39: Wet Matter F/W 2014


The ocean remains a glaring blind spot in the Western imagination. Catastrophic events remind us of its influence—a lost airplane, a shark attack, an oil spill, an underwater earthquake—but we tend to marginalize or misunderstand the scales of the oceanic. It represents the “other 71 percent” of our planet. Meanwhile, like land, its surface and space continue to be radically instrumentalized: offshore zones territorialized by nation-states, high seas crisscrossed by shipping routes, estuaries metabolized by effluents, sea levels sensed by satellites, seabeds lined with submarines and plumbed for resources. As sewer, conveyor, battlefield, or mine, the ocean is a vast logistical landscape. Whether we speak of fishing zones or fish migration, coastal resilience or tropical storms, the ocean is both a frame for regulatory controls and a field of uncontrollable, indivisible processes. To characterize the ocean as catastrophic—imperiled environment, coastal risk, or contested territory—is to overlook its potential power.

The environments and mythologies of the ocean continue to support contemporary urban life in ways unseen and unimagined. The oceanic project—like the work of Marie Tharp, who mapped the seafloor in the shadows of Cold War star scientists—challenges the dry, closed, terrestrial frameworks that shape today’s industrial, corporate, and economic patterns. As contemporary civilization takes the oceanic turn, its future clearly lies beyond the purview of any head of state or space of a nation.

Reexamining the ocean’s historic and superficial remoteness, this issue profiles the ocean as contemporary urban space and subject of material, political, and ecologic significance, asking how we are shaping it, and how it is shaping us.

Table of Contents

Editors' Letter

The Other 71 Percent

Pierre Bélanger



Keller Easterling

Thalassophilia and Its Discontents

Christopher Connery

The Black Beach

AbdouMaliq Simone

The Bottom of the Bay, Or How to Know the Seaweeds*

Catherine Seavitt Nordenson


Between the Tides of Apartheid

Pierre Bélanger

Camps, Corridors, and Clouds: Inland Ways to the Ocean

Charlie Hailey

Moving Ships Over Mountains: From the Conquest of Nature to Political Ecology at the Panama Canal

Ashley Carse

Sundarbans: A Space of Imagination

Anuradha Mathur, Dilip da Cunha

The Smell of Money: Fishmeal on the Periphery of the Global Food Economy

Kristin Wintersteen

Volume and Vision: Toward a Wet Ontology

Kimberley Peters, Philip Steinberg


Bodies, Boats, and Borders

Rebecca Gomperts, Sara Zewde

Liquid Governance

Martti Kalliala, Patri Friedman

Ocean Sensing

Dawn Wright, Xiaowei Wang

Un huracán de lenguajes

Héctor Tarrido-Picart, Victor Hernández Cruz



Luis Callejas

Ballast Water

Rose George

Body Boundaries

Jenna Sutela

Cold Meets Wet

Nicola Twilley


Astrida Neimanis

Land Under

Elena Megia Nieto, Theo Deutinger

Liquid Traces

Lorenzo Pezzani

Regional Design Thinking

Henk Ovink


Excerpt from Sundogz

Mark von Schlegell


Building Soft

Byron Stigge, Hilary Sample

Flotsam: A Visualization of Swimmers, Sinkers, and Spills in the Urban Ocean

Luis Callejas, Martin Pavlinic

Rereading: Rachel Carson, “Undersea” (1937)

Hali Felt, Kate Orff

Waves of Power: Advertising the Ocean

The Editors


Bernard Tschumi Retrospective

Emmanuel Petit

City Choreographer

Mimi Zeiger

The Mound of Vendôme

Lucas Freeman

UIA2014 Durban

Sean O'Toole


Max Haiven