Works: Marialena Marouda, Elpida Orfanidou, Charlie Usher

The Oceanographies Institute

Initiated in 2018 by Marialena Marouda and later joined by composer Charlie Usher and performance maker Elpida Orfanidou, The Oceanographies Institute (TOI) studies the kinship between humans and oceans. Focusing on the relation between these two bodies of water, TOI seeks to give particular attention to their affectual and sensual encounters.

TOI therefore explores the relations of hands to mud, ears to the breaking waves, feet to the feeling of sinking, rather than the ocean “in itself”, as if devoid of human presence. The Institute collects, analyzes and reenacts people’s personal stories about their encounters with the ocean. In doing that, TOI aims at becoming both an institute and an ocean – simultaneously. On the one hand, TOI seeks to undergo a process of institutionalization, by which it can affirm and disseminate the personal knowledge(s) of the ocean that it studies. On the other hand, it strives to listen intently to the “languages” of the ocean, to its mode of being of the world. The tools it uses for this research come primarily from performance, sound art, and storytelling.

The Institute focuses on the following research questions: (How) can the ocean be evoked in a performative way and (how) can (ocean) poetry be a tool or motivation for this? How can the Institute function as a collaborative platform for artistic practices that goes beyond that of its initiator, as a space of hospitality and kinship not only with the ocean but also between its participants?

During private Ocean Conversations with people personally or professionally involved with the ocean, the interlocutors demonstrate, by means of language, sounds, textures or sensations, what the ocean “does” to their (human) body. Thepoetic and documentary transcripts of these interactions are collected in the Oceanographies Scorebook, a publication and a website-to-be. The scores also form the basis for TOI’s performances that aim to recreate these encounters between body and ocean and evoke the ocean in the imagination of the audience.

The Institute’s work is both political and polyphonic, as it is committed to making a multiplicity of voices heard and revealing a plurality of actors within an oceanic community. By studying how the ocean has accompanied, influenced or changed people and vice versa, TOI makes the omni-presence of the ocean tangible in our busy, urban lives.


With and by: Charlie Usher, Elpida Orfanidou and Marialena Marouda With the participation of: Marcus Bergner Vocal training: Johanna Peine Production: arp, Hiros Coproduction: KAAP (2020-21), WAB 2020, C-takt (2020).

In 2020-21, TOI is supported by a development grant of the Flemish Government. The broadcast on 02.04.2021 takes place with the support of Q-O2 and is financed by an Culturele activiteitenpremie of the Flemish Government