Sonia Levy's research-led practice considers shifting modes of engagement with other/more-than-human worlds in light of prevailing earthly precarity. Her work operates at the intersection of art and science, a co-becoming of practices tending to the reweaving of multispecies worlds. WE MARRY YOU O SEA


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Creatures of the Lines is an artist film and collaboration with the anthropologist Heather Anne Swanson. It explores how desires for economic growth and linear progress has produced straightened forms in England’s watery terrains and asks what risks are associated with the conversion of once-curvy and braided worlds into a linearised landscape.

Drawing on their 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 the 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 –and thus serve as a key site for exploring often-overlooked histories of colonial capitalism and their material presences in contemporary 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 infrastructures of global political economy.

Creatures of the Lines (2021) Trailer

A film by Sonia Levy
In collaboration with Heather Anne Swanson

Cinematography: Sonia Levy
Underwater camera assistant: Yosi Romano
Editing: Sonia Levy, Susanne Dietz and Lara Garcia Reyne
Editing consultants: Sam Smith, Hanna Rullman and Marcus Held
Sound artist: Jez Riley French & Sonia Levy
Music: Georgia Rodgers
‘Late Lines’: Severine Ballon (cello)
Voice: Gemma Brockis
Chants: "I sing..." adaptation by Sara Rodrigues & Rodrigo B. Camacho

Many thanks to Paul Wood, Simone Guareschi, Sarah Evans, David Ryves, and Daniel Gschwentner (Loughborough Geography Department); Laura Purseglove and David Bell (Radar Loughborough); Gideon Corby, Esther Adelman (Wildlife Gardeners of Haggerston) and Sarah Lo; Timothy Mulligan, Cassie Clarke and Spencer Green (Canal & River Trust); Sara Rodrigues, Roxanna Albayati and Rodrigo B. Camacho (New Maker Ensemble); the research project 'BLUE: Multispecies Ethnographies of Oceans in Crisis' (funded by the Danish Independent Research Fund); along with Sam Smith and Nella Aarne (Obsidian Coast), Anna L.Tsing, Sheila Halsall, Karen Holmberg, Peter Christensen, Line Marie Thorsen, Filip Tydén and members of the Aarhus University EcoGlobal Research Group.
Creatures of the Lines was produced with the support of Radar Loughborough, Aarhus University Ecological Globalization Research Group, and Aarhus University Interacting Minds Centre 2021 Seed Funding. Filmed with the kind permission of the Canal & River Trust



Sonia Levy

This text is an edited version of an online conversation between Katherine Richardson, biological oceanographer and leader of the Sustainability Science Centre and principal investigator for the Center for Macroecology, Evolution and Climate at the University of Copenhagen, and artist Sonia Levy, which took place in May 2022. The interview functions as complimentary material that furthers the inquiries of Levy’s film Creatures of the Lines (2021), made in collaboration with anthropologist Heather Anne Swanson and presented as part of the third season of st_age.

The interview discusses ideas such as the heterogeneity and three-dimensionality of oceanic worlds; the terrestrial bias that shapes aquatic ecological concepts (e.g. the ways we incorrectly try to understand oceanic environments via principles from land-based sciences); the limits of Earth system sciences in accounting for the profound effects of biodiversity; as well as the importance of more substantially considering the interdependent relations among different life forms.

Click here to read the interview or listen below


Heather Anne Swanson in conversation with Anna Lowenhaupt Tsing

In this podcast, anthropologist Anna Lowenhaupt Tsing, Professor at the University of California, Santa Cruz, and Aarhus University, Denmark, meets Heather Anne Swanson, a fellow anthropologist at Aarhus University and collaborative partner for Sonia Levy’s film Creatures of the Lines (2021) previously presented on TBA21 on st_age. Tsing is the author of several books, including The Mushroom at the End of the World, as well as a co-editor of the digital project Feral Atlas together with Jennifer Deger, Alder Saxena Keleman, and FeiFei Zhou. 

In the podcast, Tsing and Swanson discuss several of Tsing’s recent projects, while also describing the significance that these approaches had on Creatures of the Lines (2021). Along the way, this conversation covers wide-ranging topics, including Tsing’s notion of feral ecologies—i.e. those shaped by interactions with human infrastructures, but outside of the control of the humans who designed those infrastructures. The dialogue also features a special focus on oceanic and coastal contexts, including Tsing’s new work on mangroves in Southeast Asia and her idea of “fragmented porosities” as well as its conceptual links with Levy’s film on British canal worlds. Both cases highlight how colonial infrastructures are part and parcel of Anthropocene ecologies.

Audio transcript here.

Produced to accompany Creatures of the Lines screening on TBA 21 st_age

Heather Anne Swanson and Sonia Levy

View and/or download HERE

A Glossary produced to accompany Creatures of the Lines screening on TBA 21 st_age



Heather Anne Swanson with Sonia Levy

Associate Professor of Anthropology at Aarhus University and Director of the Aarhus University Centre for Environmental Humanities, Heather Anne Swanson describes the tightened relationships between the oceans and the British canals. These infrastructures were introduced as part of the British empire and global shipping commerce in the 17th century. Since then, canals have not merely transformed England’s landscapes and freshwaters as they were fashioned into an effective means to transport goods; they have also become an ecological space where ocean materialities and freshwater lifeworlds merge.

Swanson invites us to question “What may be noticed if we study oceans from inland areas?” – a line of research that has grounded her collaboration in Sonia Levy’s film, Creatures of the Lines.

Waters of Connection: Marine Transport, Introduced Organisms, and Inland Ecologies was produced to accompany Creatures of the Lines screening on TBA 21 st_age



This resource list compile some of research for Creatures of the Lines (2021). It includes theoretical publications, academic papers, conferences, and more, offering insights into more-than-human geographies influenced by empire and capital. The materials delve into the analysis of lines formed by these processes, encompassing economic and ecological relations shaping canals—be it global transit, biological homogenisation, or the presence of introduced organisms. Additionally, you'll find references to related projects, collaborators, and supporters of this work, along with insights into the visual and cinematic approaches present in the film.


  1. Ait-Touati, Frederique; Arenes, Alexandra; and Gregoire, Axelle. Terra forma: A book of speculative maps. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 202 [To renew our cartographic imaginaries and shift from ‘a point of view’ to ‘a point of life’.]
  2. Anderson, Virginia DeJohn. Creatures of empire: How domestic animals transformed early America. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004 [With a focus on the US, Anderson offers key insights about how non-humans are pulled into colonial and imperial projects.]
  3. Da Cunha, Dilip. The invention of rivers: Alexander's eye and Ganga's descent. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2019 [Inspiring research on the work of making separations between land and water. How, it asks, can we instead situate ourselves within the hydrological cycle?]
  4. Gandy, Matthew. The fabric of space: Water, modernity, and the urban imagination. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2014 [A look at the place of water in cities with a chapter on London focusing on flood management and the role that fears and fantasies have played in the construction of the city’s inundation defences]
  5. Jeans, J. Stephen. Waterways and Water Transport In Different Countries with a description of the Panama, Suez, Manchester, Nicaraguan, and other canals. London & New York: E. & F. N. Spon, 1890 [2018] [Reflection on canals about 120 years after they started to become an important feature of British landscapes.]
  6. Sanghera, Sathnam. Empireland: How imperialism has shaped modern Britain. London: Penguin, 2021 [An excellent resource for thinking about British empire in general.]
  7. Simberloff, Daniel. Invasive species: What everyone needs to know. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2013 [An overview of invasive species issues from the perspective of a noted scientist.]
  8. Sharpe, Christina. In the wake: On blackness and being. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2016. [Sharpe’s use of ‘residence time’ – the length of time it takes for a substance to enter and leave the ocean – draws attention to how the horrors of the Transatlantic slave trade are still cycling the Atlantic Ocean, as human blood has a residence time of 260 million years in these waters. Her work presents racism and colonialism not only as discursive subjects, but also as material phenomena. This understanding has shaped our thinking on the materialities of canals’ water.]
  9. Warwick, Hugh. Linescapes: Remapping and reconnecting Britain's fragmented wildlife. New York: Penguin Random House, 2017 [A key resource for thinking about the geometries of contemporary British landscapes.]


  1. Bailey, Sarah A. "An overview of thirty years of research on ballast water as a vector for aquatic invasive species to freshwater and marine environments." Aquatic Ecosystem Health & Management 18, no. 3 (2015): 261-268 thirty_years_of_research_on_ballast_water_as_a_vector_for_aquatic_invasive_species_to_freshwater_and_marine_environments/links/55b6573308aec0e5f436fdec/An-overview-of-thirty-years-of-research-on-ballast-water-as-a-vector-for-aquatic-invasive-species-to-freshwater-and-marine-environments.pdf
  2. Casid, Jill H. "Doing things with being undone." Journal of Visual Culture 18, no. 1 (2019): 30-52 [Jill H Casid’s provoking concept of the Necrocene, reveals capitalism’s logic of “accumulation by extinction.”]
  3. Chen, Nancy N. “‘Speaking nearby:’ A conversation with Trinh T. Minh–ha." Visual Anthropology Review 8, no. 1 (1992): 82-91 [Trinh T Minh-ha’s practice of 'speaking nearby' as opposed to 'speaking about' – i.e. not speaking from a position of authority but instead letting things come to oneself, in all their liveliness – has very much guided our approach to filmmaking.]
  4. Clark, Brett; and Bellamy Foster, John. "Ecological imperialism and the global metabolic rift: Unequal exchange and the guano/nitrates trade." International Journal of Comparative Sociology 50, no. 3-4 (2009): 311-334
  5. Cole, Susanna DL. "Space into time: English canals and English landscape painting 1760-1835." PhD diss., Columbia University, 2013 [A wonderful doctoral thesis on the cultural history, imaginaries, and visual imagery of canals.]
  6. Davidson, Ian C.; Scianni, Christopher; Minton, Mark S.; and M. Ruiz, Gregory. "A history of ship specialization and consequences for marine invasions, management and policy." Journal of Applied Ecology 55, no. 4 (2018): 1799-1811
  7. Dorninger, Christian; Hornborg, Alf; Abson, David J.; Von Wehrden, Henrik; Schaffartzik, Anke; Giljum, Stefan; Engler, John-Oliver; Feller, Robert L.; Hubacek, Klaus; and Wieland, Hanspeter. "Global patterns of ecologically unequal exchange: Implications for sustainability in the 21st century." Ecological economics 179 (2021): 106824
  8. Fei, Songlin; Phillips, Jonathan; and Shouse, Michael. "Biogeomorphic impacts of invasive species." Annual Review of Ecology, Evolution, and Systematics 45 (2014): 69-87
  9. Latham, A. David M.; Latham, M. Cecilia; Boyce, Mark S.; and Boutin, Stan. "Movement responses by wolves to industrial linear features and their effect on woodland caribou in northeastern Alberta." Ecological Applications 21, no. 8 (2011): 2854-2865 [Lines and their more-than-human effects in a terrestrial context.]
  10. Latham, A. David M.; Latham, M. Cecilia; Boyce, Mark S.; and Boutin, Stan. "Movement responses by wolves to industrial linear features and their effect on woodland caribou in northeastern Alberta." Ecological Applications 21, no. 8 (2011): 2854-2865 [Lines and their more-than-human effects in a terrestrial context.]
  11. Padial, A.A.; Vitule, J.R.S.; and Olden, J.D. “Preface: aquatic homogenocene—understanding the era of biological re-shuffling in aquatic ecosystems.” Hydrobiologia 847, 3705–3709 (2020).
  12. Putz, Francis E. “Halt the Homogeocene: A frightening future filled with too few species.” The Palmetto: Quarterly Magazine of the Florida Native Plant Society 18, No. 1 (April), 1998 [A framework for considering biological homogenization.]
  13. Rosenzweig, Michael L. "The four questions: What does the introduction of exotic species do to diversity?." Evolutionary Ecology Research 3, no. 3 (2001): 361-367 [Thinking through the complexities of biotic homogenization and the trends in species diversity loss.]
  14. Son, Mikhail O.; Prokin, Alexander A.; Dubov, Pavel G.; Konopacka, Alicja; Grabowski, Michał; MacNeil, Calum; and Panov, Vadim E. "Caspian invaders vs. Ponto-Caspian locals–range expansion of invasive macroinvertebrates from the Volga Basin results in high biological pollution of the Lower Don River." Management of Biological Invasions 11, no. 2 (2020):178-200
  15. Stoler, Ann Laura. "Imperial debris: Reflections on ruins and ruination." Cultural Anthropology 23, no. 2 (2008): 191-219 [A scholar whose work focuses on the durabilities and remains of empire, as well as modes of engaging with the histories of imperial formations.]
  16. Walker, Jack R., and Hassall, Christopher. "The effects of water chemistry and lock-mediated connectivity on macroinvertebrate diversity and community structure in a canal in northern England." Urban Ecosystems 24, no. 3 (2021): 491-500
  17. Wilson, Hazel L.; Johnson, Matthew F.; Wood, Paul J.; Thorne, Colin R.; and Eichhorn, Markus P. "Anthropogenic litter is a novel habitat for aquatic macroinvertebrates in urban rivers." Freshwater Biology 66, no. 3 (2021): 524-534


  1. Casid, Jill H. "Doing things with being undone." [Youtube, Department of Visual Cultures, Goldsmiths, November 20, 2020] [Jill H Casid’s provoking concept of the Necrocene, reveals capitalism’s logic of “accumulation by extinction.”]
  2. Kiley, Daniel Urban. “Lecture: Dilip Da Cunha, “The Invention of Rivers”. [Youtube, Harvard GSD, February 20, 2019] [Inspiring research on the work of making separations between land and water. How, it asks, can we instead situate ourselves within the hydrological cycle?]
  3. Otter, Chris. “Diet for a large planet” [Youtube, Einstein Forum, Streamed live on February 1, 2018 [Explores the transnational connections of Britain’s foodways, including their social consequences and environmental footprints.]
  4. Painlevé, Jean, Hamon Geneviève. Les amours de la pieuvre. 1967 [Youtube, NYC BLOCKS, January, 2020]. [Early cinematic and aquatic tales where the scientific crosses with experimental filmmaking]
  5. Simberloff, Daniel. “Biological invasions: What's new, and why the controversy” [Youtube, UCLA IoES, May 22, 2014]. [An overview of invasive species issues from the perspective of a noted scientist.] 
  6. Stoler, Ann. “Concept-Work for Colonial Histories” [Youtube, Boğaziçi Üniversitesi, September 9, 2003]  [A scholar whose work focuses on the durabilities and remains of empire, as well as modes of engaging with the histories of imperial formations.]
  7. Tsing, Anna Lowenhaupt. “A feminist approach to the Anthropocene: Earth stalked by Man”, 2015. Helen Pond McIntyre '48 Lecture, Barnard Centre for Research on Women (BCRW), November 10, 2015 [Vimeo, BCRW Videos] [Tsing’s work on processes of ecological damage have been central to our thinking.]
  8. Warwick, Hugh. “The Importance of Linescapes – A Hedgehog’s View” [Youtube, Carbon Landscape, April 6, 2020] [A key resource for thinking about the geometries of contemporary British landscapes.]


  1. Anderson, Virginia DeJohn. “Keep Off the Grass”(10:20-18:59) chapter in “The Beasts Within: Domesticated Animals in America” audio story, presented by Peter Onuf, BackStory with the American History Guys, January 2014 [With a focus on the US, Anderson offers key insights about how non-humans are pulled into colonial and imperial projects.]
  2. Sanghera, Sathnam. “Empireland: How imperialism has shaped modern Britain”, 2021. History Extra podcast, presented by Ellie Cawthorne, February 20, 2021, [An excellent resource for thinking about British empire in general.]


  1. BLUE: Multispecies Ethnographies of Oceans in Crisis [Research Project, Aarhus University] [A Denmark-based research project of which we are also a part]
  2. Ecological Globalization Anthropology on the New Pangaea [Research Project, Aarhus University] [Provided intellectual and financial support for this project]
  3. Feral Atlas [An online, multi-genre exploration of proliferations and ecological damage]
  4. Global Trout [Department of Social Anthropology, Faculty of Social Sciences, University of Oslo] [A research project that develops a similar analytical approach to the waterscape effects of British colonialism via the case of trout introductions]
  5. Obsidian Coast [Project Space and Artist peer-group]
  6. Professor Paul Wood [Profile] [Primary scientific collaborator on canal ecologies]
  8. Radar Loughborough [Art Organization that commissioned this work]