Ocean Conversation with



G.’s apartment is separated into two halves. Towards each of the windows, at the back and the front of the apartment respectively, there is one living room and one bedroom. In the center of the space are the rooms used in common: kitchen, shower and toilet. The kitchen is open (i.e. has no walls) and is to the left of the main entrance. The whole space has a DIY character to it: G. tells me that the kitchen and bathroom were built by friends out of multiplex panels. We start the conversation as we sit at a small dining table next to the kitchen and the shower and continue while G. is having a cigarette on her terrace.


G.’s voice is difficult to describe. It is in the mid-ranges. It has a kind of distinctiveness, reminiscent of the voice of Billy Holiday in its warmth and pitch. In its slightly metallic tone, it appears very warm and welcoming, nonetheless.

G.V.Are we talking about the ocean or the sea?

M.M.I call it ocean but mean with it the world ocean, which also includes the seas.

G.V.The ocean is more mythological than the sea. When I think of the ocean → I think of the Atlantic. For me, the Atlantic is very clearly defined: it begins on the coast of France + ends at the coast of the US.

My own experiences are situated in the Mediterranean. The ocean for me implies → history. A deep history. Initially, all the continents were together. Bit by bit, they got separated and one day the strait of Gibraltar was formed, and in 40 years the water came through and filled the Mediterranean.

I once did a field trip, together with a geologist, to the Ardennes. There used to be an ocean. We grabbed shells from the ground - fossils.

In our everyday life, we have no feeling for geological time. When life appeared on the planet, everything was liquid. Becoming more solid and developing symmetry gave us the opportunity to direct our movement. We tend to think of the earth – the planet earth – as something stable + unchanging. But it is not. It is transforming constantly.

I have strong experiences → in the Mediterranean, particularly in (France). I am a very good floater. When you are floating, the sand on the bottom of the sea is moving with the waves. I always could sense the sand on my spine.

M.M.Were you floating on your back or on your belly? Could you see the bottom of the sea?

G.V.When I think of this experience I have no sense of vision. I spend a lot of time floating.

M.M.Do you swim?

G.V.I am a very good swimmer but still I prefer floating to swimming. When I float, I am taken away by the waves, losing my sense of orientation. Then at some point, I am thrown by the waves to the shore.

I was always put off by the opacity of the North Sea. In the Mediterranean → you can see the little things floating around.

I once made a performance on floating. It was called “How to make your own dead sea”. Essentially, I had to put 23 kg of salt in my bathtub. Then the salt lifted me. How can salt change gravity? It’s a super complicated formula that was discovered by Archimedes. You first have to calculate your volume. Then you put the right amount of salt in your bathtub.

M.M.What sea experiences are linked to your adulthood?

G.V.Actually, the sea for me is linked to childhood, even now. It has the properties to draw me back into childhood. My body becomes different – because of the gravity that is different.

I remember attending a lecture → at the aquarium in the Tiergarten in Berlin. I saw jellyfish swimming in one of the basins – they looked science fiction! Jellyfish are such interesting creatures; their bodies are 99% water and they are very ancient. They have existed ever since the beginning of the world.

I love maps + I am obsessively drawing sea monsters. The birth of an island is seen as the appearance of a sea monster. If a volcano is next to the sea → the lava goes into the water + the land actually expands. My whole relationship to the ocean at the moment is closely linked to my work with volcanoes.

Water shapes the landscape. Like in Rocrois. There were big mountains and now there are gentle hills full of shells. It’s like one big coral reef that dried out.

The ocean is related to losing control. When I’m on earth the gravity holds everything in place. It is the lack of gravity that makes all the difference between the ocean and the earth.

M.M.Also, the feeling of being embedded in something that surrounds your body.

G.V.Things are also connected through air. The → air has the same property of connecting.

M.M.What is the difference between the ocean and the sea?

G.V.In the Atlantic Ocean there is a rifting zone. It is related to many surreal creatures. There is a friction in the tectonic plates that the water is soothing. On land, such a zone is an open lava wound. Nothing is able to live there. But in the sea, it’s where life originated.

M.M.Do you sense the ancient nature of the sea?

G.V.Yes. That’s what I was referring to when I was telling you about the spine. It felt like a primordial communication with the sea by means of bodily perception rather than through seeing, listening, etc.

A friend told me a story about a YouTube video. Apparently, there is a pregnant woman + old man that both enter into the water. The woman then comes out without the baby + then, much later, the man comes out with the baby in his arms. It’s like a mythological story.

When I can sense the sand moving on my spine, its like my bones + the sand are made out of the same material. I can imagine the spine as being hollow + the sand going up and down my spine.