The Oceanographies Institute studies human-ocean kinships. Its focus is essentially the relation between two kinds of bodies of water: the human body and the vast body of the ocean. It gives particular attention to affectual and sensual encounters between the two bodies. The institute therefore studies the relations of hands to mud, ears to the breaking the waves, feet to the feeling of sinking, rather than the ocean “in itself”, as if devoid of the human presence. It collects, analyzes and reenacts people's personal stories and encounters with the ocean. The tools it uses for this study come primarily from performance, sound art, and storytelling.
In fact, the institute uses microphones, speakers and light filters for its research, considering them to be as appropriate for studying personal relations to oceans as microscopes or petri dishes. In a series of private meetings, called Ocean Conversations and Demonstrations, different people’s experiences and memories of the ocean are explored. In public performances, the institute aims to reenact and share those private conversations with the public. We are currently exploring different musical protocols for performing the ocean conversations. Our aim is to open up and bridge the space between speech and music, thus allowing different levels of engagement, from sensual to cerebal to somatic-therapeutic, with the public.
At the end of 2019, a group of collaborators joined TOI, namely Elpida Orfanidou and Charlie Usher. What joins the TOI Team is a curiosity surrounding questions of physical affectivity, wet sensations, voice work, durational performance and musicality. At this stage of the Institute’s development, the focus is twofold: on the one hand, we want to deepen already existing practices of the institute by joining our forces. On the other hand, we want to move from the “I” to the “we”. During the coming year, we will focus on the question of how the Institute can function as a collaborative platform that can host the multiple artistic practices of its participants. From this central question follow others, equally urgent, about what a fair institutional artistic practice can be in a living and working environment that is defined by precarity. Questions about visible and invisible work within the institute -and its remuneration. And questions about authorship and its sharing.
The Personal is Political
On a global scale, the ocean is implicated in most -if not all- of our current global “crises” and is hence clearly of great political relevance. TOI wants to make this fact apparent by breaking down those global issues to the level of individual relations to the ocean. By studying how the ocean or the sea has accompanied, guided, influenced or changed people’s lives on a personal level, whether they are professionally related to it or not, TOI aims to make the omni-presence of the ocean tangible in our busy, urban lives and bodies.