VIEW and/or DOWNLOAD accompanying keyword glossary HERE.
Creatures of the Lines is a film and collaboration between artist Sonia Levy and environmental anthropologist Heather Swanson. It explores how desires for economic growth and linear progress have produced straightened forms in England’s watery terrains and asks what risks are associated with the conversion of its once curvy and braided worlds into linearized landscapes. Drawing on their longstanding research interests and conversations with geographers and aquatic ecologists from Loughborough University, the film explores how English waterscapes have been transformed via the construction of canals. As arteries of British Empire, canals linked Indian cotton fields to domestic textile mills, facilitating vast ecological transformations from monoculture agriculture in the colonies to industrial discharges in England’s waters, soils, and air. Thus, they are a key entity from which to explore often-overlooked histories of colonial capitalism and their material presences in contemporary worlds.
Attempting to work from within muddy and submerged sites, rather than from grand narratives or ‘god’s-eye’ viewpoints, the work begins inside canals, telling stories from within the lines. Making use of the open-ended sensibilities offered by disciplines such as ethnography and natural history, it raises questions about ecological transformations and their ties to the infra/structures of global political economy.
st_age, in collaboration with TBA21–Academy, presented the full film for a period of three weeks in December 2021, and a trailer of the work will remain on st_age. It is also accompanied by a series of complementary materials, which include an audio essay titled ‘Waters of Connection: Marine Transport, Introduced Organisms, and Inland Ecologies’ by Heather Anne Swanson with Sonia Levy, and a keyword glossary, ‘A (Highly) Partial Field Guide to British Canals: Introducing some processes and beings’ by Heather Anne Swanson and Sonia Levy.