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?

I propose to focus on those multiple and heterogeneous definitions, which are based on singular encounters, and to trust them as valid forms of ocean knowledge. I propose an Oceanographies Institute, whose work centers around the relation between two kinds of bodies: the human body and the vast body of the ocean. The Institute will study the relation of hands to the mud, ears to the breaking of the waves, feet to the feeling of sinking, rather than the ocean “in itself”, devoid of human presence. It will be a research institute of the ocean that is interested in 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 Oceanographies Institute focuses 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 Institute’s different activities, it includes oral storytelling, conversation and performance, but also writing, as the main means of documentation of the Institute’s work.

In fact, the Oceanographies Institute is interested in ways of documenting those ocean encounters on which it focuses, and to organize them. It therefore aims 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 Institute aims to make transparent this process of institutionalization of its own poetics. 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.

The central goal of the Oceanographies Institute is to make the presence of the ocean apparent within everyday experience. In other words, the question is: how can the ocean be summoned within and through the work of the Institute? And how can poetry, an ocean poetics, be the motor for such summoning?

The research is essentially 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 of the Oceanographies Institute is about.