FTLOC x Martin Savransky : An Ecology of Perhaps is

currently live on the  Critical Zone virtual exhibition site. Click here to read more

In the basement of the Horniman Museum and Gardens in London a team of marine biologists and aquarists led by Jamie Craggs have initiated Project Coral, a pioneering endeavour to breed corals in captivity. By mirroring the environmental circumstances – seasonal temperature changes, solar irradiance and lunar cycles – of the Great Barrier Reef within specially designed tanks, the team has become the first in the world to successfully spawn corals in a laboratory.

Levy has followed Project Coral since late 2017 as a case study of new paradigms for multispecies living, environmental conservation and natural history that are emerging in the wake of the Anthropocene. As a model of a sensitive ecological unit that comprises a multispecies assemblage, coral demonstrates how individual beings are not separate from their environment but, on the contrary, by their sheer existence constitute environments for other beings and contribute to all surrounding ecosystems with complex and far-reaching effects. Project Coral expands that assemblage to include scientists, aquarists and a range of human and non-human actants. The physical form of coral also subverts the canonised animal, vegetal and mineral categories of natural history, which are embedded to the public displays of the Horniman itself. Levy examines how this architectural context of a museum with a living collection — which still echoes the Enlightenment values of human mastery over nature — can become a base for a project that might exemplify a collaborative multispecies survival endeavour.


For the Love of Corals is a cinematic inquiry that focuses on the daily labour of caring for endangered beings to resuscitate them from their imminent human-induced extinction. The technology of the ad hoc laboratory; scientific knowledge; the complexity of marine ecologies; and the intimacy of providing care converge in the precision of sustaining coral IVF. Whilst keeping the coral in captivity is, dishearteningly, the fundamental condition of Craggs’ research, the scientists and the coral also become entangled in sharing a space for living, working and world-making, expanding the range of possible worlds in common.


Craggs’ project and its setting within a museum provide an illuminating lens through which to examine the colonial Western notions of human exceptionalism that have justified the irresponsible exhaustion of the Earth and its life forms. Linking Craggs’ ongoing endeavour with historically significant artefacts in the Horniman archive and collections, For the Love of Corals weaves together a range of narratives, perspectives and temporalities to address the registers and frameworks in which we have sought to understand life on Earth, and to think towards a new paradigm for multispecies living.

For the Love of Corals (2018) Trailer

Written, produced and directed by Sonia Levy

Edited by Sonia Levy and Sam Smith

Soundtrack and located sound by Jez Riley French

Music by Georgia Rodgers

Distal theories, performed by Two New Duo: Ellen Fallowfield (cello) and Stephen Menotti (trombone), Partial Filter, performed by David Powell (tuba)

Coral egg and embryo development timelapses by Jamie Craggs and Sonia Levy


Special thanks to: Jamie Craggs; Project Coral: Michelle Davies, Chloé Priestland, Keri O’Neil; and The Horniman Museum and Gardens: Alison McKay and Connie Churcher, Emma Nicholls and Jo Hatton, Henry Rowsell; Filip Tydén, Nella Aarne and Sam Smith, Jez Riley French, Alexandra Arènes and Soheil Hajmirbaba, Anna Ricciardi, Ayesha Keshani.


For the Love of Corals was produced with the support of Obsidian Coast and Fluxus Art Projects

For the Love of Corals: An Ecology of Perhaps

In collaboration with Martin Savransky


For the Love of Corals: An Ecology of Perhaps are polyphonic writings and readings taking as their starting point Derek Walcott’s famous poem, The Sea is History (1979), to weave together artist Sonia Levy's research at the Horniman Museum and Gardens for her film For the Love of Corals, with ruminations by the philosopher Martin Savransky on the precarious lives of corals in the ecological hold of a perhaps, of the faint possibility of inhabiting the Earth otherwise.


The Great Barrier Reef off Cairns, Australia, has seen one of its warmest summers in 2020, and with it, yet another mass coral bleaching event. Some of the features of the polyphonic composition and text are connected and respond to near real-time sea temperature data from Cairns collected by NOAA Coral Reef Watch.


The text and sound provides continuities and resonances to its visual inquiries. How to inherit the precariousness of our earthly present? How to sustain endangered worlds and stories? How to tell stories in uncertain times? How to attend to the interstices where lives and worlds are made inside and in spite of ongoing devastation, bleaching and extinction?




Coral and Algae, Blue and Unblue by Stefan Helmreich


Presented remotely as a commentary on For the Love of Corals at The Camille Diaries, online Symposium, Art Laboratory Berlin, September 26, 2020 accompanying the exhibition The Camille Diaries: Current Artistic Positions on M/otherhood, Life and Care curated by Regine Rapp and Christian de Lutz (28 August - 4 October 2020).