20 July–22 September 2013, The Imaginary of the Ocean Deep, Nottingham Contemporary, UK

Aquatopia is a major exhibition of contemporary and historic art and artefacts that explores how the ocean deep has been imagined across cultures and through time to the present day. The exhibition and the accompanying book reveal how human cultures have projected their sexual desires, their will to power, and their fear of difference and death onto the ocean’s invisible depths and the life-forms it sustains. The deep in Aquatopia is a dream-state, akin to the unconscious. At the same time, its mythologies allegorise far-reaching historical processes—globalisation, colonisation, slavery, expropriation, subjugation, patriarchy.

Aquatopia’s utopic and dystopic depths are inhabited by ancient monsters and sirens, shipwrecks and submersibles, militarised gill-men and dolphin embassies, sperm whales and giant squids, water babies and horny octopi. The deep and its species are represented by major pre-19th-century artists such as JMW Turner, Andrea Mantegna, Odilon Redon, Francis Danby, Katsushika Hokusai and Utagawa Kuniyoshi, and major figures in 20th-century art such as Marcel Broodthaers, Oskar Kokoschka, Barbara Hepworth, Edward Wadsworth, Hannah Wilke, Ana Mendieta and Lucian Freud. Contemporary artists include Christian Holstad, Mark Dion, Spartacus Chetwynd, Juergen Teller, The Otolith Group, Shimabuku, Mikhail Karikis, Simon Starling, Sean Landers, Mati Diop and Wangechi Mutu. Scrimshaw (sperm whale teeth carved by sailors), antique diving equipment, elaborately carved shells and coral, and the glass models of marine species of Rudolf & Leopold Blaschka are amongst the artefacts also featuring.

The exhibition is curated by Alex Farquharson, Director of Nottingham Contemporary, in dialogue with Martin Clark, Artistic Director, Tate St Ives. It travels to Tate St Ives in October, and is a partnership between landlocked Nottingham Contemporary and oceanic Tate St Ives. It features over 150 loans from a great many museums and private collections, in particular Tate, Victoria & Albert Museum and National Maritime Museum.

For more information about the exhibition : click here

By Marion Wolfer

Marion Wolfer is a French Master student in cultural policy and management at the European Institute of Paris 8 University. She is working on cultural networks. She did an internship at Cutura21 for three months. Marion Wolfer est une étudiante de master I en politiques et gestion de la culture à l´Institut d´études européennes de l´Université de Paris 8. Elle travaille sur les réseaux culturels et a effectué un stage de trois mois au sein de Cultura21.