Empowering the environment

Swimming in the sea is a midsummer pleasure for so many of us, but the idea of “a future lived in partnership with the ocean” suggests a relationship altogether deeper and more complex than my level of happy floating. This intent, the ambition of Blue Assembly, is purpose-designed to take us into uncharted waters. Behind it is a collaboration between Brisbane’s UQ Art Museum and UQ Centre for Marine Science. It will unfold over some years, and explore the ocean as an environment, habitat, and field of study – also asserting its importance to the future of humanity. The launchpad of this multi-year program is Oceanic Thinking, an art exhibition which begins the process of what curator Peta Rake hopes will “complicate our thinking” about the ocean.

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Activist art has always existed, but there is a segue in curatorial thinking visible in both UQ Art Museum’s Blue Assembly: Oceanic Thinking and also this year’s Biennale of Sydney rivus. In both of these exhibitions we see ‘participants’ acknowledging and granting the environment agency, giving voice (or a seat at the table) to the natural world. Whether this can change exploitative human behaviour sufficiently quickly we can’t know, but empowering First Nations artists and elevating their ability to manage an environment in crisis — is a beacon of hope in a year in which (by March) we have already experienced a pandemic, floods, and bloodshed in the Ukraine at the hands of their Russian neighbours. Blue Assembly is operative as a for a few years, drawing artists and scientists together to strategise for climate change solutions.


16 March 2022