The Oceanographies Institute

Who knows what an ocean is? Or, for that matter, what counts as valid knowledge of ocean(s)? Apart from more or less objective –and objectifying–definitions, isn’t an ocean a thing that each person would define in a different way? As different human bodies encounter this immense body of water differently and singularly?

With Oceanographies, I propose to focus on those multiple and heterogeneous definitions that are based on singular encounters, and to trust them as valid forms of ocean knowledge. Oceanographies is, therefore, a work about the relation between two kinds of bodies: the human body and the vast body of water the ocean is. The project studies the relation of hands to the mud, ears to the breaking of the waves, feet to the feeling of sinking, rather than on the ocean “in itself”, devoid of human presence. It is an exploration of the ocean, based on individual accounts of people’s encounters with it.

By focusing on encounters between bodies of water, and the affects that arise from those encounters, the work insists on intimate, vulnerable and plural knowledges of ocean. It proposes poetry as a carrier of those knowledges. Poetry here is understood as a form of expression encompassing different media, not necessarily language based. Following the work’s different stages, it includes oral storytelling, conversation and performance, but also writing, which functions as the main means of documentation of the work.

Indeed, the work is interested in ways of documenting those ocean encounters on which it focuses, and to organize them. I therefore aim to form an archive of ocean encounters, yet without forfeiting the intimacy and vulnerability of experience inherent in those encounters. Still, the desire to document and to archive is a desire to validate and, by consequence, to institutionalize. The work aims to instigate a process of institutionalization of its own poetics, thus forming the Oceanographies Institute. Poetry here can function as a means to challenge and to queer a more conventional understanding of archives as dispositives for “storing” and “classifying” knowledge, and of institutions as the keepers of this knowledge.

In fact, the central question of Oceanographies is the following: how can the ocean be included as an agent in the work itself, and allow it to shape it -to flood it even? In other words, how can the ocean be summoned within and through the work? And how can poetry, an ocean poetics, be the motor for such summoning?

Oceanographies is interested in two simultaneous processes of becoming: its becoming ocean and its becoming Institute. The tensions arising from those two seemingly opposing movements is, in essence, what the work is about (and with).