The artist, Shih Chieh Huang, was studying bioluminous organisms as part of an artist research fellowship at the Smithsonian when he happened upon a pile of plastic-bag-encased garbage. A thought popped into his mind: What would happen if these garbage bags grew up?
“I started to imagine them growing up as these complex creatures,” he told me, as an errant tentacle gently poked him in the ear. “This [cyborg] is made from Tupperware, computer fans, and all the tentacles are made from painter’s plastic you can get from the hardware store to cover your sofa. I cut them in half, folded them, and sealed them.” While the cyborg is priced at a steep $60,000, the orbiting water bottles are a nearly affordable $2,500 each.
As the artist was describing disphotic zone dynamics—“sections of the ocean where light disappears and strange creatures with abnormal behaviors meet”—a couple brushed against us. “Do you think we can make out here?” one of them whispered to the other.