What is your relation to the ocean?
Is there an element of the ocean that is particularly relevant to you?

Introducing TOI

Origins, desires and intentions

The Oceanographies Institute (TOI) studies human-ocean kinships. It focuses essentially on the relation between two bodies of water: the human body and the world ocean(s). It was initiated in 2018 by the artist and researcher Marialena Marouda in Brussels. In 2019, composer Charlie Usher joined TOI, letting his practices of song and music making flow into the institute‘s work. TOI gives particular attention to affectual and sensual encounters between the two bodies. The Institute therefore explores the relations of hands to mud, ears to the breaking waves, feet to the feeling of sinking – rather than the ocean “in itself” as if devoid of the human presence. It collects, analyzes and reenacts people's personal stories about their encounters with the ocean.

The personal is political for TOI. We believe in the relevance of personal experience and stories when it comes to human relations with the ocean. The Institute thus initiates and carries out private "Ocean Conversations" with people involved with the ocean, either personally or professionally. Beyond using language, interlocutors also demonstrate, by means of sounds, textures or sensations, what the ocean “does” to their (human) body. Where scientific researchers use microscopes and petri dishes, TOI uses microphones and the sound of the voice, or the sound of objects – a pencil, as it draws the sign of infinity on a piece of paper, for example – as a means to study human experience of the ocean. The aim is to make the ocean appear as if by magic, by recreating the circumstances of the encounter.

TOI’s work is situated: we are interested in the specific relation to the ocean of the places where we work. In 2022-23. TOI plans a research residency in Greece. Through ocean conversations with locals, TOI wants to study the relations of people living in Athens and two of its islands, ≈Sifnos and Crete, to the sea. We want to focus on the complex networks of relations between the humans and the marine mammals that live on these two islands, and their waters. Previously, we worked closely with communities in Ostend and Brussels in Belgium.

TOI's public presentations take the form of radio transmissions and/or performative symposia, during which we also invite some of our collaborators to present their own oceanic practices. Our work has been presented internationally in Festivals such as Chambres d'O, C-Takt#4, Implantieren! (2020) and Dansand (2021). In January 2022, TOI curated a symposium on hydrofeminism in collaboration with VUB and Kaaitheater in Brussels.

Radio Episodes
Peggy Pierrot Radio Lecture


TOI Team

Marialena Marouda
Elpida Orfanidou
Charlie Usher
Nassia Fourtouni
Marialena Marouda
Elpida Orfanidou
Charlie Usher
Nassia Fourtouni
Marialena Marouda
Justine Maxelon
Elpida Orfanidou
Charlie Usher
Marialena Marouda
Justine Maxelon

TOI Guests

Marcus Bergner
Alexis Pauline Gumbs
Johanna Peine
Gosie Vervloessem
Production & Financial Management
HIROS vzw (2020-pres.)
nadine vzw (2018-2020)
Open Source Publishing (2019-pres.)
Eva Moulaert / Dear Reader, (2018)
Kaap (2020-21),
C-Takt (2020),
Wandering Arts Biennial 2020 & 2018

For the period 2020-21, TOI received a project grant from the Flemish Government for its development. In 2019-2020, TOI received a trajectory subsidy from the VGC.


TOI Team

Marialena Marouda (GR/DE/BE)
works in the intersections between performance and sound art. She studied philosophy and visual arts at Columbia University in New York, USA and continued her studies at the Institute for Applied Theatre Studies at the University of Giessen, Germany. In May 2018, she completed the Advanced Performance and Scenography Studies (a.pass), a program for artistic research in Brussels, Belgium. Marialena focuses on (institutional) knowledge practices and their performances. Her work is developed over the long term and is research-based. It takes place outside and beyong the black box, often developed in situ. She initiated The Oceanographies Institute in 2018. Her work has been presentend in different venues and festivals in Europe such as Mousonturm Theater Frankfurt, Sophiensaele Berlin, Kaaitheater Brussels, Dansand in Ostende and C-Mine in Genk.
Elpida Orfanidou (GR/DE)
is a choreographer, pianist and pharmacist based in Berlin. In her projects, she has approached the genre of cinema and incorporated a documentary perspective nourished by her biographical journey. Her current works alchemise tradition, crafts, ethnography and film with a choreographic approach. She recently presented the one-on-one event "Songtellers" for the festival far in Nyon and is currently preparing the film performance "Life As It Is Lived" together with Igor Dobricic for its Berlin premiere in 2022. Her work has been presented at various venues and festivals in Europe, including Tanz im August, HAU, Sophiensaele, Athens Festival, Onassis Cultural Centre Athens, La Casa Encendida Madrid, Brisbane Festival. She has worked a.o. with Hermann Heisig, Fabrice Mazliah, Simone Truong, Alma Toaspern, Meg Stuart, Tim Etchells, Evangellia Kranioti, May Zarhy, Daniel Wittkopp. For the last two years, together with Marialena Marouda and Charlie Usher, she has engaged in the diverse research of The Oceanographies Institute.
Charlie Usher (BE/UK)
is a composer living in Brussels who works with heart-on-sleeve cultural samples, rotary and handmade speaker installations, live instruments and horizontal time structures. His works have been performed and installed at Beursschouwburg Brussels, Lincoln Center NYC, South Bank Centre London, Oscillation/Q-02 Brussels, MaerzMusik/Haus der Berliner Festspieler, ImPulsTanz/Burgtheater im Kasino Vienna, International Film Festival Rotterdam, Galerie DuflonRacz Brussels, STUK Leuven and has toured multiple times in the US and UK with multiple BBC radio broadcasts.
He is a participant of The Oceanographies Institute since 2019.

Biographies TOI Collaborators

Marcus Bergner
is an Australian artist based in Brussels. He is a member of the Australian sound poetry group Arf Arf who has mounted hundreds of performances in Australia and Europe between 1985 and 2015. He was awarded a PhD degree in art history in 2009 from Melbourne University. Marcus has made over 25 experimental ,lms that have been screened extensively worldwide and a selection of these ,lms are distributed by Light Cone, Paris and the German Film Archives, Berlin. Recently, with the Belgian artist Myriam van Imschoot, he presented a series of workshops on sound poetry in art schools and institutions in Belgium, France and Portugal. His most recent solo performance was part of "The Autobiographical” at Performance aan de Laan in 2018 in Rotterdam.
Within TOI, Marcus is interested in TOI’s practices of reading and writing. Inspired by the writings of Gertrude Stein, he will focus on methodologies of reading and writing that can share the ocean’s objecthood.
Open Source Publishing
is a collective of graphic designers dedicated to media and archival experiments through open source software. OSP developed TOI's website and will also work on a publication of the Oceanographies Scorebook.
Johanna Peine
is a teacher of Alexander Technique, a certified opera singer and a state-certified singing teacher with many years of stage and teaching experience. She teaches at the University of the Arts and the Hanns Eisler University in Berlin.
Within TOI, Johanna poses the question of how much jellyfish, fish or amphibians are still present in the human body and voice. She gets to the bottom of this question by exploring the movements of early phylo and ontogenesis in connection with the sound of the human voice. According to the phoniatrist J.Abitbol, the human larynx developed from the gills of fish. Likewise, our ears were already present in fish. So what distinguishes marine mammals like whales from other fish? Why can they sing?
Furthermore, Johanna works with the TOI Team on their song-making practices, i.e. the Polyphonic Protocols.
Gosie Vervloessem
lives and works in Brussels. She studied Pedagogical Sciences at KULeuven and was later awarded a master’s degree in Audiovisual Arts by the LUCA School of Arts Brussels. Since 2013, she has been following the Advanced Performance and Scenography Studies course at a.pass.
Gosie Vervloessem’s artistic research focuses on the position of the researcher in times of multiple crises. Her work faces the challenges that arise within this role, and looks for new ways of producing knowledge. Her practice is an ongoing quest on finding tools to relate to a world that is messy and chaotic. Therefore, she juggles with and re-interprets the practices of cooking, digesting, co-digesting, immersion or osmosis, as tools to literally embody that relation. In scrutinizing this relationship, she focuses mainly on the concept of nature and tries to unravel the ideas that underpin this concept. In doing so, she identifies herself as a "Sick Detective", a character that engages the vegetal kingdom as a possible ally in her research. Her work is highly inspired by plant biology, comic books and horror movies. It is mainly presented as lecture-performance in the form of workshops or publications.
Gosie speculates together with the TOI Team on the question of a hydrofeminist institute, it's desires, scope, mode of organization and research focus.

Texts on TOI

“Over the last weeks, I've witnessed Marielena, Elpida and Charlie rehearsing, researching, and converting individual sea stories or testimonials into actions and verbal arrangements. Grappling with what seemed like mysterious moments of psychic elasticity and wayward energy joined by necessary doses of doubt, the three of them were able to invent the finely errant behavior and observations which is the raw material for the work presented herein Oostende”.

01.07.2020, Marcus Bergner
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“The Oceanographies Institute invites to reflect on the relationship between humans and the ocean. The performance workshop combines the intimacy of an informal conversation with the performance of different actions, in order to evoke memories and address the ocean’s materiality.
The rereading of notes from previous conversations, with repetition of sentences and frequencies rolling over each other, is reminiscent of the endless accumulation of waves on waves. For example, the sound of the drawing of an eight on its side, the sign for infinity, is a tiny gesture to bring the thoughts of the guests in the room towards the great sea”.

17.12.2019, Fransien van den Putt
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"Kaap: Why the ocean?
M.M. I’m drawn to the ocean both personally and professionally. I grew up in Athens, Greece and there the sea is very much part of one’s everyday life and I think also a very relevant part of one’s personality. So the ocean - I feel - is part of who I am as a person. I wanted to see in which way other people felt similar in its proximity.
Also politically, the ocean is very active in what’s happening around the world at the moment, participating in changes like global warming or the so called “refugee crisis”. But it is never addressed as the actor that it is. Within the work of the Oceanographies Institute, I ask how it is possible to make that part of the conversation. “Can I start a conversation with another human being in which somehow the ocean also takes part?” and “How is it possible to hear the ocean’s 'voice'?”

21.02.2020 Interview with Marialena Marouda, Kaap, Ostend
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