The Biosphere Foundation and the ship MIR. 2015-2016
I travel through the night and arrive in Singapore whilst its still dark. Gaie awaits my arrival at the lobby, and greets me as a sister would. I feel like we already know each other even though we just met. We are buggy carted to The Mir, the 105 year old ship that is to be my home for the next 5 weeks. Captain Laser welcomes me aboard as my heavy overpacked suitcase is lugged on deck. I am tired but excited. Six months ago, I was invited to join The Biosphere crew to honour their work in the world and celebrate our connection to our planet by painting them into their world. My arrival felt like a dream become ‘reality’, and as I crawled into my bunk for my first nights sleep, I disappeared into the mystery of wild sailing adventures ahead, grateful and satisfied.
I awoke on Christmas day - the sails still needed to go up so we decide to delay our exit from Singapore. That night, family members of the Singaporean shipmates joined our christmas dinner. Sitting on pillows on deck, our faces glowed under the full moonlight. We feasted on turkey with cranberry sauce, potatoes and broccoli and the vibe was of family, love and humble beginnings.
Sailing Singapore to Bali - 10 days at sea
As we pushed off into the sea, my moon cycled into flow. Impeccable timing a.k.a. a fucking disaster. Pain permeated my whole body as the ship began it’s rock and roll… A day passed and we arrived at immigration in Indonesia. Thick black smoke bellowed from the immigration boat whilst papers were passed over sea via fishing nets. Permissions were granted. Our crew filmed the black layer of oil on the surface of the water as we sailed away. Meanwhile, a headache started to pound to the beat of my creeping nausea. A squall set in and the rain washed us into submission, the team came to life with exuberance as Laser thundered his orders upon us as only a Captain on a ship knows how.. By the end of the next day, my headache had washed away. Gaie and Laser began to share their story with me, 30 years working in the realms of conservation, education and environmental connection, and the original ‘Biospherians’ from Biosphere Two. Biosphere Two was the world’s largest scientific enclosure, a $200 million dollar experiment funded by Ed Bass, a white sheep philanthropist from a family with an accumulated oil fortune. The multi million dollar initiative was born to mimic the earth itself as a research institute, set in the desert of Oracle, Arizona. Gaie and Laser lived inside for two years, breathing air only from within and eating food only from what was grown. The experience that ended in a savage armed seize for reasons mysteriously unanswered, set the foundation and life’s purpose for Abigail Alling (Gaei) and Mark van Thillo’s (Laser). As I listened to them share their story with me, I began to awaken more and more to the gravity of my presence their on The Mir, that through painting them into the biosphere itself, we would be expressing their message in the most direct visual way, honour their story through my paintbrush.
As the days went on, planning ensued, and meetings were had. Each person within our 10 piece ship ensemble was assigned a vital and significant role in the execution of our upcoming unprecedented production. It was finally decided that Gaie and Laser were to be painted naked into the sea and the ship whilst sailing through Indonesian waters. As usual, I agreed to the plan without knowing how I would be able to do it and prayed to Spirit to support me in seeing it through! In the meantime, life on the ship continued with our voyage to Bali only halfway there, 4 hours shifts cycled between the crew for helming, deck checks, and meal preparations, and the starlit sky guided our way, through the deep sway of the nights. The weather rumbled with anticipation for a choice had to be made on which day we would create. A gamble, in pure faith - we chose. We prayed to the mother for stillness on the chosen day so we could express our love for her and then we surrendered in trust and respect; I asked them to trust me, trust her, and they did.
The day arrived, I awoke at 4:44am to meditate and pray before the Merge. The sky was dark excepts for a trifecta of light. Mars, Venus and the moon gathered in a perfect isosceles triangle, symbolic of the unification we were about to honour between the people, the messenger and the almighty. I breathed it in and sat in stillness, inhaling trust and exhaling prayers of gratitude. Eventually i made my way to front deck to meet the crew. Gaie and Laser were ready and prepped in their sarongs, and Qi, our camera man was waiting to be hoisted up the mast to install the go pro for the time-lapse footage. As they leveraged him up, Gaie and Laser and I huddled together, arms around each other, to give thanks, honouring the essence of the creation and joining our intentions for the healing of the planet and humanity. The world became lighter with the dawn approaching and time beckoned us to begin. Hair was woven into plaits, gelled back, sprayed white and left to dry, positions were taken, marked out and secured - heads faced the same direction and hands held one another at the meeting point of the flag pole whilst feet sunk into the deck. A path of sea stretched out before us, and the stillness of the water affirmed the perfection of the moment. The Merge had begun.
The next four hours that ensued were holy. Our synchronised purpose revealed the magic of teamwork and Spirit kept the world still and peaceful whilst we worked. Our shared message was reborn through our hands, our hearts and our Art, to be told forever through the works created. As the heat beat down, the speed at which I needed to paint began to take its toll.. after about 3 hours my head was spinning and I needed to keep myself from blacking out. Breathing consciously until the dizziness past again and again. Meanwhile, Gaie and Laser seemed to be blissed out on the sparkles of the sea, with barely a quiver and certainly no complaints. Strong as the 105 year old ship we sailed upon, their legs solid, connected and merged held them in place as I painted straight lines of the decking on the curves of their steady ankles.
And then, without warning, we were done. Photos were painstakingly taken whilst the sun glared against my camera screen, and I squinted and struggled to see whether I had got the shot..! Within seconds of me declaring the word 'OK', the Biospherians had jumped off the edge of the boat with no second chances offered; paint was released from its body-bound form whilst the blessed two baptised in the cool baths of the gods.
My job was done.
Ever grateful for the unique experience with the Biosphere Foundation, for witnessing the difference that a small group of people can make in the world when they follow their heart, take risks in life and live integrally with purpose to the calling.
16 years world traveller, internationally recognised award winning body painter with a background in Anthropology, Orly delves deep into the enquiry of what it means to be a human being and ceaselessly expresses her art whilst following her heart. Nowadays, specialising in mimitism (camouflage), Orly's current expressions are a moving living creative and expansive entity that represents her passion for re-merging humanity with the earth from which we came, sustainable conscious living, healing the sacred feminine as we learn to respect our mother earth and advocacy for balancing commercial gain with global and local contributions.