How Like a Reef

“These stories are not simply y/ours to take“¹

01. Project Description
02. Methods
03. Participants

1 Tuck E., Yang K. W. (2014). R-words: Refusing research. In Paris D., Winn M. T. (Eds.), Humanizing Research: Decolonizing Qualitative Inquiry with Youth and Communities (pp. 223-248).
Our approach revolved around crafting polyphonic and situated redescriptions of the Lagoon, drawing upon participants' practices, experiences, and knowledges. We concentrated on refining methodologies and ethics through dialogue with advisors and participants, thereby nurturing the advancement of a shared endeavour.

These sessions were structured as collaborative learning and listening environments—venues for exchanging diverse knowledge practices and applying artistic methodologies to forge a collective understanding of the Lagoon through the lens of those actively engaged in its daily dynamics.

The methodologies were co-designed with participants, including ecologist Alberto Barausse, landscape architect Amina Chouaïri , geographer and political ecologist Louise Carver, and historian of science Pietro Daniel Omodeo. Together, we attempted to cultivate an environment that embraced participants' diverse perspectives, practices and disciplines.

Photos by Sonia Levy

Methodological Reflection

Our fieldwork and workshops have provided insight into the power structures inherent in the dissemination of knowledge within the Lagoon. We came upon invisible hierarchies, learning about instances where knowledge sharing has failed to serve the interests of local communities, often reinforcing existing authority. By highlighting the inherent power dynamics and the frequently overlooked consequences of research, we stress the importance of not appropriating knowledge, especially local ecological. Through this stance, we hope to advocate for justice in our own small ways, mainly focusing on those most affected by governmental decisions. Instead, we wish to develop approaches and projects collaboratively with participants that speak to their needs and empower them. This advocacy encompasses the well-being of the more-than-human worlds.

Despite the Venice Lagoon being one of the most extensively researched sites, the question remains: what more can research accomplish? We must consider not only unexplored avenues of inquiry but also why research has fallen short in advancing environmental justice. Our approach is to align ourselves with existing initiatives that propose alternative futures rooted in non-extractive practices and environmental justice, while opposing infinite growth.

At this stage, we present key elements of our methods below, recognising that our role as artists-researchers-convenors is not to speak on behalf of, nor necessarily to solely amplify voices but, perhaps, also to facilitate change in material conditions.

    Methodology Keys

    The intent of an inquiry isn't merely to describe an experience, but rather to bring it into being. From this standpoint, all inquiries are, first and foremost, experiments: they entail modifying what they set out to study. Thus, the focus is less on describing, from a distance, a reality that allegedly exists independently of the description but rather on accompanying a problem or an experience that individuals or groups are undergoing and granting it a shared collective existence.
    This implies that inquiries have to do with reassessing issues: reconsidering problems and rethinking and contemplating them with those affected, or again adding consistency to matters at hand, and thereby transforming them into a shared collective experience.
    ––– Despret, V. (2021). Inquiring with Other Beings [Enquêter avec d’autres êtres, Talk series]. Université de Lausanne.
    Note: The above translation is a product of the author's own efforts and is not an officially sanctioned translation.

    In the first Spatiality session, participants addressed matters of concern, spatially located concerns, and discussed ways of knowing across practices. Reflection on causes and linking issues were focal points. Additionally, participants explored submerged Lagoon worlds through artistic methods, reflecting on non-human agency and dangerous transformations, diving below the water line to share experiences of changes in Lagoon beds. Overall, the emphasis was on exploring the interconnectedness between human activities, life, and hydrogeomorphological dynamics.

    During the Temporality session, participants illustrated their engagement with the Lagoon through tangible objects, symbolising methodologies of working, conserving, or knowing. They elucidated the use of these instruments and tools in exploring the Lagoon's dynamics over time, thereby reflecting on evolving waterscapes influenced by political incentives. Furthermore, temporal analysis was facilitated to explore the manner in which shared tools and objects illuminated temporal experiences and the diverse temporal dimensions inherent within Lagoon worlds.

    In the valuation workshop, participants engage in critical reflection on the cultural and economic values associated with the Lagoon. They explored the exchanges between human and non-human elements that shape its metabolism by broadening the notion of labour to include more-than-human worlds, facilitating investigations into the entities, processes and projects that positively impact the Lagoon's well-being. Furthermore, participants examined ongoing conservation projects aimed at combating erosion. They also draw insights from historical management and conservation practices, which historically integrated fishers, and local ecological knowledge.

    About    Contact   Home