The Sea is History
Collection [detail] :The Sea is History, 2016.

April 2017

Louis Henderson: The Sea is History

Louis Henderson is a filmmaker whose works investigate the connections between colonialism, technology, capitalism, and history. A graduate of London College of Communication and Le Fresnoy – studio national des arts contemporains, Henderson is currently completing a post-diplôme within an experimental art and research group at the European School of Visual Arts. His research seeks to formulate an archaeological method within film practice, reflecting on new materialities of the Internet and the possibility for techno-animistic resistance to neocolonialism.

He has shown his work at places such as: Rotterdam International Film Festival, CPH:DOX, New York Film Festival, Transmediale, the Kiev Biennial 2015, the Centre Pompidou, FRAC Midi-Pyrénées, Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, Tate Modern, and Whitechapel Gallery. In 2015 he was the recipient of the Barbara Aronofsky Latham Award for Emerging Video Artist at the 53rd Ann Arbor Film Festival, USA; and a European Short Film Award – T-Mobile New Horizons International Film Festival, Wroclaw, Poland. His work is distributed by Lux (UK) and Video Data Bank (USA).

The Sea is History

She was standing at the edges of Lago Enriquillo, a huge, hyper-salinated lake towards the west of the Dominican Republic, on the border with Haiti. The lake had been flooding the surrounding land, and in the process destroying villages, trees, farmland, and consequently the lives and habitats of the local people and animals. A plantation of dead palm trees, erect and half-submerged in brown water, leafless, lifeless, still, shimmered in its own reflection. Some people said the rise in the lake’s water level was due to climate change and the warming of the Global Ocean. Others said it was for other reasons. Some expounded tales of government-organised floods to release hidden oil under the lake’s bed, whilst others told of a corrupt local dam project that syphoned its excess water towards the channels that fed the lake. Yet Lago Enriquillo was getting saltier—perhaps the ocean was seeping in through underground torrents? Regardless of the real reasons for the water’s expansion, she looked at the lake as a present example of an apocalyptic future bound up with a certain past—a past that perhaps contained the code to a different future.

It was here on this island, she thought, that the Spaniards first arrived and were thus discovered by the indigenous of this land. A moment in which two cultures met, yet the potentially productive Relation was irretrievably lost from the beginning and the violence that ensued. It was here on this island, she thought, that the plantation system was first developed to the degree that allowed for global capitalism to take its hold on the earth. An economic system based on the domination and mass exploitation of a local labor force, and eventually, after the near-total destruction of the native population, growth in the Old World was secured through the uprooting and transportation of a faraway labor force. “Slavery, the root of modern-day capitalism,” she said, and then: “capitalism, the root of our present ecological crisis.” The island in which she found herself at that moment started to take on the shape of a circle closing in on itself—a snake eating its own tail: Ouroboros. This history had designed its own death from the very beginning, a hell-bent process of extraction at every level. Metabolic rift after metabolic rift, until nothing would be left of what was once there.

Discover the whole story in the Sea is History Publication

The Sea is History
The Sea is History