During the 59 Biennale Arte di Venezia, sustainability and the human connection with nature and the planet are some of the most relevant themes seen in the installations and works of art in the city of canals. One of my favorite projects this year is ‘The Soul Expanding Ocean’ at Ocean Space, which is located in the Church of San Lorenzo in Venice. Ocean Space is a planetary hub for catalyzing ocean literacy, research and advocacy through the arts, run by TBA21 Academy, a contemporary arts organization and cultural ecosystem that fosters a deeper relationship with the ocean through the lens of art to inspire care and action.
The project ‘The Soul Expanding Ocean’ curated by Chus Martínez hosts two individual exhibitions at Ocean Space Venice during the Biennale:
“Ocean! What if your desperate mission is not to change?” by South African-born contemporary artist Dineo Seshee Bopape and „Ciguatera” by Portuguese -The artist born Diana Policarpo. These two individual exhibitions are independent, and yet they are connected by many common threads. Just as humans are so different and individual in our daily lives, but all connected to the same source: our planet and mother nature. Both commissions give voice and presence to the ocean as a repository of colonial stories where the plots interconnect the past, the present and the future. The stories are told by microorganisms and algae that have been in coexistence since the earliest stages of evolution. The rocks, the voices and the images are in motion like the waves and the earth that keeps the memory and substance of past actions that damaged life in many ways.
Dineo Seshee Bopape: „Ocean! What if not to change is your desperate mission?“
Dineo Seshee Bopape’s work is an immersive journey between past, present and future. It makes you realize that there is really no past or future. There is only the present moment, the now and the permanent connection with our planet.
From the Solomon Islands, to the plantations on the Mississippi, to Jamaica, and then back to South Africa. In Bopape’s work, travel becomes a language that allows time lines to converge and intersect in the space of waters.
His approach fuses various dimensions, such as historical curiosity and science, with traditional wisdom, a sense of hope, imagination, energies, and spirituality, to create a conversation with the Ocean. This is beautifully captured in the video of him and augmented reality works that activate a multiple presence, settling inside the massive rocks he brought to Ocean Space.
Diana Polycarp: “ciguatera”
This multimedia installation by Diana Policarpo, inside the Church of San Lorenzo Venice, creates a magical atmosphere by using film and audio to enhance a certain sense of presence while capturing her own process of investigation.
Starting in the Portuguese Savage Islands, he created a case study of mapping colonial histories through monitoring natural biodiversity. You lie on these large cushions and feel as if you are floating in the sea. With its technological lenses, its perspective and special cameras, one can see layers of vital activity that human eyes cannot see. Diana wants our bodily experiences to be affected and transformed; these experiences turn into a liquid substance similar to water. The materiality of the artworks contributes to the feeling of being inside the ocean and thinking from within.
A beautiful must-see during this year’s Venice Biennale, which aims to recapture space for speculative thinking about our ecological future.