Sonia Levy: ›Hafrún‹

Sonia Levy’s 2–channel film installation ›Hafrún‹ (2019) is named after the oldest ocean quahog (a type of hard clam) ever found; in 2016, Hafrún was discovered and dredged off the coast of Grímsey, a small island in the North of Iceland, where it died shortly after in the hands of scientists. The film portrays the laboratory process of collecting data from the shell of ocean quahogs. The inner layers of the shells expose intricate patterns – a record of where and in what conditions the shell has lived ­– that bear the traces of centuries of environmental change, as well as the script to predict future ecological scenarios.

The viewers are confronted with the routines of scientific data-gathering: the clams are thoroughly numbered, washed, measured, immersed in resin, and cut open for the purpose of documentation. These images contrast with the idyllic footage of underwater hydrothermal springs, the habitats of the quahogs, taken by diver Erlendur Bogasson. ›Hafrún‹ is not only a lucid account of the human exploitation of marine ecosystems; it further articulates the implicit associative tie between the ocean and the female body ­– the qualong was in fact given a female name, although its sex was never determined. Both the waters and the female body stand in the western imagery as unpredictable entities, controlled by the fluid currents and attuned to the moon cycle. They also share a second, essential quality: they constitute the source of life on earth, a parallelism that feminist author Astrida Neimanis makes clear in her essay on ›Hydrofeminism: Or, On Becoming a Body of Water‹ (2012).