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Does the Ocean have memories?

In November 2016 I attended an interdisciplinary conference organized by NAKFI, called Discovering the Deep Blue Sea: Research, Innovation, Social Engagement,where participants explored the “frontiers of deep ocean science”. In studying for the conference I was struck by how little we know about how much of life on earth is in the ocean and how little we know about it - how much of a negative space it is. During our working group session on Biodiversity and the Microbiome, we discussed how the ocean responds to and reflects change and how environmental events might be encoded in oceanic organisms, systems, and structures. Thinking about this negative space of knowledge - this part of our world beyond our very senses and awareness - we stumbled upon an open and naive question. Does the ocean have memories? Perhaps because of its very openness and poetic resonance the question inspired a group of us to imagine a framework to explore the logic of oceanic memory across domains.
This effort will be conducted by a community of artists and scientists who will explore the problem of ocean memory with the help of these two NAKFI grants. The first, the Deep Sea Memory Project, will fund two interdisciplinary workshops to probe the question and generate new scientific and artistic projects intended to open up the way we understand and communicate about the ocean. The second, the Ocean Memory Art Project, will fund a collaboration between 4 artists and 3 scientists to create an immersive work of art that explores the deep sea and the polyphonic voices of the ocean’s memory.

Artist at Sea
Before these grants were awarded, knowing the next phase of my work was going to be aquatic, I applied to several ocean exploration artist residencies, and was chosen by Ocean Exploration Trust (OET) to be an Artist at Sea on their 2017 Nautilus expedition.This fall, I will accompany OET scientists on the Heceta Bank archaeological voyage to study submerged prehistoric coastal artifacts and on the Revillagigedo Archipelago mapping voyage to study submarine slope habitats. At sea—in dark and unknowable corners of the planet—I hope to confront my own ambivalent relationship to water, get a feel for aquatic perception, learn more about how scientists think the ocean and the processes they use to study it, and begin to understand if and how the ocean remembers.