In the basement of the Horniman Museum in London, a team of marine biologists and aquarists led by Jamie Craggs have embarked on breeding 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 other human and nonhuman 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 Museum 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.