36.5 at Oerol Festival, Netherlands, 2016 — video screening + public engagement variation

The original instructions for the public to participate in the human clock,  36.5  / San Francisco Bay, 2014

While planning 36.5 / San Francisco Bay, Sarah brought in movement and media artist Sasha Petrenko and together they created a physical vocabulary to mark the passing of the hours — which is now used and modified in all subsequent 36.5 works. Based on nautical hand signals, the 6 minute phrase is performed on the hour for the duration of Sunde’s performance. The public is invited to learn the phrase, thus providing space for them to communicate the time somatically through a collective act of presence.

36.5 / bodies and bodies of water on a moving planet, 2016

During the four days leading up to the PSi (Performance Studies International) Conference in Melbourne, 2016, Sasha and Sarah mapped out the location and time of the high tide closest to their physical bodies, and attempted to perform the 36.5 choreography at that time, wherever they were. Sasha was in San Francisco for the duration; Sarah was in the Netherlands, on an airplane, and then in her hometown of New York City. The video work above is the result.

36.5 / Mannahatta at Zuccotti Park, 2017
36.5 / Mannahatta at Zuccotti Park, 2017

Process, Context, Tangential Works

36.5 combines formal aesthetics of Land Art on a monumental scale, Performance Art on an individual body scale, and Video Art on a digital scale with Socially-Engaged Practice as it relates to contemporary environmental concerns.

Each performance is site-specific: the process is participatory; local partners, local artist collaborators/contributors: filmmaker, dancers, musicians; site is determined with community input.

Each video work is unique: captured on camera by a local crew, edited and shown on location within 10 days; the shots last 10-20 minutes; a music drone based on local sound and climate data is layered in, with the goal of creating an experiences that collapses space and time.



When creating a 36.5 work on location, Sunde partners with at least one local arts organization and a local filmmaker, and the project grows organically based on whom she meets. Through research, conversations, observation and workshops, the core question she asks everyone she meets: “What is your relationship to the sea?” Answers and stories help determine specific details for the performance: where to stand, what the installation becomes on the shore, what the local artist and musician contributions will be, etc. Sunde builds a site-specific work with important contributions from the public. On the day of the performance, in addition to the film crew and an organized team of 4-6 people to help execute the work, the community members she has encountered become key communicators of the project to passersby.

Climate change can seem abstract because it is happening too slowly to be perceived by humans on a daily basis. 36.5 invites participants to slow down, observe, experience and consider the impact of sea-level rise by putting their own bodies in direct relationship with the water. There is simply no substitute for experiencing slow change on one’s body or witnessing it over the course of a day. This act of slowing down stays with participants and grants deeper understanding of our place in the world, which is the first step of many toward adaptation and resiliency.



Sunde works at the intersection of performance, video, and public art, informed by 18 years as a theater-maker/director/translator. Her interest is in breaking down the barrier between humans and non-humans.

“Water became my focus and primary site after Hurricane Sandy and I realized that urban cities are just as vulnerable and temporal as our individual bodies. I see “Water Art” as the new Land Art, using water as material much as Land Artists used earth to address scale and ecological change in 1960s-70s.”

Artists References, Predecessors, Influences:

  • Robert Smithson and Nancy Holt — large-scale earthworks, collaborating with the land
  • Christo and Jean-Claude – placement of color in the environment, temporary nature of the event, long planning process and documentation, site-specific spectacle
  • Andy Goldsworthy — temporal work made with found natural materials, process of documentation
  • Eiko & Koma – slow and micro movements in nature
  • Agnes Denes – big picture, long-term thinking
  • Sophie Calle and Mierle Laderman Ukeles — approach to conceptual work, personal stories, and engagement with the public
  • Omer Fast, Ragnar Kjartansson, Miguel Angel Rios – multi-channel video installation forms for conceptual work

Artist colleagues whose work lives in the emerging field of Works on Water, which Sunde is a part of:

  • Marina Zurkow
  • Marie Lorenz
  • Mary Mattingly
  • Eve Mosher
  • Nancy Nowacek

Many cultures have ancient traditions that relate to tracking nature and time in relationship to the body and finding vision through endurance, such as:

  • Lakota’s Humblecha
  • Chinese Qi Gong
  • India’s Tapasya



Since 36.5 began, Sunde has experimented with a variety of ways of documenting the process. Tangential events have grown out of the primary work, such as a screening with a public engagement event (36.5 at Oerol), a video based on the movement phrase for the human clock (36.5 / Bodies and Bodies of Water), a site-specific movement piece through Zuccotti Park (36.5 / Mannahatta).   36.5 in gray/blue  is a tangential digital text work that details the thoughts Sunde was having while in the water during 36.5 / San Francisco Bay (2014);  From 2014-15, she documented her process with this blog.