Behold the Ocean
Akosua Viktoria Adu-Sanyah

23.11.2022 — 29.01.2023

Vernissage: 22.11.2022 18:00

Akosua Viktoria Adu-Sanyah


The Centre de la photographie Genève presents Behold The Ocean, a visual storytelling project documenting climate research in Patagonia by Akosua Viktoria Adu-Sanyah, a German-Ghanaian artist and photographer based in Switzerland.

From December 2020 to January 2021, amid the global pandemic, the artist embarked on a maritime expedition through the Strait of Magellan to the glacier of Santa Inés, at the most Southern tip of the Americas. Accompanying a small Chilean team studying shifts in the marine ecosystem triggered by climate change, she gradually discovered the raw beauty and fragility of this environment, in a region particularly exposed to its effects. This experience triggered reflections on the centralisation and institutionalisation of scientific research and some of the resulting issues: limitations to access to the data gathered by international teams which are often not made public for several years, stark inequalities in the conditions of local and international researchers, or limited attention to the needs of local communities, among many others. As a result, she considered how art could support scientific research and conceptualised alternative models – decentralised and deinstitutionalised – for the financing of scientific research. From the material gathered during the first expedition – photographs, videos, data – she produced a series of NFTs that were made available for sale, aiming to finance a new expedition with the same team. Her art on the blockchain successfully financed part of a new expedition that took place in June 2022, in the commune of Cape Horn in the Antártica Chilena Province, from Punta Arenas through the Beagle channel to Yendegaia and Wulaia Bay.

She documented some core elements of the team’s research: the acidification of the ocean (as the glaciers melt and add freshwater to the sea), which in turns induces the proliferation of harmful red tide algal species. Another focus is the study of kelp, a brown alga which might help stabilise such ecosystems in the future. This second voyage was fraught with the difficulties that many such small independent teams face: dangerous weather, fragile equipment, limited finances and resources, diverging priorities, or interpersonal tensions. Akosua Viktoria Adu-Sanyah documented this intense collective experience, alternating between the roughness of the daily life on board, the complexities of climate research, and the magnificence of the ecosystem, equally threatening and vulnerable.

Expressing the visual beauty and ruggedness of the Patagonian landscapes and of the realities of scientific research, Behold The Ocean highlights the unpredictable pacing of sea travel, the unfamiliar sound environment, alongside issues such as intimacy, vulnerability and sorority within such an expedition. The exhibition retraces these multiple layers and the different stages of the project in a site-specific installation, based on chromogenic prints made by the artist and designed for the spaces of the Centre de la photographie Genève, reflecting equally on the personal experience of the artist and the realities of those who dedicate their lives to the study of their environment.

Initiated at the end of 2020, Behold The Ocean was awarded the first research residency grant of Photoforum Pasquart in early 2022. The exhibition at Centre de la photographie Genève will be its first exhaustive institutional presentation.


Artist file

Akosua Viktoria Adu-Sanyah * 1990 in Germany, lives in Zürich, Switzerland

Akosua Viktoria Adu-Sanyah (*1990) is an internationally exhibited and published German-Ghanaian visual artist and documentary photographer based in Zürich, Switzerland. Her work is frequently awarded for exploring new territories through image-making, research, and human connection. She believes in the diversity of thought and expression, which results in various practices that inform each other: she equally engages in documentary work and conceptual arts, emphasizing the materiality of ph [...]

Akosua Viktoria Adu-Sanyah (*1990) is an internationally exhibited and published German-Ghanaian visual artist and documentary photographer based in Zürich, Switzerland. Her work is frequently awarded for exploring new territories through image-making, research, and human connection. She believes in the diversity of thought and expression, which results in various practices that inform each other: she equally engages in documentary work and conceptual arts, emphasizing the materiality of photography to reflect on culture and politics. In 2015 she received a diploma in visual arts at the Hochschule der Bildenden Künste in Saar, Germany. In early 2022, she artist in residence at the Photoforum Pasquart, in Biel.

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