Meet Geraldine, anthropologist, exhibition curator, and now author! Geraldine joined us for Leg 8 of our Round the World mission. We have been catching up about the impact she has been making since returning ashore, most notably through the publications of two  award-winning books! 

Geraldine. Photo Credits: Anne Bettina Brunet

Can you tell me a bit about yourself?

I live in Brittany and was lucky enough to grow up on a coastline with a family that loves the sea. From an early age I found myself out on the water, and the rhythm of the waves has been a source of comfort for me ever since. 

Having completed my Bachelors and Masters in Art History, I went on to work as an exhibition curator. Since then, my research has ebbed into Anthropology – the intersection between art, indigenous and non indigenous art communities, and marine plastic pollution, more specifically. 

I now work as a Senior Lecturer in Anthropology at the University of Western Brittany. I have also spent a lot of time researching in Australia, so I also have the title of Senior Adjunct Researcher at James Cook University, in Queensland. 

Since eXXpedition, I have written two books. My latest was published just before Christmas, and discusses the networks of social relationships that form in and around ghost fishing nets.

Ghostnet Art. Photo Credits: Geraldine Le Roux

Tell me more about your Anthropology research?

My Masters and Bachelor were in Art History, but I have always been interested in art curation. More specifically, I have always been fascinated by the “objects” of art – what is classified as “art”, and how people establish relationships with these “objects”. 

After my Masters, I decided I would explore this further, and chose to complete a PhD. This investigated the art market, and its role in distinguishing what may be classified as “art”. I was particularly interested in exploring this in relation to the classification of “indigenous art” and “non-indigenous art”. 

Geraldine with Artists. Photo Credits: Geraldine Le Roux

There is a strong pressure on artists to fit into one of these categories – which is often defined according to the ethnicity of the artists, rather than the art itself. Essentially, my research explored what and who these categories include? Inversely, what and who are excluded, and why?  Lastly, who are the actors deciding these categorisations? This also springboarded my interest in the strategies Indigenous artists were using to put their work into the “artworld” – be that through art exhibitions, festivals, or artist networks.  

Geraldine with Artists. Photo Credits: Geraldine Le Roux

Where did your interest in ghost nets come from?

Since creating my first exhibition in 2005, I have displayed the work of countless emerging artists, such as Shigeyuki Kiharat who this year became the first Pacific artist to represent New Zealand at the Venice Biennale.

In 2012, I exhibited a sculpture by Florence Gutchen – an artist from the Torres Strait –  in Paris, which was entirely made from fishing ghostnets. The sculpture –  a woman carrying a bag of fruit and veg from her garden – captivated me. Given my interests in the ocean and marine pollution and my interest in the classification of objects as “art”, my fascination was unsurprising. I selected and exhibited a second ghostnet sculpture, which became the first public presentation of ghostnet art in France.

Geraldine Collecting Nets. Photo Credits: Geraldine Le Roux

It turns out, I was not the only person captivated by this art movement. Influenced and informed by the art at my exhibition, a French art dealer went on to organise a large exhibition of ghostnet art at the prestigious Musée Océanographique de Monaco – the first museum dedicated to the study of the ocean. I was tasked with writing their exhibition catalogue. 

Geraldine in Monaco, 2016. Photo Credits : Geraldine Le Roux
Geraldine in Monaco, 2016

Since then, I have documented the removal of ghost nets, and its conversion into artwork, across several indigenous communities in the Torres Strait, an archipelago between Australia and New Guinea. 

How did you end up joining eXXpedition, and why Leg 8? 

I had always wanted to cross an ocean – it’s always a dream that I have had. A friend of mine is a very famous French writer, and he wrote one of his books whilst crossing an ocean on a cargo ship! So, I always had that as an idea as a PhD student. 

Geraldine, Life Onboard, Photo Credits: Meraki Fade

Whilst I never clambered aboard a cargo ship (at least not yet), I did travel to Morea in French Polynesia, where I spent a lot of time out on the water, and finding inspiration for my latest book.

It was whilst I was there that I first discovered eXXpedition. I woke up in the middle of the night. Not able to sleep, I opened my laptop, and the first thing that popped up was an eXXpedition post. It was one of those lightbulb moments. 

I wrote my application in one night, and sent it off, crossing my fingers that I would be accepted. I ended up doing my interview out in The Marquesas, surrounded by beautiful nature, and crackly wifi connection! 

Sample Sorting, eXXpedition Leg 8, Photo Credits: Rachel Lucas

I knew from the beginning that I wanted to join Leg 8.  Firstly, I knew I wanted to be on the boat for as long as possible. Secondly, I knew Australia very well at that point, as lots of my research had been focused in and around Polynesia. Sailing across the South Pacific was always going to be meaningful, given all the connections and relationships I had formed through my research in that pocket of the world. 

So much of the history of the places I had researched was shaped by people crossing that ocean. It was only natural that I wanted to experience the crossing for myself!

Geraldine, Life on Board eXXpedition Leg 8. Photo Credits: Bonita Baker Robins

How Would You Describe Your Superpower?

I have always known that I am a good listener. Being an anthropologist, and a researcher, has only amplified that quality.  As a writer, I get to capture all the things I have learnt from listening, cross-analyse them and eventually share it with others to help make a difference.

Geraldine, Science Onboard, eXXpedition Leg 8. Photo Credits: Bonita Baker-Robins

Since the voyage, you have published two books! Tell us a bit more about them both, and the process that went into writing them?

When I returned from the voyage, I had this urgent desire to capture my adventure, and document the incredible powers of the 13 women I met on board. Like the rest of the world, I went into lockdown – what better time to write a book! So, I got to work – and eventually named the book Sea Sisters: Un équipage féminin à l’épreuve de la pollution dans le Pacifique (Sea Sisters: A female crew engaged in maritime pollution in the Pacific).

 Cover of Sea Sisters: Un équipage féminin à l’épreuve de la pollution dans le Pacifique

It was a perfect opportunity to document the power of citizen science – where researchers and amateurs came together to solve a common problem. My aim was to ethnographically analyse a participatory science project, and the ways through which awareness around plastic pollution may be raised.

From Tavi – a young surfer from Rapa Nui inspired by  ancestral Polynesian knowledge about ocean protection – to Bonita – a former financial service worker from London – the book discusses the amazing superpowers of my fellow Sisters, and how they were inspiring change in their own unique ways.


The response to my book has been amazing – culminating in my recent Prix du Livre Engagé pour la Planète” – a prestigious French award for books providing significant contributions to the Planet. 

My next book –L’art des ghostnets. Approche anthropologique et esthétique des filets-fantômes – was published just before Christmas. It’s a culmination of over a decade of research! 

Information about  L’art des ghostnets. Approche anthropologique et esthétique des filets-fantômes

Ghostnet art’s emerging international recognition sits at the heart of the book. I use the artwork as a vehicle to question the place of plastic in the world, and address the plastic issue in light of Indigenous and local knowledge and sovereignties.

Sculptures made from nets, baskets woven from rope, and ultra-realistic representations obtained from sewn-fibres, form the artwork captured by the book. The art comes from over a hundred Indigenous and non-Indigenous artists – from Australia, Oceania, the Americas and Europe.

Geraldine Documenting GhostNet Art

As well as considering the transformation of ghostnet waste into beautiful, unique artworks, I explore fishermen’s relationships with fishing gear, and how they lose or abandon them at sea; how one may wander a beach and encounter plastic debris, and our ambivalences towards these encounters.

I am super proud to say that the Book has won the 2019 Musée du Quai Branly Prize-Jacques Chirac award (“Prix d’aide à l’édition). 

Geraldine receiving 2019 Musée du Quai Branly Prize-Jacques Chirac award

Have you had any time to do anything beyond your writing?

A few months after returning from the voyage, I was asked to curate a large Australian art exhibition at the Muséum d’Histoire Naturelle du Havre, in France. The exhibition was the largest ghostnet art exhibition ever displayed in France, and remains as a collection in the museum today. Through my work, and my exhibitions, I hope I can continue challenging cultural institutions to take on the issue of marine pollution.

I have also been reaching out to lots of people, discussing my research. I have attended and spoken at several conferences and festivals. For example, I recently spoke at the opening panel discussion for the prestigious Route du Rhum sailing festival, where I discussed the importance of increasing female participation in both science and sailing. 

Geraldine speaking at Route du Rhum Festival Panel. Photo Credits: Jean-Louis Carli

I’ve been working with lots of different people, beyond just artists. For example, I have been working with fishermen and harbour staff – looking for ways to reduce tariffs on fishing net recycling. In many harbours, fishermen have to pay to deposit old fishing nets. This leaves them with little incentive other than to discard them to the bottom of the ocean floor. Going forwards, I want to help reduce the cost of this recycling process, and better still, eliminate charges altogether.

What about going forwards, have you got anything you’d like to do?

My next big dream –  my new “crazy” idea – is curating my own expedition. I am still in the early stages of planning, but am excited to see where the adventure might take me. 

Geraldine sailing, eXXpedition Leg 8. Photo Credits: Geraldine Le Roux

What are you most proud to have achieved?

In 2016, I put on a small exhibition about Ghost Net art with a group of my students in my hometown. A few days later I was in a coffee shop by the beach, when I saw a boy and his dad walk past, with their arms full with bundles of fishing nets from the beach. 

“I guess you never know what your impact will be, but I felt very proud that our small exhibition had inspired those two people into action.”

I approached them, and asked about where they had found the nets. They told me they had attended an exhibition in town about ghost net art the day before. It had inspired to do their bit. They’d gone down to the beach, and were on their way home to try and re-purpose the debris they found, into an art piece. 

I guess you never know what your impact will be, but I felt very proud that our small exhibition had inspired those two people into action. 

What Keeps You Hopeful about the Future of the Ocean?

Many people didn’t even use to think about the ocean. Now, people all around the world are beginning to realise the impact of their actions. The ever-growing knowledge being generated, and shared, keeps me going, and will continue to define a new path. 

Geraldine. Photo Credits: Rachel Lucas

If You Could Give One Message To The World, What Would It Be?

Look at the art being made with marine debris. You will be fascinated by its beauty, and become addicted to collecting it. I promise!

eXXpedtion, Leg 8 Crew. Photo Credits: Meraki Fade

Photo Credits: Thanks to Bonita Baker-Robins, Geraldine Le Roux, Meraki Fade, Rachel Lucas.