Sea of Marble / Mermer Denizi
Sea of Marble


sea [at]


5 November — 26 December 2010
Sanat Limanı, Antrepo No:5
Opening: 5 November 2010, 18:00


4 December 2010, 9:30
Sanat Limanı, Antrepo No:5

Ursula Biemann (Zurich) & Shuruq A. M. Harb (Ramallah), TJ Demos (London), John Palmesino (London), Vyjayanthi Rao (New York), Alex Villar (New York), Relli De Vries (Tel Aviv)

xurban_collective: Güven İncirlioğlu (İzmir), Hakan Topal (New York), Mahir Yavuz (Linz) and Atıf Akın (İstanbul)

Project Partners: Helge Mooshammer & Peter Mortenbock (London /Vienna)

Please download the Symposium Booklet for abstracts and biographies.

“The best witness to the Mediterranean’s age-old past is the sea itself. This has to be said and said again; and the sea has to be seen and seen again. Simply looking at the Mediterranean cannot of course explain everything about a complicated past created by human agents, with varying doses of calculation, caprice and misadventure. But this is a sea that patiently recreates for us scenes from the past, breathing new life into them, locating them under a sky and in a landscape that we can see with our own eyes, a landscape and sky like those of long ago. A moment’s concentration or daydreaming, and that past comes back to life.”

From Memory and the Mediterranean by Fernand Braudel (*)

One can identify countless physical traces of both natural and cultural events in any landscape. Endemic vegetation, landforms, as well as the remnants of civilizations are infused on top of each other and characterize a specific geography. The sea as an ever-changing, relatively flat space conceals all the traces of time and transforms them into mythologies. Both the land and the sea are in constant flux with different viscous properties. They touch each other and form a complex, oscillating line of infinite length.

The project Sea of Marble: A Navigational Convergence (2009–10) is developed as an exhibition and a symposium, and aims to address the seas as defined by various manifestations of global trade, economy, and the flow of bodies. It endeavors to develop visual and narrative strategies to tackle with the particularities and potentialities that the sea presents.

The sea of Marmara, located in between the Black Sea and the Aegean, literally means ‘the sea of marble’ hosts one of the major fault lines expected to bring a catastrophic tremor to Istanbul. In addition to several earthquakes, prison islands in Marmara mark Turkey’s recent grim political history of coup d’etats and most recently hosted the country’s most wanted Kurdish guerilla leader. The sea is highly polluted by manufacturing and oil industries. On any given day, hundreds of ships stay anchored, waiting for the next big global agitation. In this respect, the seas are transmitters of history, wealth and culture as well as a source of biological richness and are also the bearers of scourge, oil spills and chemicals, and the invading jellyfish and the disappearing reef. The oil tankers and container ships sail to the effect of millions of tons, accumulating and transferring immense wealth from one part of the world to another. Refugee boats also sail across sometimes to catastrophic ends either while at sea or at their destination. Recent events such as the Gaza aid flotilla, the British Petroleum oil rig disaster in the Gulf Coast of USA, island disputes between China and Japan, the Boxing Day Tsunami of 2004 and the opening of the northern sea route are examples that we all follow with curiosity.

Sea of Marble: A Navigational Convergence project is conceived in three parts. First, xurban_collective’s exhibition is based on the visual research in cities including Athens, Marseille, Istanbul, Izmir and New York. Second, a symposium will take place on December 4th, 2010 at Antrepo No:5, an old warehouse in Istanbul port. Participants of this symposium include Ursula Biemann (Zurich) and Shuruq A. M. Harb (Ramallah), TJ Demos (London), John Palmesino (London), Vyjayanthi Rao (New York), Alex Villar (New York) and Relli De Vries (Tel Aviv). xurban_collective and their project partners will take the role of moderators and respondents for each presentation along with Aslihan Demirtas (New York). The third part of the project is a book and the website which will gather and archive the project’s visual materials, presentations and discussions in a unified format.

(*)Fernand Braudel, Memory and the Mediterranean. Vintage Books: New York, 2002.


Shifting Waters

Peter Mörtenböck & Helge Mooshammer

In popular imagination the sea appears as infinite, stands in as the sphere of sublime experiences and unseen possibilities. It lies out there, stretching beyond the horizon, beyond what one can grasp. From there, one might enter other spaces, charter unknown territories and take off into every imaginable direction. At the same time, everyday practices often reduce the sea to an in-between, to a minor zone spanning the void between more significant places, an inconvenience between points of departure and points of arrival – an offshore reality to be traversed in as little time and with as little effort as possible.

These two seemingly oppositional movements – one pointing towards the sea, towards an infinite horizon; the other one looking away, dismissing the negligible in-between en route – are echoed by the tidal rythms of maritime economies: They seek to both expand and shrink the strengths and thicknesses of the sea. Out there, out of sight, the waters are churned up by 80 percent of all industrial goods getting shipped across the oceans and squeezed by ever more claims staked, boundaries drawn and resources raided.

Despite the global rise of sea levels, there are unprecedented numbers of claims of land masses above water at high tide, aiming not for the land itself but for laying claim on the offshore sovereignty surrounding these islands, significantly reducing the reach of international waters. In addition, a battle is raging over land masses extending under sea level. Entitled to jurisdiction over the seabed and subsoil of the continental shelf, 34 countries worldwide enjoy expanded offshore privileges of seabed mining, adding another maritime layer of restrictions to the more traditional offshore bands of the ‘territorial sea’, the ‘contiguous zone’ and the ‘Exclusive Economic Zone’.

This flaring ‘sea grab’ closes in on the expanses of the open sea, its farers and dwellers from all sides and all levels. When aiming to harvest the waters, why not then expand this theatre yourself? In October 2010 news made the round that the Turkish prime minister Tayyip Erdogan is considering the ‘crazy plan’ to build a second Bosphorus, that is to build a commercially operated shipping canal running in parallel in order to divert a large part of the passing oil trade and container vessels and thus supposedly ease the strain on the international waters of the natural Bosphorus. Plans, that in the language of the news would render the resulting island of Istanbul a second Manhattan.

'Sea of Marble' takes the sea as a mirror, as a plane to engage with the ‘other’ of such tidal manoeuvres. So that when addressing the shrinkage of the seas we can divert our attention toward what gets expanded through this shrinkage as well as toward what shrinks in the ongoing expansion of the oceanic reach.