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OCEAN / UNI ~ Second Cycle ~ “Imagine the Ocean Dry as Lavender”

The Mediterraneans Beyond Aridity

Biweekly on Wednesday from 6 to 7.30 pm
Admission fee
Free of charge

Download here


Sessions will field in English

The second cycle of "Imagine the Ocean Dry as Lavender"[1] brings OCEAN / UNI back to the Mediterraneans and their warming seas as hotspots for highly interconnected climate risks. The program is developed by TBA21–Academy in collaboration with the research-based curatorial platform EX NUNC.[2] In its first iteration, "Imagine the Ocean Dry as Lavender" focused on the topic of aridity in relation to the Mediterranean Sea and, by extension, to other parts of the world undergoing processes of aridification and "mediterraneization", so to imagine possible planetary scenarios in a rapidly heating climate. During this second cycle, we wish to deepen our enquiry into the connections between climate politics and the ever-renewing processes and modes of coloniality in the Mediterraneans.

Desertification keeps on expanding, above and below water. From these amphibious perspectives, we see how the Ocean and the hydrosphere figure a continuum of constant interaction with dry lands, rather than a dichotomy. This understanding invites us to reshape and adapt our narratives, to think with the desert as a place of resilience and adaptation that responds to its ebbing reserves of freshwater, instead of a barren space, devoid of life and inhabitants, that needs to be forcibly regreened, repopulated, and made "productive". Scholar Samia Henni calls for a fight against the so-called "regime of emptiness,"[3] the Eurocentric imagination of desert as inherently deprived, of life and knowledge alike. The empty desert trope responded to the needs of the historical colonial project, which continues to mutate its choreographies of exploitation, extraction, and erasure in contemporary times.[4] Can an analysis of Mediterranean cases help us to recognize the impacts of geoengineering, and to identify neo-colonial continuities in the theory and practice of ecological modernization, while looking for nature-based solutions and micro-refuges?

"Desert and desertification are two key concepts that cut across the fields of philosophy, literature, ecology, politics, and the arts. Their identities are unstable, dynamic, unfixed, and sometimes contradictory, although they are major contemporary figures haunting our imaginaries and defining current politics in relation to ecology," write Ida Soulard, Abinadi Meza and Bassam El Baroni in their book Manual for a Future Desert (2022).[5] With the help of artists, scholars, scientists, activists, and thinkers, this semester keeps on exploring the interconnections between wet ontologies and dry spaces, trying to frame a vision that fits both the desert and the Ocean, projecting this key relationship into a collective space of research. We aim to bring specific visions — both highly localized and planetary — onto shared ground, where aridity is felt as a space of possibility for our common futures.

[1] The title is borrowed from the incipit of a poem by Andrée Chedid, Egyptian-French poet and novelist who lived between 1920 and 2011. See: Andrée Chedid, "Imagine", 1968, in Textes pour un poème, Flammarion, 2014, p. 259. Translated into English by Kamal Boullata in Women of the Fertile Crescent: An Anthology of Modern Poetry by Arab Women, Kamal Boullata (ed.), Three Continents Press, 1978, p. 7.

[2] The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), a body of the United Nations created in 1988, aims to advance scientific knowledge about climate change caused by human activities. It coordinates global research efforts and informs governments about the possible natural, economic, and social impacts and risks of climate change, also covering possible response options. Between 1990 and 2022, the IPCC has published six comprehensive assessment reports (AR), the last of which (AR6) will be completed in the Spring of 2023 with the publication of the synthesis report.

[3] Samia Henni (ed.), Deserts are not Empty, New York: Columbia Books on Architecture and the City, 2022

[4] On these topics, see: Diana K. Davis, Of Deserts and Decolonization: Dispelling Myths About Drylands, The MIT Press Reader, 2020

[5] Ida Soulard, Abinadi Meza and Bassam El Baroni (ed.), Manual for a Future Desert, Nantes: Mousse Publishing, 2021.


The program is intended for anyone eager to deepen their relations with the ecological, political, aesthetic, ethical, and scientific knowledges around the realities and futures of the Ocean. Lectures will be held in English, so a good listening and speaking level is recommended to ensure meaningful exchange.

Participants are required to register for their attendance to the program online via Zoom. Due to limited capacity, applicants will be selected on a first-come, first-served basis. You are welcome to register in advance for more than one session. If you attend five sessions or more, you will receive an official certificate of attendance.


Initiated by Daniela Zyman, OCEAN / UNI is a collaborative project developed by TBA21–Academy for higher education institutions, independent researchers, practitioners, and Ocean enthusiasts that encourages building a far reaching network and developing a transdisciplinary methodology. Established in the fall 2020 as part of the activations around the exhibition "Territorial Agency: Oceans in Transformation" curated by Daniela Zyman, OCEAN / UNI is conceived as a pedagogic space that invites thinking with the oceans as a way to move towards more amphibious formulations, beyond land-sea binaries.

The proposed format of study revolves around biweekly sessions
supported by smaller, more intimate workshops, hosted digitally. The program is open to a group of pre-registered public participants, university groups, guests, and moderators connected via Zoom, the ocean comm/uni/ty, and Ocean-Archive.org



Wednesday, February 1, 6 pm CET
Session 1
Prologue: For Future Deserts (and Seas)

Wednesday, February 8, 6 pm CET
Session 2
Building Utopia: Geoengineering, Megastructures, and Colonialities in the Mediterraneans

Wednesday, March 8, 6 pm CET
Session 3
Meeting a Wetland: Flows of Water and Communities in and around the Mar Menor

Wednesday, March 15, 6 pm CET
Session 4
Dismantling Mythologies of Emptiness: Against Politics of Erasure and Extinction

Wednesday, March 22, 6 pm CET
Session 5
New Populations at Sea: Interspecies Communities and Extractivism in the Adriatic

Wednesday, April 5, 6 pm CET
Session 6
Imagining Mediterranean Futures: Beyond the Wet / Dry Divide

Wednesday, April 12, 6 pm CET
Session 7
Hadean Breath: Healing, Toxicity and Geothermalism in Turkey's Aegean Region


The Spring semester of OCEAN / UNI 2023 is curated and developed by Barbara Casavecchia, Writer, Independent Curator and Educator, Leader of The Current III "Mediterraneans: 'Thus waves come in pairs' (after Etel Adnan)"; Chiara Cartuccia, Independent Curator and Researcher, founder of EX NUNC; Pietro Consolandi, OCEAN / UNI Research Lead, Artist and Writer; alongside Aleksandra Czerniak, Digital Project & Transformation Manager; Michal Kučerák, Head of Digital Research; Petra Linhartová; Director of Digital & Innovation; Fiona Middleton, Research & Community; and Markus Reymann, Director of TBA21–Academy. Graphic design: Lana Jerichová. Produced with care by the TBA21–Academy team.


  • AA Architectural Association School of Architecture, London
  • Brera Academy, Milan, Italy
  • Ca' Foscari University of Venice, Italy
  • Columbia University, NY, USA
  • GEO—DESIGN, Design Academy Eindhoven, The Netherlands
  • Hochschule Mainz: University of Applied Sciences, Germany
  • Future Places Centre, Lancaster University
  • Institut Kunst, FHNW Academy of Art and Design, Basel, Switzerland
  • NTNU Norwegian University of Science and Technology, Norway
  • Salon Swiss / Bern University of Applied Sciences, Switzerland