Help us develop our program and catalyze critical ocean literacy by donating below

Skip to navigation Skip to main content

Oceans in Transformation

Territorial Agency  — 

The oceans are changing very fast, yet knowledge of them is moving slowly and is enveloped in long-established forms of cultural separation and distinction between human activities at land and at sea. This division needs to be rethought to address the urgent and vast transformations that the seas are undergoing. ­– Territorial Agency

The rapid depletion of the coastal ecosystems of the Mississippi Delta, combined with sea level rise scenarios.
© Territorial Agency

Territorial Agency: Oceans in Transformation synthesises three years of intersectional research, commissioned by TBA21–Academy that investigates the transformation of the world oceans during the Anthropocene. Assessing the latest scientific knowledge about the effects of a wide array of human-induced interferences on marine and coastal ecosystems, the project reiterates the critical role of the oceans in respect to planetary survival. TBA21–Academy and Territorial Agency have collaborated with a network of researchers and institutions to give exposure to new forms of visibility and understanding of the ocean brought by science, culture and art.

A view of the Pacific ocean floor, off the coast of Hawaii. Multi-beam sonar data.
© Territorial Agency

Informed and catalysed by global sea-level rise, one of the most visible sign of climate emergency, Oceans in Transformation considers the oceans as a sensorium; that is, a sensing body which absorbs and registers the intensified activities of humans in its circulations, ecosystems and dynamics. At the same time, it is being registered by different cultural, economic, scientific, legal, and conservationist groups in their efforts to understand the changes the oceans are undergoing. Noticing these pervasive transformations sets a whole new agenda, one that addresses human and nonhuman needs, with deep care, imagination, and far-sightedness.

Sea level rise, intensification of maritime transport, overfishing, depletion of coastal ecosystems, deep-sea mining, sea-floor trawling, oil exploration, extraction, migration, changing ocean circulations, militarisation, and melting ice are some of the ecocidal transformations that the research project traces and registers. By superimposing and interconnecting – conceptually and visually – the spatial inscriptions and reconfigurations they create, Oceans in Transformation rearranges the maritime space as a stage for human violence, empire, and colonial history. What emerges is a new figure where environmental and economic processes are deeply intertwined.

As an ongoing investigation, over the duration of the exhibition Territorial Agency: Oceans in Transformation, Ocean Space will host a programme of peer-to-peer gatherings and events, as part of its seasonal public programming. These will engage important voices in environmental conversations and research, including scientists, artists, governmental and society groups, policy makers and conservationists. As the body of work remains open to further development and research, Territorial Agency aims to prompt further conversations and offer both utopian proposals as well as concrete solutions for today.

Unfoldings. A Research Dossier on Seven Trajectories of Territorial Agency: Oceans in Transformation


Founded by the architects Ann-Sofi Rönnskog and John Palmesino, Territorial Agency is an independent organisation that combines architecture, spatial analysis, advocacy, and action to influence change in the inhabited environment. In keeping with TBA21–Academy’s commitment to fostering a deeper understanding of the oceans through the lens of art and other cultural practices, Oceans in Transformation articulates new ways of decoding the oceans. Material and conceptual inquiries are the key elements of the research commission, instigating new cultural, ocean-centric forms of knowledge.


Amidst a raging pandemic that has curtailed public life and cultural production, TBA21–Academy through Ocean Space and Ocean Archive, has continued to support artistic production and maintaining a culture of care and concern for Venetian and international communities. The three-year research project "Territorial Agency: Oceans in Transformation", curated by Daniela Zyman, has been launched on the open-access digital platform Ocean Archive with a series of online events.

"Oceans in Transformation" is organized through seven trajectories that have been released every ten days on the Ocean Archive over the course of three months and expanded by a series of essays co-edited in collaboration with E-flux Art & Architecture, and further enriched through additional research by a trans-disciplinary group of researchers taking part in TBA21–Academy's Ocean Fellowship programme.

Visit Ocean Archive to discover "Territorial Agency: Oceans in Transformation".

Territorial Agency: Oceans in Transformation is commissioned by TBA21–Academy and co-produced with Luma Foundation