39: Wet Matter F/W 2014

No. 39, F/W 2014 Wet Matter

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

Editor’s Notes

The Other 71 Percent

Pierre Bélanger

Who’s Afraid of the Ocean?

Jennifer Sigler


Body Boundaries

Jenna Sutela


Luis Callejas

Ballast Water

Rose George

Cold Meets Wet

Nicola Twilley


Astrida Neimanis

Land Under

Theo Deutinger, Elena Megia Nieto

Liquid Traces

Lorenzo Pezzani

Regional Design Thinking

Henk Ovink



Keller Easterling

The Black Beach

AbdouMaliq Simone

Why Fight Them When We Can Eat Them?

Bun Lai

Thalassophilia and Its Discontents

Christopher Connery

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

Catherine Seavitt Nordenson


Built on Sand: Singapore and the New State of Risk

Joshua Comaroff

Destination Whatever: Touring the Cruise Industry of the Caribbean


How Climate Change Might Save the World: Metamorphosis

Ulrich Beck

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


Excerpt from Sundogz

Mark von Schlegell


Ocean Sensing

Xiaowei Wang, Dawn Wright

Bodies, Boats, and Borders

Sara Zewde, Rebecca Gomperts

Liquid Governance

Patri Friedman, Martti Kalliala

Un huracán de lenguajes

Victor Hernández Cruz, Héctor Tarrido-Picart



Max Haiven

Bernard Tschumi Retrospective

Emmanuel Petit

City Choreographer

Mimi Zeiger

The Mound of Vendôme

Lucas Freeman

UIA2014 Durban

Sean O'Toole


Building Soft

Byron Stigge, Hilary Sample

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

Martin Pavlinic, Luis Callejas

Rereading: Rachel Carson, “Undersea” (1937)

Hali Felt, Kate Orff

Waves of Power: Advertising the Ocean

The Editors