Ocean, waves

Ocean's forms: process, structure, and imagination at sea

Co-presented with the Sydney Environment Institute
This forum will gather insights from philosophy, marine geoscience, art, and literature to explore how different ways of knowing the sea have informed one another, and how they might inform one another in the future.

Void. Mirror. Sanctuary. Habitat. Drowned Earth. Saltwater country. These represent a tiny fraction of the ideas and images the ocean has been seen to express. Science can explain how waves activate oceanic forms, and how those forms affect lives, sands, reefs, and coastlines.

Through poetry and art, it’s possible to witness how waves and other sea-structures have stimulated imaginations to move beyond the limits of the shore. Truly thinking past terrestrial boundaries requires new connections among ethics, natural science, and creative practice.

This event was held at the University of Sydney on Tuesday 8 May 2018.


  • Dr Killian Quigley, postdoctoral research fellow at the Sydney Environment Institute. He completed his PhD in English at Vanderbilt University in 2016. He convenes the Reading Environments group at the University of Sydney, and is at work on a poetic and aesthetic history of the ocean entitled Seascape and the Submarine.
  • Ana Vila Concejo, Associate Professor in the School of Geosciences at the University of Sydney. She is the Deputy Director of One Tree Island Research Station and in 2011 was awarded an ARC Future Fellowship to support coral reefs morphodynamics research and to continue studies into the dynamics of coral sands.
  • Brian Robinson is a multi-skilled contemporary artist, whose practice includes painting, printmaking, sculpture and design. The graphic style in his practice combines his Torres Strait Islander heritage with a strong passion for experimentation, both in theoretical approach and medium, as well as crossing the boundaries between reality and fantasy. The results combine styles as diverse as graffiti art through to intricate relief carvings and construction sculpture echoing images of Torres Strait cultural motifs, objects and activity.
  • Susan Reid (chair), PhD candidate in the School of Philosophical and Historical Inquiry, Department of Gender and Cultural Studies at the University of Sydney, where she is researching ocean justice, relationalities and juridical imaginaries. 

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