Wild Sun Catchers: An audio-visual experiment with algae worldmaking written and narrated by Simone Johnson, with animation and sound design by Jennifer Parker

You can WATCH, LISTEN to or READ the story / Photo ID in alt text

Green kelp sways in blue ocean water as numerous fish of the similar blue color swim around
Kelp forest / Photo Credit
This photo shows a kelp forest, with long swaying green stalks reaching toward the surface of the water where noticeable sunlight penetrates through the canopy down into bluish water
Kelp forest / Photo Credit: Douglas Klug
The photo captures the right side of a Garibaldi fish, which is bright orange and has a black pupil in the middle of an icy blue eye. The fish has a very interesting face with what looks like big eyebrows or patch of fluffy hair on its/ki’s* forehead and full orangish-pink lips. The background looks like rocky reef made up of a mix of colors including grey, blue, green and red
Garibaldi Fish
A deep red-white sea snail resting on a brown surface that is covered in unrecognizable marine life. Maybe the green spread around the surface is algae! The sea snail is round and a bit flat, with a thick shell. It/ki* has short black sensory tentacles all around its/ki’s body and a few on top of what looks like its/ki’s head
Red Abalone
A bright orange-white Sunflower Sea Star rests on the side of rock. It/ki*resembles a sunflower (hence the name) and has eighteen arms
Sunflower Sea Star
A Giant Sea Bass swims underwater over a rocky reef, past green kelp fronds shown in the left corner and the bottom of the photo. The fish is dark blue with distinctive black spots across its/ki’s body. In the background are three swaying kelp bodies
Giant Sea Bass
A gray Bottlenose Dolphin leaps out of blue ocean water
Bottlenose Dolphin
A light pinkish hibiscus flower with five petals. A long pink stem grows out of the center of the flower with many filaments ending with pollen producing yellow anthers. Above the anthers is a pink style, a part of the plant that leads to the stigma (where pollen is collected), which is the five red circles. In the background are green leaves
Can you imagine underwater Hibiscus flowers?
The long gray head (or mouth?) of a Gray Whale shoots out of blue ocean water. In the background is a clear blue cloudless sky
Gray Whale
A graphic showing an internet search bar with a symbol of a magnifying glass on the far right. In the search engine is a series of black text on a white background showing different searches; text reads “what — auto-complete me”, and under that “what is a blue new deal”, under that is “what is ocean policy”, next is “ocean policy beach party” and finally ends with “kelp forests”
Graphic made on Canva by Simone Johnson
Elk kelp sway underwater. This kelp has a long thin body and wide fronds. The bottom is rocky. In the photo there are also numerous fish swimming in various directions. The water is so blue
Elk Kelp at the Channel Islands
A close up of mustard colored Giant Kelp undulating underwater. In the background are more kelp
Giant Kelp at the Channel Islands
Most of the photo shows a rocky reef with a chalky white surface. On the reef are many many purple spiky sea urchins scattered across the rocks. There is also something brownish-orange also covering the surface but I’m not sure what it is. Further back and to the right is black creature with long pointy spikes shooting outward. I’m not sure what that is either! At the top of the photo, the background is light blue water
Purple Sea Urchin Barren at the Channel Islands
Blackish blue shapes are in the middle of the photo and in the right bottom corner. In the background are shades of blue rippling out, going from light to medium to dark blue and a smidgen of black in the left corner. The main images are up for interpretation, but the background represents the ocean and perhaps shows the depth of the ocean with the lighter blue representing sunlight hitting the surface of the water. This is a still from the animation and sound design by Jennifer Parker.
Film still via Jennifer Parker
It appears that there are four rocky or mountainous like islands jutting out of a blue ocean. These are some of the Channel Islands. In the right corner of the photo there is a green plant and in the background is a light blue sky
Channel Islands near Southern California / Photo Credit
This is a mock graphic made by Simone Johnson, in other words this is what an Instagram post would look like if there was an interspecies ocean literacy and advocacy artist collective. The mock Instagram post contains white text on a background of different shades of blue and white and reads “interspecies ocean literacy and advocacy artist collective”. In the top left corner and bottom right corner there is smaller white text that reads “Let’s Talk About”. A closed squiggly white line is also dr
Mock Graphic made on Canva by Simone Johnson
Simone holds what looks like Bladderwrack seaweed in the palm of her left hand. The seaweed is a deep green, lightening up at the tips of the seaweed. It looks like a big aquatic leaf of somekind, but it is seaweed. In the background you can see the ends of Simone’s pinkish-purple shirt. her blue capre pants and a bit of the gray rock she is sitting on.
Spending time with Bladderwrack (?) with artist andrea haenggi for her #TendingtheEdge project: Estuarial Assembly: Council of the Weeds
Simone “wears” light green seaweed on her left hand. Her hand faces upward where you can see her knuckles and fingernails. On her hand a piece of the seaweed lies on her index finger and some on the bottom part of her hand. Her middle finger has a tattooed circle on it at the bottom close to the knuckle. Simone is not sure what kind of seaweed this is, but it was floating in the ebb and flow of water at Mother Cove in Astoria, Queens. In the background is light brown sand & Simone’s right foot.
Seaweed ‘Jewelry’ at Mother Cove with Kin to the Cove Collective in Astoria, Queens, New York
Olive-brown Bladderwrack seaweed with “strap-like, branching fronds that have air-filled ‘bladders’ along their length” attached to rocks situated in the water, along the shoreline at Marsha P. Johnson State Park in Brooklyn, New York.
Simone observes Bladderwrack at Marsha P. Johnson State Park in Brooklyn, New York
Simone holds a dark purple seaweed in the palm of her left hand. The seaweed kind of looks like a baby kale leaf. In the background is green grass. This photo shows another seaweed encounter with artist andrea haenggi during Works on Water’s 2021 Summer Triennial.
Another seaweed encounter with artist andrea haenggi during Works on Water’s 2021 Summer Triennial
Simone wears a light gray hoodie, black pants and almost knee-length black boots. She holds a bright orange basket filled with freshly harvested seaweed off a cove in Steuben, Maine. She stands next to a medium sized wooden cart that has more orange baskets filled with freshly harvest seaweed. In the background are three plastic housing structures where seaweed is dried, a fourth housing structure further back and a black car behind Simone. Surrounding the area are tall green conifer trees.
Simone is holding a basket of freshly harvested seaweed in Maine / Photo Credit: Maine Seaweed
There are six Pacific Sea Nettle jellyfish gliding through blue water. They all have golden brown bell-shaped bodies with long, brown, ruffled tentacles following behind them
Pacific Sea Nettle Jellyfish / Photo Credit: Brian Gratwicke
A grey seal swims through a Giant Kelp forest
This is not a sea lion, but a harbor seal! I think maybe I meant to say a seal ❤ / Photo Credit: Kyle McBurnie
A close shot of Giant light green Kelp bodies (with a view of some kelp fronds) swaying in the ocean. The background is a light blue ocean. The photo is an animated film still from the animation and sound design by Jennifer Parker.
Film still via Jennifer Parker

Artist Statement:

This experiment builds off of the explorations and research I did in 2019 with “Ocean Radio” and “Deep Sea Time Warp 2020”, both under the umbrella of a larger ongoing, nonlinear project I’m doing called “The Oceans are Changing”, where I am researching the impact of climate change on the ocean. Through these two iterations, I’ve also explored and written about algae as a wayshower (or messenger) and advocate, especially for a just energy transition and energy education, respectively. For the third iteration “Wild Sun Catchers” I spent time researching kelp forests along the Pacific Coast in the United States and experimented with algae worldmaking through creative writing and voice acting. I also add in four elements from my current residency at OpenLab — Center for Collaborative Research where I am studying understandings of spacetime/temporality at the intersection of water, experimenting with Perspective, Memory, Presence/Presencing and opening up other, old-new, different oceanic and algal spacetimes. I am so excited about Jennifer Parker adding another dimension to the story through animation and sound design! What first started off as solely an audio experiment turned into collaborative worldmaking around algae.

A few notes . . .

  • *A note on the use of ‘it’ and ‘ki/kin ‘— I first learned about the use of ki/kin as pronouns after reading Robin Wall Kimmerer’s “Nature Needs a New Pronoun: To Stop the Age of Extinction, Let’s Start by Ditching ‘It’”. I must admit that sometimes I still use the term “it” to refer to other life, but the use of ki has always stayed with me and I’ve tried my best to use other words besides ‘it’. Language is an incredible tool or lifeway for worldmaking and world-building. A lot of the transformational shifts needed in today’s paradigms and ways of being, live in what words and languages we are using. But that ain’t nothing new!
  • *A note on the ‘interspecies ocean literacy and advocacy artist collective’ — I know that the word ‘species’ is connected to taxonomy (i.e. “the scientific study of naming, defining (circumscribing) and classifying groups of biological organisms based on shared characteristics”), an invention by Carl Linnaeus and western science’s way of classification and understanding the world. I used interspecies to communicate that merfolk and human beings are working together in the artist collective, but I am also interested in learning about other words, names, languages and framings to understand earth history, bio-commonalities, planetary diversity and describe Life working together.
  • *A note on Oceania — I write “many of the sea snails, sea stars and sand dollars have dreams about sea otters too, and when merfolk from other places in the Gulf of California, the islands of Hawai’i and vast Oceania*. . .”. It’s important to say that Hawai’i is generally included in Oceania (which I didn’t know!), a region of the world I started learning more about last Fall.

Selected Research Links:

Simone is Black non-binary person pictured at Beach 44 in Far Rockaway, Queens, New York. She sits on and against a rock, resting her left arm and hand on another rock to her left. She is wearing a black, wide neck, long-sleeved shirt. Simone has black hair and is wearing it in a short afro, she also has glasses on. She is looking into the distance. The upper half of the background is a light blue sky that merges into a blurry blue color closer to the bottom of the photo, which is the ocean
“Deep Sea Time Warp 2020” / Photo Credit: Alyssa Rapp


Simone Johnson is an interdisciplinary artist, researcher and cultural worker with roots in New York City. She mostly makes work about/with water.

Jennifer Parker is a white woman wearing a beige turtle-neck shirt and light brown rim glasses. Her brown hair is in a bun and she has bangs resting over her forehead. In the background looks like a long window with light brown frames and a light blue curtain.
Jennifer Paker / Photo Credit


Jennifer Parker investigates methods of Arts Integration in Higher Education by combining creative research practices with science, engineering, and technology. As an artist, Parker carves sites for collective entanglement between disciplines. Facilitating, identifying and determining the boundaries of complex, multi-dimensional space with the aim to develop (a sense of) community to encourage learning, and inform and develop the practice of its members. She is the Founding Director of OpenLab Center for Collaborative Research.

On a white background, black text on the left reads: “The Algae Society”, and next to this text, on the left, are three icons stacked on top of each other; the top one is green, the middle one is red and the third is orange. Each icon has some kind of black image in the middle. To the right of “The Algae Society” text, past a light green seperator bar, reads” BioArt Design Lab”. This graphic is their logo.
The Algae Society logo



Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store
Simone Johnson

Simone Johnson


Simone is an interdisciplinary artist, researcher and cultural worker