It occupies 72% of the surface of our planet, yet the depths of our oceans are less known to us than the Solar System: 90% remains unexplored. The deep, like outer space, has been a locus for science fiction since Jules Verne, with both the ocean and space giving rise to imaginary aliens, mutants and monsters. But there is one crucial distinction: the ocean and our species belong to the same planet, and by extension the deep is a part of us.
Aquatopia: The Imaginary of the Ocean Deep is a transhistorical, transcultural voyage through the oceanic imaginary via contemporary and historical art works and objects which cross continents, centuries, schools and movements. Aquatic literary classics like The Odyssey, The Tempest, The Rhyme of the Ancient Mariner, Moby Dick and 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea recur in this exploration, sometimes filtered through their modern and contemporary prodigy, e.g. Jean Rhys' Wide Sargasso Sea and Derek Walcott's Omeros. Other, non-fictional texts by writers such as Philip Hoare and Marina Warner also guide the way.
The book is a cross-disciplinary exploration of the aquatic imaginary, encompassing literature, maritime and cultural history, psychoanalysis, post-colonial and feminist theory, and including work by artists as diverse as J.M.W. Turner, Carol Bove, Marcel Broodthaers, Spartacus Chetwynd, Peter Doig, Rene Magritte, Eric Ravillious and Juergen Teller.
Aquatopia: The Imaginary of the Ocean Deep accompanied the art exhibition by the same name in the Tate in St Ives, Cornwall, that was held from 12 October 2013 – 26 January 2014, and was being presented in collaboration with the Nottingham Contemporary. The exhibition featured contributions by Philip Hoare, David Toop, Celeste Olalquiaga and Simon Grant.
Martin Clark is Artistic Director of Tate St Ives. Alex Farquarson is Director of Nottingham Contemporary.