For Art Basel Hong Kong (March 2016) I was invited by Asia Art Archive to participate in a panel hosted by the artists MAP office. The following was a brief introduction for discussion.
It would be interesting to think about the ocean as an archive. Literally. Does it employ shelves or rather shark holes? Or is it composed in an altogether different kind of organization? What does it archive? These questions reminded me of a short tall tale by Michel Serres at the beginning of his book Genesis in which he finds a message-a-bottle archive of sorts.
I found myself one fine morning in the green and stagnant waters of the Sargasso Sea, at a mysterious spot where thousands of tiny sparks, all shapes and all colors were glimmering crazily. Bearing off, I was dumbfounded to see an area almost two hundred and fifty acres square entirely populated by dancing bottles. There were countless little vessels, and each one no doubt bore its message ….ballasted with seawrack and rockery, each carried its hope and its despair. Constant and perilous collisions. Cacophonic noise across the horizon. (1)
This sea of bottles represents a space of memory that is both a cultural and ecological log. It holds messages of human connections sent but never received, and also stands as evidence of historic patterns that keep these particular calm waters full of Sargasso grasses and human detritus and the currents of the Atlantic Ocean’s swirl about it. Serres gives a lyrical introduction to the ocean as a medium that bears witness both to geologic time and human time. Is this what it means for the ocean to be an archive?