Skip to main content

Sonia Levy

Sonia Levy is a research-led visual artist whose practice considers shifting modes of engagement with more-than-human worlds in light of prevailing Earthly precarity. Her work operates at the confluence of knowledge practices to interrogate expansionist and extractivist logics.

Sonia's EMBracing the Ocean project engaged with the Venetian Lagoon "from below" with the aim to bring attention to the city's submerged, life-giving and altered bio-geomorphological processes, exploring Venice's enduring relationship with its permeating waters and ongoing legacies of quests for mastery over watery environments.

Sonia has developed a film in collaboration with local marine scientists from Stazione Idrobiologica Umberto D'Ancona, University of Padova where she spent time in a fieldwork residency. The film is entitled “We Marry You, O Sea, as a Sign of True and Perpetual Dominion” and is composed of submerged footage collected when accompanying scientists on fieldtrips and with fishers, directed by their research and knowledge on critical issues impacting the Lagoon socio-ecological system. The profound impacts of intensive industrialisation on the Lagoon, including its altered bio-geomorphology, water quality, and the introduction of numerous new species through ballast water via transnational shipping, emerged as crucial stories that needed to be shared. Rare archival images documenting the Lagoon's industrialisation were unearthed to underscore this significant narrative. The film features an original soundtrack developed by composer Esmeralda Conde Ruiz featuring a chorus of human voices and underwater sound recordings which intimate the rarely articulated relation between human realms and submerged spaces.

The film derives its name from the ritual of "The Marriage of the Sea," a ceremony that persisted until the decline of the Venetian Republic. During this tradition, the Doge, the Republic's patriarch, symbolically wedded the Lagoon by casting a golden ring into the water, asserting dominance over the Sea. The project explores Venice's enduring relationship with its permeating waters, reflecting on its ongoing legacies of quests for mastery over watery environments. In the Lagoon, a place necessitating constant modifications for human settlements, shallows and infrastructures have long been intricately intertwined. However, in the 20th century, modernisation efforts irrevocably transformed the wetland into an industrial frontier, reclaiming land from the waters for activities such as crude oil refineries. These industrial ventures, powered by petrochemicals, wrought irreversible changes in the region's socio-ecological dynamics.

Through close exchanges with scientists from the Stazione, notably with Associate Professor Alberto Barausse, who has experience working across socio-ecological systems and sustainability, participatory workshops were held between January - March 2024 with local resource managers and policymakers using the submarine audiovisuals as a catalyst for co-creating epistemologies and strategies for the Lagoon management. These participatory workshops are being designed in collaboration with curator and researcher Chiara Famengo, working at the intersection of art, ecology and community engagement.  A podcast series also accompanied the project. Further seminar and meetings with local reserachers were organised in partnership with NICHE.

The trailer for the film can be found on the EMB YouTube Channel.


Film premiered at "Floating Cinema - Unknown Waters" in Venice focused on "Rethinking the City from the Lagoon” on 1 September.

Exhibited as part of the "Liquid Intelligence" exhibition at the Thyssen-Bornemisza National Museum in Madrid from October 9 20203 – January 28 2024. This exhibition is accompanied by the text "Becoming Lagoon-Literate" by Karin Ingersoll.

"Unruly Natures" programme in Venice, January 24 - 28 2024.

Action for Mission Restore our Ocean and Waters

This project is an action towards achieving the objectives of the European Commission's Mission Restore our Ocean and Waters, specifically contributing to the enabler “Public mobilisation and engagement”.