Magical Fresh & Salty Conversations

Design: Lana Jerichová

Magical Fresh & Salty Conversations is TBA21–Academy’s podcast series exploring ecological and magical perspectives on bodies of water.

This series of conversations reflects on the anthropogenic transformations of marine ecosystems, leaning on the innovative trajectories of science, technology, and art. Through performance, expeditions, sound, film, and image-making, the contributing artists engage with the underwater world in encounters with scientists and thinkers, proposing a world re-imagined from within the waters. Whether in the fictional, scientific, or science-fictional realm, an interspecies future lies ahead of us.

Magical Fresh & Salty Conversations is produced by TBA21–Academy with the support of STARTS, an initiative by the European Commission.

Editor at large: María Montero Sierra
Sound edited by: Elena Zieser 
Introduction and credits voice-over: Nathan Johnson
Music by horizonsnd and underwater sound recordings of the Venetian Lagoon by Sonia Levy and Jez Riley French
Produced by: Miriam Calabrese, María Montero Sierra, Katarina Rakušček, and the artists.
Listen to all episodes on here.

Episode 1: ​Rhythmic Bodies: A Walk Through the Performance-Expedition, "Breathings of the moon"

In this episode, we are joined by curator of performance and ecology Lucia Pietroiusti, who interviews the S+T+ARTS artists in residence Diego Delas and Leonor Serrano Rivas to discuss the performance-expedition they developed during their residency in Venice.

In his work Mundus Subterraneus, published in 1665, the Jesuit scholar Athanasius Kircher devised a theory on the movement of water, claiming that water moves in an upward motion from the sea to the mountains. Although incorrect, this theory was the departing point for Diego Delas and Leonor Serrano Rivas to explore the notion of water moving upward, the Venetian acqua alta, and the magical rhythms of the lagoon from the perspective of the water itself. This episode focuses on the materiality of their artistic project and its various components: the tides of the Venice Lagoon and its acqua alta, the moon cycles, the rhythm of rowing and the audience’s heartbeat, all becoming magical strategies to help us become attuned to the voice of the water.

Episode 2: ​The Problem of Imagination: The Triangle of Magic-Imagination-Science

In this episode, our guests examine three concepts that have historically framed the notion of nature. The hosts, S+T+ARTS artists in residence Diego Delas and Leonor Serrano Rivas, engage in a conversation with philosopher and writer Federico Campagna and professor of history of art, science, and folk practices John Tresch.

How do we imagine nature in the time of climate change? Can we redefine scientific knowledge through art? Do fiction and imagination have a reality-altering potential that could help us surpass the dichotomy of problem versus solution? In their conversation, guests Federico Campagna and John Tresch explore some of the key ideas that run through Diego Delas and Leonor Serrano Rivas’s residency in Venice, such as the role of imagination, magic, and technology in interpreting the universe around us, and the power of fiction from the pre-scientific period to today.

Episode 3: Radio Amnion and the Convergence Between Art and Acience In the Deep Ocean

In this episode, we are joined by Jol Thoms, a London-based artist and researcher teaching the MA program Art & Ecology at Goldsmiths, University of London. Thoms is the founder of a multi-year sound project called Radio Amnion, commissioning artists and researchers to stream sonic composition from the depths of the Pacific Ocean. Radio Amnion explores the magical spaces of intersection between cultural and scientific cosmologies and also joined the STARTS artists-in-residency for their final showcase event at Ocean Space in Venice on the summer solstice in 2021.

In a conversation with Elisa Resconi, an astrophysicist from the Technical University of Munich, and Dwight Owens from Ocean Networks Canada, an initiative of ocean observatories monitoring the Canadian coastline, this episode delves into the deep world of ocean science and compassionate ecological art, departing from the smallest and perhaps most elusive particles described by physics. What happens when science opens up its depths to the transformative potential of art?

Episode 4: Seascape Epistemology and the Venetian Cocoon

Every living being is an experiment made out of the flesh of the planet. In order to navigate it, the stars have to become a part of you. This episode of Magical Fresh & Salty Conversations features two discussions that touch upon the interests of the STARTS residents: Sonia Levy is joined by scholar, writer, and surfer Karin Amimoto Ingersoll, while her collaborator Meredith Root-Bernstein talks to philosopher Emanuele Coccia. Together, our guests look at the possibiliy of knowledge otherwise emerging from our interactions with watery spaces. How can immersed perspectives generate epistemologies that challenge imperial structures? How can thinking at the interplay of surface and subsurface processes help us understand both human and more-than-human agency in a changing world? 

Part I: Sonia Levy with Karin Amimoto Ingersoll:
A Kanaka master navigator enacts his oceanic literacy daily by embodying about 3,000 environmental pieces of information and making about 200 decisions based on the corporeally collected data.

In her conversation with the artist Sonia Levy, Karin Amimoto Ingersoll,a Kanaka Maoli political scientist, writer, and surfer based in Honolulu, discusses her notion of "seascape epistemology”. How can embodied literacies like navigation (ho’okele) and fishing (lawai’a) offer cultural affirmations that open up alternatives to the neocolonial systems that continue to subjugate Hawai’ian identity? In their residency project, Sonia Levy and her collaborators think from within the depths of a very different space: the Venetian Lagoon. How can Ingersoll’s approach informs Levy’s submerged perspectives, initiating life-affirming passageways of knowing and being? 

Part II: Meredith Root-Bernstein with Emanuele Coccia:
In this conversation, the lagoon is a cocoon: a place of transformation where every single living being  reciprocally transforms and is transformed by its environment. The interdisciplinary conservation scientist Meredith Root-Bernstein talks to the philosopher Emanuele Coccia, departing from his works Metamorphosis and The Life of Plants. Examining various approaches to agency and image-making, the residency project was interested in wetland flora as agentive beings instead of passive tools in lagoon restoration projects, echoing biological and ecological concepts such as developmental plasticity and ecosystem engineering. Our guests delve into this interest in moving beyond questions of observation, or gaze, toward a situated and embodied understanding of life on Earth.

Episode 5: More-Than-Human Underwater Filming

This episode features the artist and STARTS resident Sonia Levy in conversation with Erika Balsom, a London-based scholar and critic working on cinema, art, and their intersection. During their STARTS residency, Sonia Levy and her collaborators, environmental anthropologist Heather Swanson, ecologist Meredith Root Bernstein, and landscape architect Alexandra Arènes, looked at the Venetian Lagoon through the lens of nature-based solutions to mitigate flood risks. What issues arise from Venice’s long history of taming its waterscape? With a shared commitment to noticing more-than-human worlds, the group strived to forge their own understanding of the controversies arising from the lagoon’s water management.

In Sonia’s eyes, lagoons are fascinating places to think about the meeting of different bodies of water - fresh and saltwater. Filming underwater became a way to get to know the ephemeral world of the lagoon and its processes of transformation in the hope that this submerged perspective might also bring about speculative approaches to policy change.