Imagining an Oceanic Worldview through Art and Science

Edited by Stefanie Hessler

Foreword by Markus Reymann

Essays, research, and art projects that formulate a Tidalectic worldview, addressing our most threatened ecosystem: the oceans.





Essays, research, and art projects that formulate a Tidalectic worldview, addressing our most threatened ecosystem: the oceans.

The oceans cover two-thirds of the planet, shaping human history and culture, home to countless species. Yet we, as mostly land-dwelling humans, often fail to grasp the importance of these vast bodies of water. Climate change destabilizes notions of land-based embeddedness, collapses tropes of time and space, and turns our future more oceanic. Tidalectics imagines an oceanic worldview, with essays, research, and artists' projects that present a different way of engaging with our hydrosphere. Unbound by land-based modes of thinking and living, the essays and research in Tidalectics reflect the rhythmic fluidity of water. 

Tidalectics emerges from the Thyssen-Bornemisza Art Contemporary (TBA21)–Academy, the only Western arts organization entirely dedicated to work on climate change and the oceans. In 2016, TBA21–Academy became the first cultural organization to gain UN observer status at the International Seabed Authority Assembly. The book presents newly commissioned work from a range of disciplines and often-neglected perspectives, alongside classic “anchor texts” by such writers as Rachel Carson. The contributors include an anthropologist from Fiji, a Norwegian scholar who specializes in maritime legal history, the author of the first comparative history of Caribbean and Pacific Island literatures, and a poet from Barbados who coined the term “tidalectics” as a play on “dialectics.” The art projects documented in the book form part of an exhibition curated by the volume's editor, and include a video of the infinite whites, blues, and grays of Antarctica; a collection of oceanic smells from the Caribbean and Pacific coasts of Costa Rica; and a quartz submersible capsule designed to communicate with cetaceans. Tidalectics provides a unique collection of the strongest voices in oceanic thinking, bridging arts, oceanography, history, law, and environmental studies.

With contributions byNabil Ahmed, Tamatoa Bambridge, Kamau Brathwaite, Guigone Camus, Rachel Carson, Cynthia Chou, Paul D'Arcy, Tony deBrum, Elizabeth DeLoughrey, Keller Easterling, Bill Graham, Francesca von Habsburg, Stefan Helmreich, Stefanie Hessler, Cresantia Frances Koya Vaka'uta, Rosiana Lagi, Stéphanie Leyronas, Chus Martínez, Astrida Neimanis, Elizabeth A. Povinelli, Markus Reymann, Philip E. Steinberg, Khal Torabully, Lingikoni Vaka'uta, Davor Vidas, Susanne M. Winterling

Artists surveyed in the bookAtif Akin, Darren Almond, Julian Charrière, Em'kal Eyongakpa, Tue Greenfort, Ariel Guzik, Newell Harry, Alexander Lee, Eduardo Navarro, Sissel Tolaas, Janaina Tschäpe & David Gruber, Jana Winderen, Susanne M. Winterling

Copublished with TBA21-Academy, London


$34.95 T ISBN: 9780262038096 240 pp. | 6.7 in x 9.4 in 40 color illus.


Stefanie Hessler

Stefanie Hessler is Director of Kunsthall Trondheim in Norway and editor and curator of the exhibition Sex Ecologies, together with Katja Aglert, artist and Professor of Art in the Gender Studies Department at Linköping University and Artistic Leader of the Seed Box in Sweden; the team of Kunsthall Trondheim (Prerna Bishnoi, Carl Martin Faurby, Katrine Elise Pedersen, and Kaja Waagen); and RAW Material Company in Senegal. Hessler curated the 17th MOMENTA Biennale in Montreal, 2021, and is the editor of Tidalectics and Prospecting Oceans, both published by the MIT Press.


Markus Reymann.


  • Whether it is a project endowed with any scientific crism, the publication that accompanies it, Tidalectics, bears witness to it.



  • This anthology is a major contribution to our understanding of the oceans, their importance as an ecosystem, the role they play for the voluntary and involuntary movement of people, and their poetic repercussions in contemporary culture.

    Mark Wigley

    Professor and Dean Emeritus of Columbia University's Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation

  • This transformative research between science and art is vital for rethinking where knowledge of the sensible can be attuned with a radical new imaginary of the oceans.

    Tomás Saraceno


  • The impact of climate change and sea level rise threatens our quality of life and perhaps our very existence. This is a passionate and necessary call to action—and an excellent read.

    Walter Munk

    physical oceanographer, Scripps Institution of Oceanography

  • Inspiring and thought-provoking, Tidalectics reveals the manifold ways in which the ocean affects our lives, and how we affect the ocean and the species living in its waters and on its shores. An indispensable compendium, this book will make you think differently about the sea.

    Joan Jonas