The Coral Reef Are Dreaming Again (2011) Dir: Lucas Leyva
We were going to hold off on this one, but wanted to respond to this Rolling Stone article more. It’s our cosmic “duh bro.”
The essay is by marine biologist Colin Foord, 1/2 of frequent Borscht collaborators Coral Morphologic.
(The password is wakeup)
The Corals are Dreaming Again
The Coral Reef Are Dreaming Again is a fusion of three different short films that Coral Morphologic has either contributed to, or collaborated on, from the past three Borscht Film Festivals. The script was written by Lucas Leyva, but the concept was inspired by many Miamians, and adapted to frame a famous allegory of 3rd century BCE Chinese philosopher Zhuangzi. The result is a new film re-contextualized to mirror many of the metaphorical concepts that both Coral Morphologic and Borscht Corp. broach in our respective works. In fact, the existence of the film itself is representative of the accretion, hybridation, and symbiosis that amplifies creative output from the Magic City.
If The Coral Reef are Dreaming Again seems confusing at first view, that’s okay, as it is flooded with metaphors (including flooding metaphors). In it we have two anemones that question the reality of their dreams. In this sense, the classic story of Zhuangzi dreaming he was a butterfly, is flipped. In the original story, Zhuangzi is left questioning whether he exists as a man only because the butterfly dreams it so, leaving him in something of an existential paradox. However, in this film the story takes the perspective of the beautiful creatures questioning their own existence as they look backwards through the mirror of a perceived reality that may or may not be a dream. The film portrays two cyclical lifeforms face-to-face at their metaphysical nexus. If I had to sketch this relationship, I would draw an ouroboros (like Borscht’s logo) and twist it to form a figure eight-like Moebius strip. Ultimately the film lays bare the interconnected and infinite nature of the universe, while postulating that multiple universes may in fact be interactive.
On a more tangible metaphorical level, the context of the film only makes sense from the perspective of the time and space from which it was birthed. First, it must be understood that Miami is a city whose infrastructure is literally comprised of the processed skeletal remains of corals and marine life that once colonized South Florida when it was submerged in eras past. Almost every building, sidewalk, and highway in Miami contains calcium carbonate-based concrete that is recycled from the remnants of those coral reefs. It is a city where vertebrate and invertebrate life-forms are forever bonded through a calcium carbonate matrix. Skeletons that were once enveloped with fluorescent coral tissue now form the foundation for a neon metropolis to mirror its coral reefs.
In death there is opportunity, and corals take full advantage. In fact, coral reefs only form when corals grow on top of the skeletons of their ancestors. Over many years, the upward growth of new corals results in a dynamic three-dimensional urban ecosystem. From the Coral Morphologic perspective, corals are the primeval city-builders on planet Earth. Besides humans, they are the only other animals that build structures visible from space, and they have been doing so millions of years before before animal-kind crawled its way out of the primordial oceans to colonize terra firma. With corals long predating the dawn of humanity (and the supposed conscious awareness of reality that came with it), the film suggests that perhaps it is we that are living inside of a coral’s dream of the future.
In the film we see a man within the coral dream who lives in the Magic City; a place where gender roles and identities are fluid and ever-shifting. This is no different from the coral reef, where many species are frequently transsexual or hermaphroditic. Gender politics and sex have long played a central role in the cultural identity of Miami, a place where flamboyance and sex are celebrated as a form of liberated consciousness that allows people the freedom to be as nasty as they want to be. On the coral reef, sexual reproduction is celebrated in an annual cosmic ritual that that is synchronized to the celestial clockwork of the Earth, Moon, and Sun. Organisms of all kinds celebrate in a nocturnal orgy that mixes the sperm and eggs of a myriad of species together. The sea becomes a genetic soup in which none of the resulting offspring will ever know the identity of their parents. Likewise, Miami is a melting pot of genetics whose affinity for the ultraviolet rays of Sun is only surpassed our nocturnal attractions beneath the libidinous tug of the Moon.
Just as Miami has been flooded and dried many times throughout glacial and greenhouse periods of Earth’s history, it will one day be submerged once more. Miami has an Atlantean destiny, one that is actualizing before our eyes as humans expire gases that are insulating the planet like a blanket. Already corals and humans alike are being forced to adapt to new climate conditions whether we like it or not. The durability of Miami Beach will no doubt be tested within our lifetime. It is, afterall, a city, not yet a century old, that was dredged from the mud by opportunistic real estate tycoons looking to sell island dreams to frigid Americans. While many coastal cities and islands around the world will be faced with rising sea levels, few other places have the treble handicap of being artificially constructed, in the crosshairs of increasingly powerful hurricanes, and just a few miles from one of the strongest oceanic currents on the planet.
When the ocean finally comes licking at our doorsteps, the South Floridian real estate pyramid will crystallize as a monument to New World fantasies. Eventually the limestone remnants of our metropolis will be recolonized by the corals as their own, and our collective destinies will come full circle. The corals of Miami represent the ouroboros of construction, consumption, decay, and resurrection. In the meantime, we humans may be trapped in the samsara of existence, unaware of the true nature of reality, and breaking the cycle may be as easy as waking up inside a coral’s dream.
- Colin Foord