Just as the sea is an open and ever flowing reality, so should our oceanic identity transcend all forms of insularity, to become one that is openly searching, inventive, and welcoming.
—Epeli Hau’ofa, We Are the Ocean: Selected Works

As watery, we experience ourselves less as isolated entities, and more as oceanic eddies: I am a singular, dynamic whorl dissolving in a complex, fluid circulation.
—Astrida Neimanis, “Hydrofeminism: Or, On Becoming a Body of Water?”

For the 2021–2022 program, Studium Generale Rietveld Academie took a deep dive into the ocean. Through its reflective surface and from our own liquid bodies, we imagined the oceanic as a sensorium that feels, perceives, registers, and creates.

We cannot experience with our own senses most of what happens in the ocean, and human activity and greedy extractive economies seriously threaten it. As a discontinuous and asynchronous time-space and a critical zone, the ocean holds violent histories of exploitation, fear, and death, from the transatlantic slave trade to contemporary migrations and human displacement caused by rising sea levels. From another perspective, the oceanic can be experienced as a transformative space: a space of affect and metamorphosis in which bodies and identities become fluid, in which human and more-than-human entities meet.

How can the oceanic inform an ideology? What kind of power relations are at work in the sea? And how can we create new sensitivities and awareness of what is beyond our own biased sensory system?

Following a preliminary program at the Rietveld Academie, “Oceanic Imaginaries” was a four-day conference-festival at the Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam guest-curated by Stefanie Hessler, Natasha Ginwala, and Bonaventure Soh Bejeng Ndikung with Michelangelo Corsaro, Erika Balsom, Charl Landvreugd with Joy Mariama Smith, and Tarek Lakhrissi. “Oceanic Imaginaries” featured contributions by Elizabeth DeLoughrey, Julien Creuzet, Alexis Pauline Gumbs, Josèfa Ntjam and Hugo Mir-Valette, Brook Garru Andrew, Yasmine Attoumane, Clara Sukyoung Jo, Köken Ergun, Yvonne Adhiambo Owuor, Francesca Savoldi, Zahra Malkani and Syma Tariq, Louis Lumière, Noriaki Tsuchimoto, Ricardo Matos Cabo, Rebecca Meyers, Francisco Rodriguez, Hira Nabi, Joy Mariama Smith, and Tarek Lakhrissi.

How can we liquefy our ways of being? How can we think from and with the ocean?

Studium Generale Rietveld Academie is an extensive transdisciplinary theory program that addresses students and faculty at all departments of the Gerrit Rietveld Academie in Amsterdam. It regularly opens up to broader audiences. Studium Generale wants to show how art and design are linked with other domains (from the personal to the political, from the vernacular to the academic) and how our “now” is linked with past and future, our “here” with “elsewhere.”

 

Preview image: Mélanie Cot, Martina Vanini, Sigríður Hafdís Hannesdóttir, Oceanic Imaginaries — How can we liquefy our ways of being? How can we think from and with the ocean?, 2022.

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