Ocean Space, situated in the Church of San Lorenzo in Venice, is a new embassy for the Ocean, initiated and led by TBA21–Academy, an international cultural organisation investigating the state of our Ocean. We have created this platform to engage with the Ocean through the imaginative and speculative lens of art: to explore cultural meanings and representations of the Ocean in a time of planetary change. The questions of Ocean Imagination are: how do we shape the Ocean, and how is it shaping us? How do we deepen our understanding and strengthen our connection to the watery worlds?
The health of our oceans is a vital dimension of the climate crisis, and we want to highlight the need for ocean preservation as our shared public responsibility. We want to build kinships with and among the entire biotic community, inspire participation and drive collective Ocean Action: act with care to make a difference.
Venice has long been a centre for international exchange, a hub for trade and marine navigation, the starting point of exploration and its—both enlightening and detrimental—consequences, as well as a platform for critical reflection of the state of the world through global initiatives such as the Venice Biennale. Today, alongside numerous other coastal communities and island states, Venice is facing the effects of the climate crisis and sea-level rise in an unprecedented way. We have opened our door to work with the local community, to amplify the voices that live with the lagoon, as the relationship between the lagoon and its citizens plays an invaluable role in understanding how human and non-human life can coexist in a delicate ecosystem.
Our programme of exhibitions, public and educational programme follows the mission of creating a community of care and concern for the Ocean, as well as raising awareness for the broader problematics of environmental injustice with sensitivity to the changes in our immediate environments. The programme dedicates particular attention to phenomena directly affecting the lagoon: mass tourism and cruise travels, ecological pollution and marine traffic, and lagoon policies.
Following the idea of a space dedicated to visitors and locals alike, we have been developing an educational programme that cooperates with Venetian educational institutions, such as the Regional Bureau UNESCO for Science and Culture in Europe, Institute of Marine Sciences ISMAR-CNR, and Marciana National Library. We began conducting ‘ocean literacy’ training for children, teachers, families, teens and adults to build oceanic awareness across all age groups, and have been engaging with young researchers to enrich the investigations carried out by collaborating artists, scientists and other actors.
The current global conditions have forced us all to face the challenge of creating audiences and transmitting knowledge in a time when mobility and proximity need to manifest in ways we have never experienced before. However, we have seen it firsthand in Venice, as well as many other places: education has not halted, culture has not been silenced, and communities are still standing strong. To help create new ways of gathering community, we have designed a digital programme, entitled La Città Riflessa, “The Reflected City”, comprising podcasts (such as the new series Nowtilus. Stories from an urban lagoon in the 21st century), digital public participation initiatives, and calls for artistic submissions.
Ocean Space wants to offer a space of encounter as well as a forum for discussion and debate in response to the pressing issues facing the city today: to become a space for dialogue and action, ingrained in the cultural fabric of Venice. We want to invite cultural, scientific, and educational institutions, groups, individuals, and the public to join us in the collective vision for future cohabitation.
The time for Ocean Imagination and Ocean Action is now.
Markus Reymann is the cofounder and director of TBA21-Academy.
Find more information on Ocean Space’s digital programme at: