For centuries, the ocean has prompted awe, figuring as a vast unknown space loaded with notions of the sublime and the exotic. In the past fifteen years however, global technological and economic shifts have triggered new concerns and understandings of the ocean. As we consider the future of our planet, today’s oceans reveal more about the consequences of human actions than ever before. The ocean and humanity, no longer thought of as separate, exist in a relationship of mutual and potentially destructive influence.
The Ocean After Nature considers the ocean as a site reflecting the ecological, cultural, political, and economic realities of a globalized world through the work of twenty artists and collectives. These internationally established and emerging artists explore new ways of representing the seascape as a means to identify and critique the various interrelated and chaotic systems of power, such as land-sea divides, the circulation of people and goods, and the vulnerabilities of our ecosystems. Featuring work in a wide variety of media—including photography, video, sculpture, music, and design—the exhibition proposes that seascapes do not only reflect power but can be instruments of power themselves.
Invoking personal themes of identity and migration, alongside more universal concerns related to tourism, trade, and the exploitation of natural resources, the artists in The Ocean After Nature respond to the intertwined factors that define this new understanding of the ocean.
At each hosting site of this traveling exhibition, a new work by a local artist is added to the presentation in order to contextualize it for its diverse global audiences. YBCA invited the San Francisco–based artist Dimitra Skandali to present a site-responsive sculpture.