The 2010 British Petroleum (BP) Deepwater Horizon oil spill is considered the largest environmental disaster in United States history to date. Three months after the explosion and sinking of the oil rig, which claimed the lives of eleven workers, the well was capped, but by then some 206 million gallons of oil had leaked into the Gulf of Mexico, creating a 124-mile wide “kill zone” that eradicated countless marine animals. It is estimated that half the oil spilled remains in the Gulf, which is an important fish and shellfish source for millions of people in North America as well as in Europe.
Artist, biologist, and environmental activist Brandon Ballengée responds to the aftermath of the BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill and the global crisis occurring in the world’s fisheries with Collapse—an installation of 26,162 preserved specimens, representing 370 species of fish and other aquatic organisms. Gallon-size jars are carefully arranged between sheets of glass in a seemingly precarious seven-foot pyramid suggesting the fragile interrelationships among Gulf species. From deep sea isopods to eyeless oil-stained shrimp with lesions, Ballengée’s collected specimens are reminiscent of silhouettes or apparitions. Empty jars represent species in decline or those already lost to extinction.