a haunting and often emotional swim through some of the most elusive life on earth, and some of the most endangered.
Wallworth's project was inspired by one of the rarest occurrences in astronomy, Venus' transit of the sun, which took place this week. In the 18th Century when scientists were looking into first tracking this event, countries that were at war with one another were able to prioritise what was to become the first successful attempt at international scientific co-operation. Hostilities were temporarily ceased to allow scientists to sail the seas to take the measurements that underpin today's understanding of our universe. As a global event, Wallworth wanted to recreate this by launching Coral: Rekindling Venus simultaneously in over 25 countries across the world.
The artist, originally from Australia, worked with underwater cinematographer David Hannan, who filmed mainly among the reefs around Papua New Guinea. The other worldly scenes are complimented by a soundtrack that varies dramatically from Anthony and the Johnsons' melodic track Rise, recorded specifically for the film, through to crackly radio communication sounds and Max Richter.
The film takes you up close to sea anemones, red sea dragons, Christmas tree ferns, whale sharks and fluorescent corals. Many of these are faceless organisms but they are brought nearer and become familiar, endearing even. But this is more than a series of visually stunning underwater constellations, it is a very serious call to action. In Wallworth's own words: 'This is an incredibly rich and diverse community, but one that can handle very little change in temperature,' she said at her London launch, highlighting the devastating impact climate change has on corals and sea life. 'Just like the scientists in the 18th Century, I'm hopeful that we can think collaboratively like that again to act before it's too late.'
Proceeds from downloading Anthony and the Johnsons song Rise will go to the Australian Research Council Centre for Excellence for Coral Reef Studies. Recognised as one of the world's premier research organisations in this field, the money will link coral reef conservation planning to local action involving and supported by coastal communities directly dependent on marine resources.
Coral: ReKindling Venus is part of the London 2012 Festival and will be screening regularly between 7th June and 6th July at the Peter Harrison Planetarium in the Royal Observatory Greenwich, London.