2021 marks the tenth anniversary of TBA21–Academy’s activity as a contemporary art organization and cultural ecosystem fostering a deeper relationship to the ocean through the lens of art to inspire care and action. For a decade, we have been an incubator for collaborative research, artistic production, and new forms of knowledge by combining art and science, resulting in exhibitions, research, and policy interventions. After years of itinerant practice, the Academy has found its home in Venice, in Chiesa di San Lorenzo, now known as Ocean Space.
This year, Ocean Space is a temporary home to two exhibitions that tell a story of the contemporary ocean from very different perspectives, coexisting side by side, entangled through sonic embraces. This has always been our intention—for Ocean Space to act as a cultural hub open for all, built on an ethos of interdisciplinary practice and dedicated to nurturing a polyvocal community, holding divergent, yet complementary positions on the most pressing issues of our time. At the same time, it is a space steeped in the history, culture, and waters of Venice. Tending to its surrounding communities and ecologies, Ocean Space seeks to amplify local issues so that they reverberate far beyond the expanse of the church itself and into global dialogues.
From Thursday, May 20 to Saturday, May 22, coinciding with the opening of the 17th International Venice Architecture Biennale, TBA21–Academy’s Ocean Space reactivates its local and digital community with three days of dedicated public programming springing from all streams of our activity—from exhibitions, publications, and conversations, to presentations of the Academy’s core programs, such as the Ocean Fellowship and The Current, as well as activities created by and for the local community, sensing the sounds, shapes, and flavors of the lagoon.
The program departs from a reflection on the ability of design to inspire consciences and guide habits with Design in Practice and then nods to the history of the space as a pavilion through Ark Re-Imagined, a collaboration with the first-ever Iraqi National Pavilion at the Architecture Biennale. Following on, it will expand upon the complex interconnections of the global oceans through the publication Oceans Rising, touch upon the very nature of Ocean Space with Sky Within Us and explore the edible components of the lagoon as agents of a culinary, political and philosophical discourse on the relationship between humans and the spaces they inhabit with A Live Pantry For a Community in Fermentation. It also brings Venice in dialogue with the Pacific through The Other Side of Air, a collaborative livestream by Taloi Havini and Ben Hakalitz, continues with the creation of a “liquid soundbook” of Venetian voices with Nowtilus, and brings about the notion of simply gathering and “Breathing Together” with the participants of the 2021 Ocean Fellowship. Therefore, the question of cohabitation posed by the Biennale also serendipitously frames the activities of TBA21–Academy and Ocean Space, focusing on how we can enhance life together, human and more-than-human, with the ocean and with all its complex, multivocal entanglements.
About the exhibitions
The project Territorial Agency: Oceans in Transformation, curated by Daniela Zyman, offers a visually grasping reinterpretation of the contemporary oceans, holding in tension art, science, architecture, and spatial analysis to reshape and complicate our understanding of the climate crisis and the rapidly changing ocean. Under this new climatic and epistemological regime, the oceans appear as “unframed, discontinuous, and asynchronous,” challenging the exploitative sovereign frameworks of in/visibility and normalization. Oceans in Transformation centers the oceans as a sensorium as well as a method of thinking and inquiry on the historical and persistent violence against ecosystems and life-forms of all kinds. The second chapter of this exhibition introduces new questions and visual methods developed in collaboration with an open research community of ocean thinkers and practitioners in 2020. Oceans in Transformation now focalizes new materials and arguments, contributing to a deeper and more elaborate installation version.
Born out of Territorial Agency: Oceans in Transformation, the publication Oceans Rising contributes to the wealth of new scholarship and expression responding to the rapidly changing world oceans. Spanning from essays to conversations, interviews, poems, and visual assemblages, the contributions give an account of the difficulties and aspirations arising from the encounters of different epistemological traditions and from reconnecting ocean sciences with the humanities, with interspecies sensibilities, and ancestral worldmaking practices, deeply entangled with vast sea- and icescapes.
The Soul Expanding Ocean #1: Taloi Havini is the first chapter of a two-year curatorial cycle entitled The Soul Expanding Ocean by Ocean Space’s 2021 and 2022 curator Chus Martínez. Constituting her largest European exhibition to date, Taloi Havini’s work consists of a sound installation and a theatrical set, invoking the domain of her homeland, Bougainville. Curated by Chus Martínez, this exhibition subverts the gaze and challenges conventional notions of knowledge and ownership perpetuated in the name of science and exploration. It rather invites listeners to congregate and reflect on the importance of others, their culture, their way of relating to nature, to law, to knowledge. The audience—who might not be able to visit Oceania—is included in the communal ethos of the conversation Havini is creating. The ancient proverb, ‘I am because I belong with others’ is a fundamental belief that Taloi’s work, Answer to the Call, brings to life.
Territorial Agency: Oceans in Transformation is commissioned by TBA21–Academy and co-produced with Luma Foundation.
The Soul Expanding Ocean #1: Taloi Havini is commissioned by TBA21–Academy and co-produced with Schmidt Ocean Institute, co-founded by Wendy Schmidt.
Image: View of Territorial Agency: Oceans in Transformation, Ocean Space, Venice, 2021. Design: Studio Folder.
Chiesa di San Lorenzo
30122 Venice, Italy