Stefanie Hessler: Prospecting Ocean
MIT Press, 2019

Photo: Sara Munguía
Photo: Sara Munguía
Photo: Sara Munguía

Investigating the entanglement of industry, politics, culture, and economics at the frontier of ocean excavations through an innovative union of art and science.

The oceans are crucial to the planet's well-being. They help regulate the global carbon cycle, support the resilience of ecosystems, and provide livelihoods for communities. The oceans as guardians of planetary health are threatened by many forces, including growing extractivist practices. Through the innovative lens of artistic research, Prospecting Ocean investigates the entanglement of industry, politics, culture, and economics at the frontier of ocean excavation. The result is a richly illustrated study that unites science and art to examine the ecological, cultural, philosophical, and aesthetic reverberations of this current threat to the oceans.

Prospecting Oceans takes as its starting point an exhibition by the photographer and filmmaker Armin Linke, which was commissioned by TBA21–Academy, London, and first shown at the Institute of Marine Science (CNR-ISMAR) in Venice. Linke is concerned with making the invisible visible, and here he unmasks the technologies that enable extractions from the ocean, including future seabed mining for minerals and sampling of genetic data. But the book extends far beyond Linke's research, presenting the latest research from a variety of fields and employing art as the place where disciplines can converge. Integrating the work of artists with scientific, theoretical, and philosophical analysis, Prospecting Ocean demonstrates that visual culture offers new and urgent perspectives on ecological crises.

“With industry making ever more intensive incursions into fragile oceanic habitats, placing life as we know it at risk, this book investigates much-needed ways of sensing and knowing alternative to the instrumentalized logics of extractive capital, opening up new emancipatory stories—of multispecies flourishing and social justice—beyond now-common dystopian futures.”

— T. J. Demos, UC Santa Cruz / Center for Creative Ecologies, author of Against the Anthropocene: Visual Culture and Environment Today
“How do we navigate the contemporary oceans awash as they are in great wastebergs, punctured by deep-sea drills, and reshaped by manufactured military islands and bleached coral reefs? Prospecting Ocean makes a bold claim on the ethics, aesthetics, and knowledges we need for facing the emerging waterscapes that are defining our common future.”

— Elizabeth A. Povinelli, Franz Boas Professor of Anthropology & Gender Studies, Columbia University; Australian Academy of Humanities, Corresponding Fellow; Karrabing Film Collective
Book orders
MIT Press, 2019
Stefanie Hessler: Prospecting Ocean
240 pages
With a visual essay by Armin Linke,
foreword by Bruno Latour
ISBN: 978-0-262-03809-6
Design by
Mervis & van Derusen with Line Arngaard