Artists Wesam Al Asali, FRAUD and Nastassja Simensky come together to bring a critical framing to the concept of preservation. Embracing different methodologies and spanning diverse contexts – from the Syrian conflict, to pre and postindustrial England – their practices shed light on issues of accountability, agency, power and ownership.
Creatures of the Lines is a new film by the artist Sonia Levy, produced in collaboration with the environmental anthropologist Heather Swanson. It explores how the desire for economic growth and linear progress has produced straightened forms in England’s watery landscapes, and asks what risks are associated with the conversion of once-curvy and braided worlds into a linearised landscape.
Drawing on Levy and Swanson's longstanding research interests and conversations exploring the risks to and in aquatic ecologies with academics 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 airs– and thus serve as a key site for exploring often-overlooked histories of colonial capitalism and their material presences in contemporary British worlds.
Attempting to work from within muddy, 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 of ethnography and natural history, it raises questions about ecological transformations and their ties to infra/structures of global political economy.
The work was informed by workshops with students of University of California, Santa Cruz and NYU Gallatin; and a work-in-progress screening hosted by Radar in summer 2021.
A (Highly) Partial Field Guide to British Canals, a glossary of terms related to the film, was produced by Swanson and Levy in conjunction with the film's 2021/2 screening by the online arts and ecology publication platform st_age. This can be read here.
Creatures of the Lines was supported by Aarhus University's Ecological Globalisation Research Group, with the support of the Carlsberg Foundation (Distinguished Associate Professor Fellowship CF17-0872).
Producer - Laura Purseglove for Radar
Production Support - David Bell for Radar
Loughborough University Academic Partners - Professor Paul Wood, Dr David Ryves, Dr Simone Guareschi, Dr Rachel Murray, Environmental Humanities Group, Institute of Advanced Studies 'Water' Theme
Creatures of the Lines: Cut 1, A Workshop
Wed 23 June 2021
18:00pm - 19:45pm
A screening of the first cut of Sonia Levy's 'Creatures of the Lines'. Read more
The Linearization of Landscapes: Patterns of Water, Terrain, and Life
Thu 18 June 2020
14:00pm - 15:30pm
A reading group led by Sonia Levy, Heather Swanson and Rachel Murray. Read more
For the Love of Corals Screening (IAS 'Water' Theme Launch)
Wed 13 November 2019
14:00pm - 16:00pm
Screening of Sonia Levy's 'For the Love of Corals' as part of the Institute of Advanced Study's 'Water' theme launch. Read more
A (Highly) Partial Field Guide to British Canals
A glossary of terms produced by Sonia Levy and Heather Swanson to accompany their film Creatures of the Lines. Read more