THE dEEP ANATOMY SYMPOSIUM, 26 April – 10 May, 2015.
Long Island, The Bahamas.

An interdisciplinary symposium between performance studies and freediving, with PSi#21 Fluid States and Vertical Blue 2015.

This cluster used the unique geography of Long Island and the Vertical Blue  free-diving championship as a site for provocative intersections between the local community, athletes, and performance studies academics. The programme and curation of the event examined performance and free-diving both as integrated processes: where action and intellect combine, and a ‘deep anatomy’ occurs. This key theme applied Richard Sennet’s discussions on craft to the work of the athlete and the performance artist, where a physical act or process is invested with deep ethical values through material consciousness and care-full action.

By engaging with a so called ‘extreme sports’, artists were able to look at an activity that society marginalises and defines as dangerous with this label. The cluster attempted to discuss a contemporary condition that is preoccupied with physical limitations and constructs such as fear and terror, recognizing the pervasive impact this has across society. Free-divers disregard these inhibitors in order to reach great depths, conquering mental and physical boundaries to redefine the limits of human performance. An alliance with this sport allowed the performance studies community to critique the limitations that are imposed on our physical and mental lives by the performance cultures that we inhabit.

By locating the event in a place such as Long Island, there was a proximity to and a distance from Western culture that emphasised certain paradoxes. In these islands (Baha-mar, “shallow sea) of flat unthreatening depths and long sands, the sudden abyss of Dean’s Blue Hole is an invitation to look beneath the surface of things, and dive into places beyond the reach of breath.


Denise Batchelor – One Breath [read more]
Mick Douglas – Sampling.Salting.Sounding [read more]
Sara Malou Strandvad – Performing Water: a sociology of freediving [read more]
Sally J Morgan – In the Hollow of Your Hand [read more]
Amelia Taverner – Cast Aways [read more]
Sam Trubridge – Many Breaths (to lift an anchor from the sea bed) [read more]

Tracy C Davis – visiting correspondent [read more]
Jess Richards – visiting correspondent [read more]

[Visit the Fluid States website]
[Visit the Vertical Blue website]
[Visit the Performance Studies International (PSi) website]

25/4/2015: Beyond the Reach of Breath: A Message From India –  transmission from Fluid States New Delhi cluster (Rethinking Labour and the Creative Economy) by Rhustom Bharucha [read]

27/4/2015: Video of free-divers training before Vertical Blue 2015, by Daan Verhoeven. While our artists and researchers have only just arrived, the athletes have been here for three weeks – training and preparing themselves to push their limits. Here is a montage prepared by Vertical Blue videographer Daan Verhoeven from this preparation period. Now, after Day 1 of the competition we have new National records for Colombia, Japan, Mexico, and the first National record ever for India by Shiv Madhu diving to 70 metres in Free Immersion. [view]

30/4/2015: Depth – an ‘Intersections Talk’ by freediver and photographer Daan Verhoeven about his father Cornelis Verhoeven (author of The Philosophy of Wonder), and the notion of ‘depth’ that unites their work. [view]

1/5/2015: Video Diary – Vertical Blue 2015 ACT#1  [view]

2/5/2015: Being Contextual – an ‘Intersections Talk’ by architect and Long Island regular Howard Holtzman about the indigenous peoples, the geology, and weather systems on Long Island. [view]

5/5/2015: Video Diary – Vertical Blue 2015 ACT#2 [view]

7/5/2015: Breatheology – an ‘Intersections Talk’ by Guinness World Record Breaking free-diver Stig Severinsen [view]

13/5/2015: Video Diary – Vertical Blue 2015 Act#3 [view]

17/5/2015: Freedom – an ‘Intersections Talk’ by VB2015 athlete Katarina Linczenyiova [view]


  • Performance studies is approached as a study of how we do things, why we do things; when every collective or individual action is performed in response to our political, cultural, spatial, social, philosophic context.
  • Performance design is a leading perspective in the curation and conception of this event. It is considered a design practice where the study of space, body, action, and media, produces a fluency and literacy in the tacit languages through which performance, architecture, and culture influence audiences and broader publics.
  • Freediving is a highly specialized sport where divers test their aquatic potential in a variety of different disciplines in swimming pools or deep water. Over the 25 years since it was popularized by Luc Besson’s film The Big Blue, the limits of the sport have been extended beyond unimaginable limits. The subjects of Besson’s film were reaching 100 metres in 1976 with the use of weighted sledges and returning with air-filled balloons. Now divers like William Trubridge are reaching these same depths without the assistance of any mechanism and without fins – just an adapted breath-stroke.
  • The freediving athlete is considered as an exemplary combination of scientist and artist, using rigorous testing and study of the unknown, culminating in a ‘risk-act’ that extends the limits of human potential and challenges familiar cultural attitudes.
  • Vertical Blue: since its first event in 2008 the Vertical Blue freediving championship has presided over multiple world record and national records for athletes coming from all over the world. With the unique conditions provided by the Blue Hole and a well managed event, this championship is recognized as one of the best for freediving in the world.
  • Long Island is a narrow spit of limestone and sand, pushed up from milleniums of wave action. It is 130 kilometers wide and only 2 kilometers wide in most places. Environmental damage is significant, but as locals are beginning to care for their shorelines and ecologies, new relationships are forming with their surroundings.
  • The local community is comprised of four subsets:
    ‘Long Islanders’ – born on the Island of various descents: Greek fishermen, Loyalists from the US Civil War, their slaves, and other naturalized Bahamians. The indigenous Lucayan people were wiped out during early settlement.
    ‘Second Homers’ – foreigners who have property on the island and come several times a year over holidays, usually from USA and Canada.
    ‘Expats’ who have moved to the island for a quieter warmer lifestyle.
    Haitian refugees. A less visible part of the community, these people have come north to escape their country’s poverty and recent disasters.
  • Dean’s Blue Hole penetrates the skin of the shallow Bahamian landscape, and is essentially an opening in the beach to an underwater cave. Sand, treasures, and detritus slides into it, which is 208 metres (over 600 feet) deep. Dean’s Blue Hole is the deepest of its kind in the world. It is a ‘cenote’, a kind of underwater cavern that can be found throughout the Bahamian archipelago and the Caribbean Sea. The programme centres on The Blue Hole: which provides a natural amphitheatre and perfect environment for the usually inaccessible sport of freediving to become visible. This natural architecture will be used as a ‘sympotic’ space to incubate dialogues and collaborations for the final Deep Anatomy symposium.
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