Documents of Contemporary Art: Oceans


Documents of Contemporary Art: Oceans

‘From ecologies of human and nonhuman abundance to environmental threats, from disruptive colonial and migratory ocean crossings to the sea’s sensuous connectivity, from brittlestars to microbial and technological aquatic agents, this volume casts a wide net of artistic, literary and multidisciplinary references introducing the oceans as a vital subject in contemporary art.’

– Stefanie Hessler, Contemporary art curator, art writer, Director of Swiss Institute, New York, and author of Prospecting Ocean (2019)

‘Our relationship with the seas and oceans and the huge threats they are facing is not just one of scientific measurement and experiment; each of us has a personal connection. Beyond what we understand, we feel and imagine the sea. Pandora Syperek and Sarah Wade have brought together this wonderful anthology containing some of the most important and diverse artist and curator voices internationally, who explore the extraordinary oceanic world now and historically. This book powerfully demonstrates that artists, the greatest imaginers, have a vital role in protecting our oceans; giving us hope, new visions and inspiration.’

– Alice Sharp, Artistic Director of the art and environment organisation Invisible Dust

Edited by Pandora Syperek & Sarah Wade

Oceans cover more than 70 percent of the Earth’s surface, dividing and connecting humans, who carry saltwater in their blood, sweat and tears. They also represent a powerful nonhuman force, rising, flooding, heating and raging in unprecedented ways as the climate crisis unfolds. Artists have envisioned the sea as a sublime wilderness, home to mythical creatures and bizarre species, a source of life and death, a site of new beginnings and tragic endings, both wondrous and disastrous. From migration to melting ice caps, the sea is omnipresent in international news and politics, leaking into popular culture and proliferating in recent art and exhibitions. This anthology gathers artists and writers to address the ocean not only as a theme but as a major agent of artistic and curatorial methods.

Artists surveyed include

Bas Jan Ader, Eileen Agar, John Akomfrah, Heba Y. Amin, Shuvinai Ashoona, Betty Beaumont, Leopold & Rudolf Blaschka, Heidi Bucher, Marcus Coates, Tacita Dean, Chris Dobrowolski, Léuli Eshrāghi, Ellen Gallagher, Ayesha Hameed, Barbara Hepworth, Klara Hobza, Isuma, Brian Jungen, Tania Kovats, Sonia Levy, Armin Linke, Lani Maestro, Ana Mendieta, Kasia Molga, Eleanor Morgan, Wangechi Mutu, Saskia Olde Wolbers, Jean Painlevé and Geneviève Hamon, Allan Sekula, Shimabuku, Ahren Warner, Christine & Margaret Wertheim, Alberta Whittle.

Writers include

Stacy Alaimo, Bergit Arends, Erika Balsom, Karen Barad, Rachel Carson, Mel Y. Chen, T.J. Demos, Marion Endt-Jones, Kodwo Eshun, Paul Gilroy, Stefano Harney, Epeli Hau’ofa, Donna Haraway, Eva Hayward, Stefanie Hessler, Luce Irigaray, Zakiyyah Iman Jackson, Celina Jeffery, Melody Jue, Max Liboiron, Lana Lopesi, Chus Martínez, Jules Michelet, Fred Moten, Astrida Neimanis, Celeste Olalquiaga, Ralph Rugoff, John Ruskin, Marina Warner, Jan Verwoert.

Pandora Syperek is a writer and art historian who researches the intersections of art and science, gender and the nonhuman within cultures of display. She is Leverhulme Early Career Fellow at Loughborough University London and Visiting Fellow at the V&A Research Institute.

Sarah Wade is an art historian and Lecturer in Museum Studies at University of East Anglia. Her research examines human-animal relations and representations of wildlife in contemporary art and exhibitions, particularly in relation to ecological concerns.

Paperback, 240 pages, 210 x 145 mm

ISBN 978-0-85488-304-2

First published 2023

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