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Read an article about Anthropocene Ocean, and Write a speech draft about artist Mark Dion and her project “Trace Evidence”.The requirement about the speech draft is to introduce the artist “Mark Dion” and her project “Trace Evidence”. Also, the Draft need to relates to the article that I gave. In the end of the draft need to answer post a question about the content.Here is the website about the artist and her work. Please watch the video. is the article


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Comparative Literature
Submarine Futures
of the Anthropocene
The Oceanic Turn
We are witnessing an interdisciplinary transition to what might be called “critical ocean studies” that reflects an important shift from a long-term concern with
mobility across transoceanic surfaces to theorizing oceanic submersion, thus rendering vast oceanic space into ontological place. This has much to do with a new
oceanic imaginary emerging in the wake of the knowledge of anthropogenic climate change and sea-level rise. This turn to ontologies of the sea and its multispecies engagements are the focus of this paper, particularly their implications for
temporality and aesthetics in the Anthropocene.
The oceanic turn of the twentieth century issued from geopolitics as well as new
interdisciplinary groupings in the humanities and social sciences. It can be traced
to the 1945 Truman Proclamation — ​t he most significant, and yet largely unremarked, twentieth-century remapping of the globe —​which extended U.S. territory to include a two-hundred nautical mile Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) (see
DeLoughrey, Routes). This created a scramble for the oceans, catalyzing EEZ declarations by nations all over the world and a U.N. Convention on the Law of the
Sea that effectively remapped seventy percent of the planet. Although largely
unnoticed by new disciplinary groupings such as the “Blue Humanities” (Mentz),
Cold War geopolitics had a decisive influence in configuring a new understanding
of the terraqueous globe.
The second catalyst for the rise of critical ocean studies was the post-1970s “spatial turn,” which led to the emergence of globalization and diaspora studies. Marxist geography was integral to defining the post-Fordist era of global capitalism and
relations of labor to space. This loosening of nationally-bounded modes of thinking about capital and space led to an unprecedented number of transoceanic
studies, notably the work of Marcus Rediker, which helped to inspire Paul Gilroy’s
The Black Atlantic, a text that inaugurated a new generation of thinking about race
in transoceanic ways.1 While the scramble for the seas largely figured the ocean
There was ample black Atlantic scholarship before Gilroy; his work brought forward its oceanic
contours, even if the ocean for him was not a material place. For the Pacific and Indian Ocean contexts, see Epeli Hau’ofa’s We Are the Ocean and Gaurav Desai’s Commerce with the Universe (2013).
Comparative Literature 69:1
DOI 10.1215/00104124-3794589 © 2017 by University of Oregon
Published by Duke University Press
Comparative Literature
and its resources as subject to the exploitation of discrete national territories, a
kind of aqua extractio, the work of geographers, historians, and cultural studies
scholars configured the ocean as a historical space of transnational capital,
empire, and slavery — ​often based on an unmarked masculinity that we might
term aqua homo.
The spatial turn away from the nation state towards the seas was also influenced
by the post-independence melancholia of the 1990s, in which disappointments
with the postcolonial state as a structure for governing the human subject led to a
turn to the ocean as a site of “flows” and “fluidity” seemingly outside the territorial and legislative limitations of the state (see Benítez-Rojo). This was particularly
vibrant in Caribbean literature and theory. Following Gilroy and others, the ethnically exclusive and hierarchical model of national belonging might be imaginatively transcended by turning to spaces of fluidity and creolization. As such, the
ocean became a space for theorizing the materiality of history, yet it rarely figured
as a material in itself (DeLoughrey, Routes and Roots 22; Steinberg, The Social Construction of the Ocean 245). With some exceptions, these narratives largely represent
a transoceanic imaginary, positioning the sea as a stage for human history; a narrative of flat surfaces rather than immersions. Until recently, the oceanic has not
been truly fathomed as a cultural or multispecies ecology.
This short essay sketches the rise of a new oceanic imaginary for the twentyfirst century, an imaginary catalyzed and informed by a global sea level rise that is
our visible sign of climate change, and places it in relation to the work of Caribbean
writers and artists who have long theorized the ocean in terms of the violent convergence of environment and history (for instance, DeLoughrey, Gosson, and
Handley). While multispecies ethnographies and scholarship on the ontological
turn open the way for a new engagement with our submarine others, in Caribbean
literature the ocean has long been understood as a material entity; it is an ecology
for “subtle and submarine” poetics in the words of Derek Walcott (“The Sea Is History” 138). The discourse of oceanic submersion in the Caribbean articulates a
submarine temporality in which linear models of time are distorted and ruptured.
This engagement with temporality is the product of the violence of transoceanic
colonial history as well as immersion in the materiality of the ocean itself. Unlike
terrestrial space —​where one might memorialize a space into place —​the perpetual circulation of ocean currents means that the sea dissolves phenomenological
experience and diffracts the accumulation of narrative. As we look towards an oceanic future caused by a rising sea, these questions of temporality become vital to
understanding the epoch termed the Anthropocene. The challenges of representing the more-than-human temporalities of the ocean, what I refer to as “sea ontologies,” are addressed by British artist Jason deCaires Taylor, whose submarine Caribbean sculptures he describes as “moments in passing” (The Underwater Museum 8),
subject to the erosion and transformation caused by maritime currents and multispecies relations with fish, algae, sponges, hydrozoans, and coral.
Oceanic Futures
The ocean drives our global climate, and due to sea-level rise our planetary
future is becoming more oceanic. Scientific discourse has positioned the ocean as
an evolutionary origin for life on earth and, given the imminent threat of rising sea
Published by Duke University Press
Comparative Literature
levels, our anticipated destiny. Sea level rise is perhaps the most powerful sign of
planetary change, connecting the activity of the earth’s poles with the rest of the
terrestrial world and producing a new sense of planetary scale and interconnectedness through the rising of a world ocean. The Anthropocene has catalyzed a new
oceanic imaginary in which, due to the visibility of sea level rise, the largest space
on earth is suddenly not so external and alien to human experience. The increase
in extreme weather events is correlated to the cinematic visuality of flooding and
tsunamis, in which footage of a king tide in Tuvalu can come to stand in for the
world’s rising ocean. This new oceanic imaginary has inspired an increase in a
body of literature, art, film, and scholarship concerned with our watery futures.
There are sensationalist accounts of an active, threatening ocean in films like
Roland Emmerich’s 2012, as well as in books like Brian Fagan’s The Attacking Ocean.
There are new documentaries that figure the ocean as a threat, particularly against
islanders —​for example, Rising Waters (Torrice) and Time and Tide (Bayer and Salzman). No longer relegated to aqua nullius, the ocean is now understood in terms of
its agency, its anthropogenic pollution and acidity, and its interspecies ontologies —​
all of which suggest that climate change is shaping new oceanic imaginaries.
There are geopolitical, biopolitical, environmental, and ontological dimensions
to this oceanic turn. Some texts figure the ocean as a space for evolutionary, religious, and ontological origins and destiny. These tend to relate the radical interiority of the sea to the human species. For instance, Jacques Cousteau explains
“our flesh is composed of myriads of cells, each one of which contains a miniature
ocean . . . comprising all the salts of the sea, probably the built-in heritage of our
distant ancestry” (“The Perils and Potentials of a Watery Planet” 13). Elisabeth
Mann Borgese, one of the founding members of the Club of Rome and the first
Convention on the Sea (1970), writes that “every human . . . is a good bit of planet
ocean: 71 per cent of his substance consists of salty water, just as 71 per cent of the
earth is covered by the oceans” (The Oceanic Circle 258). Other narratives are less
naturalizing and document a new era of empire and territorialism evident in the
collapse of fisheries, the transnational corporate scramble for minerals and microbiota in the thermal vents of the Pacific Ocean, and the competing state territorialisms now visible in the Arctic as the ice begins to melt. Stefan Helmreich refers
to this simultaneous rendering of the sea as frontier and endless natural resource
as “blue-green capitalism” (Alien Ocean 26). The general lack of attention to these
territorial developments might be attributed to the ocean being figured as “capital’s favored myth-element” (Connery, “The Oceanic Feeling” 289), thus creating
a lacuna precisely where we should be able to trace the intersections of capital and
empire, as well as their impacts on human and nonhuman sovereignty.
Sea Ontologies
Caribbean aesthetics articulate what I am calling “sea ontologies,” a concept that
builds on attempts by Philip Steinberg and others to “develop an epistemology that
views the ocean as continually being reconstituted by . . . the non-human and the
human, the biological and the geophysical, the historic and the contemporary”
(“Of Other Seas” 157). While Steinberg has argued persuasively for reading the
ocean as a dynamic force rather than a place, for “decentered ontologies of con-
Published by Duke University Press
Comparative Literature
nection” (161), in the Caribbean the enormity of the transoceanic history of slavery
and indenture has created an aesthetics that imaginatively populates the sea in an
act of regional historiography and ancestral memory. The Atlantic in this regard is
understood as an unmarked grave site, and memorializing the loss of the millions
who crossed its expanse has particular material challenges, given that, first, the
mobility of ocean currents means that we cannot localize its waters as a phenomenologically experienced place, and, second, there are no accurate recordings of
where exactly slaves leapt or were thrown overboard. As such, this is an oceanic
archive that lacks the place-based narrative and rituals for memorialization.
The earth-based sacralization of place is generally rendered by the ritualized
placement of bodies, bones, and stone monuments. In order to localize an event
that can never be truly historically localized, Caribbean writers have peopled the
seabed with human bones, imaginatively figured in the limestone structures of
coral reefs. Thus, what would be archeology in a terrestrial context becomes submarine diving for an oceanic archive, for the remnants of imperial debris and
ancestral origins. For instance, the sailor of Walcott’s “The Schooner Flight”
observes a “Caribbean so choke with the dead” that only by melting in the water
can he see
. . . them corals: brain, fire, sea fans,
dead-men’s-fingers, and then, the dead men.
I saw that the powdery sand was their bones
ground white from Senegal to San Salvador.
(Collected Poems 349)
In contrast to tourist narratives of azure seas that are subject to the visitor’s
desires (aqua nullius), Walcott’s seas are “choked” with the visible remnants of
living history. This is a living graveyard in which the submarine ruptures narrative articulation, breath. The process of anthropomorphizing the corals, from
brain corals to dead men’s fingers, leads to a visual poetics (“I saw them”) of the
submarine debris of human history. Figuring nonhuman life forms as human
bones enables the visibility of a submarine human history that resides outside
(and below) the official archive.
Walcott’s poem suggests that “subtle and submarine” human histories must be
actively engaged, particularly in the fluid space of nonhuman alterity. His poem
renders not an active recuperation of the ancestral human, but its constitutive
remnants: “powdery sand” that is, like earthly soil, constitutive and grounding, yet
also signifying more-than-human history. Laura Ann Stoler has read Walcott’s
work through the lens of Walter Benjamin, arguing for a reading of ruins as “petrified life,” traces that mark the fragility of power and the forces of destruction.
She focuses on artifacts and the “dead matter” of imperial history (“Imperial
Debris” 196). Yet Walcott’s poetics have long engaged living matter as a site for
more-than-human history, depicting multispecies engagements with plants, fish,
corals, and other creatures of the tropical coast and sea to pose alternative narratives for history making.
Walcott’s submerged narrator invokes “sea ontologies,” a term I’m using to
expand on Elizabeth A. Povinelli’s theorization of “geontologies” (see also DeLough­
rey, “Ordinary Futures”), a mutually constitutive relationship between biography
and geology, drawn from Indigenous contexts that destabilize Western binaries
between figures of life and nonlife (Povinelli). Because Povinelli focuses on the
Published by Duke University Press
Comparative Literature
deep time of Indigenous knowledges in Australia, the term “sea ontologies” might
characterize the connection between ancestry, history, and non-Western knowledge systems in submarine aesthetics. While its focus has tended to be more
anthropocentric, Caribbean cultural production has also figured the ocean as an
evolutionary and cultural origin in the wake of the brutal loss of ancestral memory. This is why it was not surprising that, when Jason deCaires Taylor began sinking life-sized human sculptures under the Caribbean Sea, the majority of viewers
assumed it was an act of memorializing the lost lives of the middle passage. Yet the
sculptures are more temporally complex, suggesting that the ocean as medium
can symbolize the simultaneity or even collapse of linear time, reflecting lost lives
of the past and memorializing —​as an act of anticipatory mourning —​the multispecies lives of the future of the Anthropocene.
With a series of eco-art cement sculptures sunken off the coasts of Mexico and
Grenada, deCaires Taylor has been levying a submarine critique of the lack of
political response to anthropogenic climate change. “The Bankers” (2011) shows
a group of men in suits with their heads in the sand ( Other sculptures also critique the capitalist
consumption that led to the Anthropocene (see, for example, The sculptures are largely allegorical
commentaries on the disorienting effects of temporality in the Anthropocene. As
deCaires Taylor notes, “our generation has encountered rapid change: technologically, culturally and geographically. This has left us with an underlying sense
of loss. My work tries to record some of those moments” ( This produces an affect of mourning and, for
this particular body of work, stillness amidst the tremendous pressure and mobility of seawater. Connery has written that the technologies of globalization contribute to “the dematerialization” of the sea; (“Oceanic Feeling” 296); deCaires
Taylor’s response to the globalizing “disembedding” from time and space (Giddens 188) is to rematerialize the ocean and, by life-casting local people for submersion, to enable sea ontologies, rendering uninhabitable space into anthropomorphized place.
The “first underwater sculpture park” (2006) is in Molinere Bay, Grenada, established by the Grenadian government and tourist board; it includes sixty-five sculptures that have been called by National Geographic one of the “Wonders of the
World.” The second, the Museo Subaquático de Arte (MUSA), in The National
Marine Park of Cancun, Mexico, was established in 2009. At both sites deCaires
Taylor worked with local artists, students, and ecologists, spending months making
plaster and silicon casts of individuals and then rendering them in a pH-neutral,
marine-grade cement that is twenty times stronger than its terrestrial counterpart.
The sculptures are built to withstand the tremendous pressure of ocean currents
and are constructed of inert materials to encourage multispecies “colonization.”
Because the installations are intended to become artificial reefs, the locations are
shallow and chosen in consultation with marine biologists to be strategically positioned for the “seeding” of coral from one reef to another. The sculptures are
Published by Duke University Press
Comparative Literature
inordinately heavy and are anchored to the seabed; gravity and weight thus become
constitutive elements in ensuring the futurity of submarine multispecies ecologies.
To the visitor these are permanent “swim through” exhibits, viewed while floating above and through the installation. This experience, unlike that of a terrestrial gallery, depends on weather and currents; impressions are informed by light,
the viscosity of the water, the age of the sculptures, and the presence of marine
species. While the exhibits are “permanent,” the sculptures are not; they change
every day based on their occupation by bacteria, algae, and, eventually, coral.
Environmental or earth art is known for its ephemerality, its locatedness, its participatory expectations, and its pedagogical intents. It also reflects an entanglement with nonhuman forces and a commitment to ecological regeneration
( While wind and rain may be the
major elemental forces in transforming artworks on land, submarine aesthetics
are subject to an “alien” environment: transformed by salt, currents, pressure, and
the rapid occupation by multispecies ecologies.
The submarine and material aspects of deCaires Taylor’s eco-art are vital to its
interpretation, particularly the ways in which water as a medium distorts time and
alters knowledge production. After working for decades on the Law of the Sea, Elisabeth Mann Borgese observed: “the ocean is a medium different from the earth . . . it
forces us to think differently. The medium itself, where everything flows and everything is interconnected, forces us to “unfocus,” to shed our old concepts and paradigms, to “refocus” on a new paradigm” (The Oceanic Circle 258). This sense of newness, a critical engagement with an extraterrestrial space, raises questions about
disciplinarity, epistemology, and (sea) ontologies. While critical ocean studies reflects
an interdisciplinary approach to theorizing the largest space on earth, only recently
has there been a discourse about how submersion may produce alternative knowledges
and ontologies. Having worked as a diving instructor, deCaires Taylor observes:
The experience of being underwater is vastly different from that of being on land. Objects appear
twenty-five percent larger underwater [and closer]. Colours alter as light is absorbed and reflected at
different rates, with the depth of the water affecting this further. The light . . . produces kaleidoscopic
effects governed by water movement, currents and turbulence. Water is a malleable medium in which
to travel enabling …
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