• Filmed at South Melbourne Beach for Ocean Synapse — with Sarah Jane Pell.
  • Filmed at Oakland Marina for Ocean Synapse — with Ben Burke
  • Filmed at South Melbourne Beach for Ocean Synapse — with Sarah Jane Pell.
  • Filmed at Oakland Marina for Ocean Synapse — with Ben Burke
  • Filmed at South Melbourne Beach for Ocean Synapse — with Sarah Jane Pell.
  • Filmed at Oakland Marina for Ocean Synapse — with Ben Burke

Ocean Synapse // A trans-hermisphere performance by Sarah Jane Pell and Ben Burke

Ocean Synapse combines Burke’s use of spent technology design aesthetics and classical story telling through performance poetry, with Pell’s cinematic and aquatic performing arts.

OCEAN SYNAPSE: A Trans-hemisphere performance exploring convergence phenomena as bodies in drift.

Sarah Jane Pell and Ben Burke.

3WDS14 Performance: Communication towards collective goals, plans, values and dreams of governance & stewardship of water for all


By 2040, all systems collide: information transfers through liquids – oceans and gases - as a ubiquitous mainframe supporting all life and intelligence. We see our planet like a brain with two hemispheres supporting one body. The ocean therefore supports synapse pathways of many bodies in drift. Ocean Synapse is a media performance philosophy-in-action event that occurs between two networked artists located in Melbourne (AU) and San Francisco (US). Trans-hemisphere exchange is enabled by digital technologies and historical counterparts and fused with the aesthetics of maritime and ocean lore. The purpose is to critique philosophical and technological convergence phenomena. We exploit poetic formats and a fictional design approach as a research tactic.

"The artists exchange a flurry of white paper vessels, representing the day to day deluge of information exchanged between people and neurons alike, until they each decide to share something deeper, more personal and sacred, represented by red paper vessels which they extract from their pockets and mouths and send across the ocean, as they disappear from one screen and appear on the other, having seemingly traversed the great expanse between the players. Finally, both performers submerge themselves completely in this fluid expanse which connects them, where a final ritual of convergence takes place."

Ocean synapse is presented as a live(d) media performance. The audience engages with a series of camera views: 1 x southern hemisphere, 1 x northern hemisphere, and 2 x artist-cams. They contribute digital origami messages and see synapse pathways in real time on a digital sextant. A literal and poetic performance system comprising of multiple bodies in drift, each body is a vessel containing a message deep within. The significance of the contribution is the poetic framework: a fluid examining of convergence phenomena as flow and its impact across all bodies: ecological, biological, and technological.

3WDS14 Performance: Short film Artifact

Ocean Synapse was developed through a process of fluid fictional creative writing exchange between the two authors, and their real-life professional musing over their respective hybrid experimental arts practices and love for the ocean. As the exchange was manifest as two short films, we refer also the supplementary video documenting the performance of Ocean Synapse. While conceived in collaboration, the two short films were creatively developed, performed and produced independently. The first time the authors saw or heard the final piece was when it premiered live. The Waterwheel online media broadcast platform enabled the authors to collaborate from two locations, and to present their ideas side-by-side in tandem to a single audio track. Pell and Burke’s communication and co-creation from opposite sides of the globe mimics that of the characters in the film. Both parties are attempting to hone in on something intangible, some expression of internal human experience, through the use of external devices. The final resulting short films can be viewed as experimental modes of speculative design or cinematic world building, although that was less of a conscious directive, and more of a tactical resolve to exploit our art, as an expression of the post-Heideggerian bodies in drift and ourselves, searching for connection, and meaning through the love of ocean.

Ocean Synapse: Credits

The first of x2 companion video art pieces to the short film ‘Ocean Synapse (2014) by Pell and Burke. Staring: JOHN CLIFFORD FREDERICKS, BENJAMIN BURKE Director, camera: PAUL MORRIS Editor: PAUL MORRIS. Filmed at the Oakland Marina, California US. The second of x2 companion video art pieces to the short film ‘Ocean Synapse (2014) by Pell and Burke. Staring: RUTH SANCHO HUERGE, ELENA MARQUEZ, SARAH DE LA CERDE, SARAH JANE PELL Director, camera: SARAH JANE PELL Additional filming: ELENA MARQUEZ Editor: SARAH JANE PELL. Filmed at Port Phillip Bay, Victoria AU. Post Production: SPELLART. Music: USMAN RIAZ.

We also acknowledge the support of WaterWheel, RMIT Media & Communications and the TED Fellows program.

Premiere 3WDS14: World Water Day Symposium 2014

3WDS14 Waterwheel World Water Day Symposium logo


Ocean Synapse premiered for the World Water Day Symposium 3WDS14 on March 21, 2014. The international event was held on the internet platform called Waterwheel and in 12 nodes in 5 continents. The two authors/artists were located in opposite hemispheres. Pell performed live from Melbourne, Australia and Burke from New York, United States. Preliminary filming occurred in Oakland, California and Port Phillip Bay, Victoria across the Pacific Ocean. The performance has also resulted in two papers in the conference proceedings and a short film that is currently being scored by Usman Riaz.

As an element, water embodies extremes and contrasts: oceanic depth or shallow rivulet, transparent or opaque, flowing or still. Water cycles through the living systems of the planet: water bodies, life forms, atmosphere. Climate change has produced global water extremes in terms of sea level rise, polar ice disappearance, floods, droughts and desertification. Is water a shared resource or a commodity that is bought, sold, owned and wasted? While we might not all share the same perception of water, exploring deeper connections to it may facilitate a greater understanding of how our collective views have influenced actions and decisions about water. 3WDS14 will explore questions about how we are living, and will continue to live, with water and its contrasts. There is a demand for new perceptions and approaches to water management, urban planning, and cooperation, as well as for a renewed respect for water as a vital resource and shared heritage.

SEE http://www.oceansynapse.com