Venice to host ‘Oceans in Transformation’: an exhibition on the mystery and troubles around our oceans

Venice to host ‘Oceans in Transformation’: an exhibition on the mystery and troubles around our oceans
Territorial Agency—Oceans in Transformation commissioned by TBA21-Academy. The rapid depletion of the coastal ecosystems of the Mississippi Delta, combined with sea level rise scenarios. © Territorial Agency
Leading lights

‘Not knowing the ocean is part of being human,’ stated curator Daniela Zyman. The breadth, mystery, and changes of and within Earth’s oceans are the topics of an upcoming exhibition of works curated by Zyman. Titled ‘Territorial Agency: Oceans in Transformation,’ the exhibition, presented by Territorial Agency and TBA21-Academy, will run from March 22, 2020 through September 27, 2020 at Ocean Space in Venice.

A body of interdisciplinary installations combine science, research, and art to bring climate change, a major event of the Anthropocene (the current geological era formed out of human activity and its impact on Earth) to the forefront. Superimposed images bring together rising sea levels, deep-sea mining, maritime transport, overfishing, seafloor trawling, migration, changing ocean patterns, oil exploration, and plethora of other issues. These images and installations thus bring viewers face-to-face with a reality that we face today: the fact that the ocean is a ‘stage for human violence, empire and colonial history.’

Caption: Territorial Agency—Oceans in Transformation commissioned by TBA21-Academy. A view of the Pacific ocean floor, off the coast of Hawaii. Multi-beam sonar data. © Territorial Agency.


The exhibition will also highlight the ways in which we don’t fully know or understand our oceans. In line with Territorial Agency’s ongoing research, visualizing the oceans, which sheds light on how much we have yet to figure out, also highlights how we also don’t know the Anthropocene in its entirety at all, either. Although the oceans are largely unexplored, ‘Oceans in Transformation’ presents them as a ‘sensorium’ for the Anthropocene and the effects of unbridled global modernization.

Three years ago, the roots that would create ‘Oceans in Transformation’ were fostered by TBA21–Academy. Territorial Agency was subsequently founded by urbanists and architects Ann-Sofi Rönnskog and John Palmesino. Between the two, a trans-disciplinarian methodology was born to unify ‘thinkers, do-ers and makers who can agitate the status quo of the oceans policies.’ From the work of Territorial Agency, ‘Oceans in Transformation’ became a way to showcase the inter-disciplinarian research and creations to challenge our understanding and outlooks on the world situation. Ocean Space was the ideal place for ‘Oceans in Transformation’ as it is a newly refurbished venue in Venice’s Church of San Lorenzo that also aims to use the arts as a way to focus on ocean research and literacy. Moreover, Ocean Space experiences the effects of rising sea-level, first-hand, as Venice struggles to stay above water throughout the year.

Adding an extra punch, ‘Oceans in Transformation’ will coincide with 17th International Architecture Exhibition – La Biennale di Venezia, which will kick off in Venice on May 23rd. As many of the world’s leaders in architecture descend on Italy’s floating city, Territorial Agency hopes the exhibition will provoke further interest, conversation, and research around the topics with which they wrestle. Additionally, ‘Oceans in Transformation’ will hold special programmes during La Biennale alongside their regular programmes, which will run throughout the exhibition, to engage visitors.

Regarding the upcoming exhibition, we give the last words to Territorial Agency who stated: ‘The oceans are changing very fast, yet knowledge of them is moving slowly and is enveloped in long-established forms of cultural separation and distinction between human activities at land and at sea. This division needs to be rethought to address the urgent and vast transformations that the seas are undergoing.’

‘Territorial Agency: Oceans in Transformation’ is curated by Daniela Zyman and will be at Ocean Space in the Church of San Lorenzo in Venice beginning March 22, 2020.

Edited December 9: Ocean Space was once incorrectly referred to as ‘Open Space’ and Territorial Agency was incorrectly referred to as ‘Territory Agency,’ both of which have now been corrected. 

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