‘Creatures of the Lines,’ 2021 [trailer] Sonia Levy

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.

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Curated by:
13/12 2021
A film by Sonia Levy in collaboration with Heather Anne Swanson
Creatures of the Lines, 2021 [trailer]
Single-channel video, color, sound
1 min 59 sec [full film 19 min 54 sec]
Cinematography Sonia Levy | Underwater Camera Assistant Yosi Romano | Editing Sonia Levy, Susanne Dietz, Lara Garcia Reyne | Editing Consultants Sam Smith, Hanna Rullman, Marcus Held | Sound Artist Jez Riley French | Music Georgia Rodgers ‘Late Lines’ Severine Ballon (cello) | Sound Design Udit Duseja | TEXT “Here smooth canals…” excerpt from ‘The Invitation’ (1773) by Anna Laetitia Barbauld; “I sing…” excerpt from ‘A True and Natural Description of the Great Level of the Fens’ often attributed to Samuel Fortrey (circa 1660-1680) from ‘The History or Narrative of the Great Level of the Fenns’ (1685) by Sir Jonas Moore; “Trade is the golden girdle of the globe…” excerpt from ‘Charity’ (1782) by William Cowper | Voice Gemma Brockis | Chants “I sing” Adaptation by Sara Rodrigues, Rodrigo B. Camacho
Filmed with the kind permission of the Canal & River Trust
Commissioned by Radar Loughborough, produced with the support of Radar Loughborough, Aarhus University Ecological Globalization Research Group, and Aarhus University Interacting Minds Centre 2021 Seed Funding. Online occurrence and contents commissioned by TBA21–Academy for st_age.
  • Clean water and sanitation
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  • Responsible consumption and production
  • Life below water