Dive Doug Aitken's 'Underwater Pavilions' in 360 Degrees!

By Skye Mayring

The ocean is the most important ecosystem on our planet, and Doug Aitken isn't about to let us forget that. The internationally renowned contemporary artist has created "Underwater Pavilions," a traveling exhibit that you can only see by diving or snorkeling. The exhibit consists of three swim-in, swim-out sculptures that utilize a mix of rugged and reflective materials. Part of each pavilion is mirrored, surrounding divers with a kaleidoscopic seascape.

Produced by Parley for the Oceans and presented in partnership with The Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, the work acts as a lens through which to view, experience and interact with the ocean terrain. The artist hopes to raise awareness about the fragility of the oceans while celebrating its beauty.  

The exhibit debuted off the coast of Catalina Island—the first of several tropical locations where 'Underwater Pavilions' will anchor. We made a day of it and took the Catalina Express from San Pedro and back (approximately $35 each way). Access to the installations is free and open to the public, but you'll need to be a strong swimmer with the right gear (scuba or snorkel) in order to fully appreciate it.

When we travel we need to be aware of our impact on the environment and how every action has a reaction. Swimming through the pavilions makes you feel connected to the ocean—it’s is a living, breathing thing. 

Each person who visits is guaranteed to have a different experience: The algae is constantly evolving, the currents and the tides are constantly changing, and that all plays a part in the depth and positioning of the installations. You can find out if "Underwater Pavilions" is coming to an ocean near you here. In the meantime, dive through the installation with us off the coast of Catalina Island. It's pretty unreal!

Note: This is an immersive 360-degree experience. For better results, view in a Google Cardboard using the YouTube app on your mobile device or desktop browser. For the best experience, please visit us on Samsung VR in your Gear VR headset.

The pre-production, field production and post-production of our "Underwater Pavilions" shoot were a collaborative effort. The project was made possible by superswell VR, Radiant Images, Virtuality Lab, Diving Catalina, Catalina Express and Catalina Island Company. Special thanks to Eve Cohen, Jimmie Rhee, Breanna Wilson, Gerardo Lechuga, MOCA Los Angeles and the Doug Aitken Workshop.