We often think of artmaking as the making of beautiful pictures, and the contemplation of the ocean as the inspiration for a scenic maritime landscape. I am interested in ways in which artmaking and knowledge exchange intersect and inform each other. More specifically, my research centres on how creative practices can be integral to fostering ocean science literacy and policy advocacy. I am also interested in ways that people — as viewers, participants, and makers—engage in the conversations about environmental precarity and climate justice through individual and collective action.
The interdisciplinary art engagement projects taking place throughout the Ocean Festival, from June to September and beyond, challenge and address a broad array of themes such as: the ocean as a romantic landscape subject; the visualization of scientific data; the intersection of human bodies and water; the contemplative nature of journaling as a healing practice; the ocean as an instrument of colonializing economies; water systems as themselves living beings, separate from their value for human use; the connection between the planet’s “deep time” and our urgent present moment; and the recognition that water – from wetlands, streams, rivers, and lakes leading to the ocean – and all the life on earth supported by it, is a more-than-human entity.
Artistic methodologies challenge the status quo thinking and practice, fostering innovation across all disciplines, as well as opening us up to possibilities beyond our habitual mindsets. With core values of inclusivity and accessibility, this year’s ocean artist/animator projects will connect with broad audiences of all ages and demographics to participate in a variety of art experiences: immersive environments, crowd-sourced interrogation of “found object” debris, live performance, as well as participatory real space and online artmaking field trips, hands-on makerspace workshops, and intersectoral discussions about approaches to art in the context of ocean literacy. Sharing these exciting and provocative re-imaginings is essential to overcome the paralysis of eco-anxiety and to take action to ensure ocean survival, and thus our own.
It is imperative that all of us – each with our unique imprint of cultural knowledge, acquired skills, and lived experience – combine our energy to address collectively the urgent issues of our time. Watch this space as I collect and share innovative art practices, interdisciplinary discussions, studio visits, and makerspace events.
-Dr. Melissa Rombout
Curator, Ocean Artist/Animator Program
Ocean Week Canada 2022
and the Ocean Festival