Aesthetic, Social and Cultural Geographies of the Sea

By Kate Botterill

‘The ocean is imbued with mystery’ says Jason de Caries Taylor, Artistic Director of the new Cancun National Marine Park whose new exhibition is a collection of ‘underwater sculptures’ submerged 10 metres under the sea. The sculptures explore the relationship between art and the environment and between human creation and the sea through their submerged position and interaction with the natural environment. Through the creation of artificial reefs and the use of sculpted materials that encourage the colonisation of marine life, de Caries Taylor’s work is concerned with transformative life worlds whereby ‘the figures are transformed over time by their environment, and conversely as this happens so they change the shape of their habitat’. The ecological and geographical message of interconnectedness, transformation and regeneration is central to developing understanding of our relationship with the ocean and contributes to what Lambert refers to as ‘imaginative, aesthetic and sensuous geographies of the sea’ (cited in Peters,2010).

Recent work in social and cultural geography has revived interest in the geographies of the sea. In an article for Geography Compass, Kimberley Peters reviews the current work and future prospects of this line of enquiry arguing against ‘land locked’ studies in geography that view the sea as marginal to the land. The sea, she argues is a vital space with rich social and cultural meaning and implicit to everyday life – “even though oceans and vessels may seem disconnected to everyday life, or appear as slow and irrelevant methods of moving, they remain fundamental to the flow of trade, to the reaping of resources (fish stocks, natural gas and oil) and as sites of terror and for the undercover movement of peoples. They are fundamental therefore for geographers to examine in a contemporary light”. Peters traces literatures of the sea from historical approaches, the exploration of maritime spaces and practices to ‘mobilities’ research and tourism geographies. She ends by making a case for an examination of ‘underwater’ geographies and the sea as a ‘site of recreation’, both of which are central to de Caries Taylor’s evolving exhibition.

 See pictures and a video of Jason de Caries Taylor’s underwater exhibition

 Read Peters (2010) Future Promises for Contemporary Social and Cultural Geographies of the Sea in Geography Compass

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