Souvenirs of Mysterious Seas
From the Expedition to the Aquarium
Oceanomania investigates the evolution of our fascination with the sea, in time and space, design, literature and art, revealing how the uncanny and marvelous have inspired artistic research. Continuing his investigations as a naturalist, archaeologist and traveler, the American artist Mark Dion explored the collections of the Oceanographic Museum of Monaco to create a monumental curiosity cabinet and dived into the collections of the Nouveau Musée National de Monaco (NMNM) to present a major intervention at Villa Paloma, one of the NMNM’s exhibition spaces. The accompanying publication, Oceanomania: Souvenirs of Mysterious Seas published by MACK and NMNM combines installation images from the exhibition, original artist imagery and essays from various writers exploring the different facets of the exploration of the seas and the challenges in exhibiting a marine world above sea level.
Two significant and contrasting recent maritime events form the conceptual framework of Dion’s project. These are the recently completed Census of Marine Life (2010) and the Deepwater Horizon oilrig explosion. The first brought together 2,700 scientists from 80 nations over a 10-year period to assess and explain the diversity, distribution and abundance of life in the oceans. The second, the Deepwater Horizon oilrig explosion led to 4.9 million barrels of crude oil being spilled into the seas of the Gulf of Mexico, producing an 80 square mile kill zone and causing extensive damage to marine life. Its consequences are expected to be felt for decades to come.
Dion’s work examines our perception of the oceans and engages our sense of wonder at its diversity and our melancholy at its depletion. The project brings together works by 20 visual artists and 13 writers who show different aspects relating to our understanding of the sea and the ocean. They focus on the ocean not only as a site for exploration and discovery but also as a site where there is often unregulated and invisible human labor and exchange and where the marvelous aquatic life and mineral resources are often neglectfully exploited.
The exhibition and catalogue includes the monumental series Twenty Thousand Leagues under the Sea by Bernard Buffet (1928-1999) and works by Matthew Barney, Ashley Bickerton, David Brooks, Michel Camia, David Casini, Peter Coffin, Katharina Fritsch, Klara Hobza, Isola and Norzi, Pam Longobardi, Jean Painlevé, James Prosek, Man Ray, Alexis Rockman, Allan Sekula, Xaviera Simmons, Laurent Tixador and Abraham Poincheval and Rosemarie Trockel.