On 25th March 2021, Monsoon Assemblages hosted the fifth online event to coincide with the launch of the virtual exhibition, Monsoonal Multiplicities. Titled ‘Cultures of Climate Change,’ the workshop invited guests to think about cities, in many cases, their own cities, as monsoonal life worlds, and of climate change not as something to be fended off, but as something materially entangled within urban life and urban culture in different and unequal ways.
The workshop began with brief opening statements by Lindsay Bremner and Beth Cullen, followed by reflections on the Monsoonal Multiplicities exhibition by Jayshree Vencatesan of Care Earth Trust (Chennai), Meghna Guhathakurta of Research Initiative Bangladesh (Dhaka) and Beverly Salmon of Doh Eain (Yangon).
We then broke into groups to talk through a number of questions raised by conditions of contemporary life, from questions about geopolitics, planning and mapping, to questions about extreme weather events, community and nonhuman lives, and how cultural practices might provide opportunities to build solidarity and resilience as monsoonal life worlds change. Many of these questions were raised, implicitly or explicitly, in our exhibition, and we welcomed the opportunity to discuss them with those present.
A recording of the workshop is available on the Monsoon Assemblages YouTube Channel here:
The breakout groups were facilitated by research partners in Chennai, Dhaka and Yangon, as well as MONASS researchers, former students and other colleagues. To all who assisted with the organisation of the event and facilitated breakout groups and to those who attended, thank you. We hope that the conversations and their records are useful.
Edited zoom recordings of the series of events that MONASS organised in March 2021 to co-incide with the launch of its virtual exhibition Monsoonal Multiplicities are now available online. Find them on the Monsoon Assemblages YouTube channel, where you will find a playlist of the recordings here or on the exhibition website here, where they are on the Monsoonal Multiplicities opening page.
In addition, videos of the work of the three artists who participated in our artists residency by filmmaker Hydar Dewachi can be found on the London page of the Monsoonal Multiplicities exhibition website here.
Thanks to all who participated in, supported or attended the events and contributed to the fantastic discussions that ensued.
A Programme of Events by Monsoon Assemblages March 04 – March 29, 2021
Bookings for all events here. Attendance is free but requires booking
In March 2021, Monsoon Assemblages will host a programme of online events and an artists’ residency in London. The programme will coincide with the opening of the online exhibition Monsoonal Multiplicities, a platform that presents the project’s five-year long research engagement with the monsoon in Bangladesh, India, London and Myanmar. The exhibition offers visitors a virtual experience of this work, inviting them to follow the stories of entangled beings, energies, infrastructures, life-worlds, matters, technologies, knowledge practices and their encounters with colonial and neo-colonial agendas.
The monsoon is an atmospheric force that organises territory and seeps into almost every aspect of life in South and Southeast Asia – its politics, economics, cultural rituals and daily life. Colonial science mobilised it as a resource by casting its temporalities as risk, by radically reorganising its territories for profit and by projecting colonial authority and racialised discourse across its life-worlds. London was the nerve centre of this colonial project and its legacies are still palpable – in the India Office Records in the British Library, in the edifices of empire on Exhibition Road, in the Maritime Museum in Greenwich and the Palm House in Kew Gardens, in the city’s cuisine, in the clothes its citizens wear, in financialised commodity markets, in the rise of India’s elites to positions of power in British politics, in the south Asian communities living across London’s boroughs. And, not to forget, as the UK’s leaders renew their interest in South and Southeast Asia, Brexit too is a monsoonal affair.
Behind the programme of events lies the question, ‘What does it mean to research the monsoon from the nerve centre of this ongoing, racialised colonial project?’ It was a question that troubled Monsoon Assemblages from the start, pointing to the project’s unavoidable complicity in the colonial encounter, while underscoring its attempts to undermine its complicity from within. As we come to the end of the project, audiences are invited to debate the questions the project raises with us, and to think through its implications for future architectural, artistic, ethnographic and spatial research practice.
Monsoonal Multiplicities Exhibition Opening March 04, 13.00-14.00 UTC (08.00-09.00 EST, 18.30-19.30 IST) Speakers: Sunil Amrith, Dilip da Cunha Chair: Lindsay Bremner
Monsoonal Multiplicities, the online exhibition by Monsoon Assemblages will be opened with remarks by historian Sunil Amrith, author of Unruly Waters: How Mountain RiversandMonsoons have Shaped South Asia’s History and landscape architect Dilip da Cunha, author of The Invention of Rivers: Alexander’s Eye and Ganga’s Descent. The event will introduce an artists’ residency programme, in which artists have been asked to take up residence in the online exhibition and respond to the question ‘How is London a Monsoonal City?’
In our climate-changing, virus infected, ecocidal, financialised times, does architecture have any special privilege to remain the same? This panel discussion will invite the audience to discuss this question with a panel of architects and spatial practitioners who have moved with the immigrant, the policy maker, the carbon and the weather and made them part of their spatial and architectural imaginaries and practices.
East India Company Walking Tour March 13, 13.00-14.00 UTC (08.00-09.00 EST, 18.30-20.30 IST) Tour by: Leila Redpath
In this one-hour virtual tour, Leila Redpath will give participants a flavour of how the East India Company grew from a modest fleet of spice traders in 1600 to become the most powerful multinational corporation the world has ever known. But what ever happened to it? Why is it so hidden? And what is its legacy on the ground today? The tour will convey both the ingenuity and ruthlessness of the EIC and the ways it shapes our world today.
An online openhouse workshop when artists participating in the Monsoonal Multiplicities artist residency will present the work produced during the residency and open it for discussion with each other and members of the audience.
An online event facilitated by the MONASS researchers and project partners in Chennai, Dhaka and Yangon to open questions raised by the Monsoon Assemblages project for debate.
Monsoonal Multiplicities Online Exhibition Closure March 29 13.00-14.00 UTC +1 (08.00-09.00 EST, 17.30-18.30 IST) Speaker: Harry Charrington Chair: Lindsay Bremner
This event will end the live period of the Monsoonal Multiplicities online exhibition. It will premier a video of the Monsoonal Multiplicities artist residency and launch an Instagram series of the work the artists produced. The Head of the School of Architecture and Cities at the University of Westminster will close the event with remarks about the potential impact of the Monsoon Assemblages project on architectural teaching and practice.
Contacts: Lindsay Bremner or Corinna Dean email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org School of Architecture and Cities University of Westminster 56 Marylebone Road London NW1 5LS UK
Monsoon Assemblages Monsoon Assemblages is a research project funded by the European Research Council (ERC) under the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme (Grant Agreement No. 679873)
Meteorological cartographies provide a way of tracing understandings of the monsoon through the course of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. This paper analyses developments in cartographic representations of the monsoon, from nautical charts to synoptic charts to upper-air charts, to show how such visualisations constructed meteorological knowledge. Assemblages of weather phenomena, people, politics, technologies, instruments, and graphic techniques produced these representations; in turn, these representations were leveraged in pursuit of human agendas. New perspectives and means of recording the monsoon contributed to the non-linear progression of monsoon science, from maritime understandings depicted in nautical charts, to fusions of maritime and terrestrial understandings depicted in synoptic charts, to atmospheric understandings depicted in upper-air charts. Although overlapping, these shifting modes of observation and representation mirrored shifting imperial concerns from oceanic trade to revenue extraction to global aviation. Analysing these visual representations, and the assemblages that produced them, reveals changing constructions of the monsoon and associated colonial agendas.
The publication is open access and available to download from the link provided.
This paper is a thought experiment to attune to the geo-physical and geo-political materialities of sediment, a terra-aqueous substance produced when the earth’s continental surfaces intra-act with the atmosphere and are chemically transformed by it. The paper is framed by questions of how to engage more closely with the dynamics of earth systems and of how social and political agency emerges alongside earth forces. Sediment is important to such questions because it is the mechanism by which the earth recycles itself and is thick with the climatological and geological histories that have conditioned the possibility of life on the planet. While acknowledging the import of Deleuze and Guattari’s metaphysics to such questions, the paper takes a material approach to them. It is based on field work in Bangladesh, but also traverses a range of scientific, historical and theoretical literature. It is arranged in four sections that loosely correspond to the sedimentary cycle. It follows sediment from chemical processes on rock surfaces in the Himalayas, to its lively travels in monsoonal rivers across flood plains to its eventual deposition and subterranean diagenesis. In each section, the paper discusses the material processes at work, their socio-political enmeshments and the theoretical implications of these intraactions. The paper concludes that sediment serves as a reminder not only of close entanglements of geophysical and geo-political becomings, but also of the profound indifference of earth systems to human affairs, and asks what this might mean for the re-imagination of politics.
This visual essay offers an exploration of monsoonal materiality and agency in the urban environments of three cities situated around the Bay of Bengal: Chennai, Dhaka and Yangon. The text and images emerge from a research project exploring intersections between changing monsoon climates and rapid urbanisation in South Asia. Multi-modal, more-than-human ethnography has been employed during the course of research to explore how the lively materiality of the monsoon is entangled within urban lived environments. The essay outlines the process of intuiting a monsoonal ethnography and conveys the power of immersive field experience. By collecting and curating an assemblage of visual material and fieldnotes, this piece seeks to evoke the materiality and agency of the monsoon, itself a complex assemblage that manifests in different ways in different places. The juxtaposition of image and text conveys the generative and multifaceted agency of the monsoon and the urban environments it becomes enmeshed within.
The publications are open access and available to download from the links provided.
We are pleased to announce that two drawings by Monsoon Assemblages Research Associate, John Cook, have been accepted for the Royal Academy Summer/Winter Exhibition and will be on show from 9th October 2020 to 3rd January 2021.
They are drawings of the summer and winter South Asian monsoons in 2016 and the instruments that recorded the data from which the drawings were, and meteorological knowledge is, produced – argo floats, data buoys, seismometers, weather stations, doppler weather stations, observing ships and meteorological satellites.
They show that meteorological drawings and maps are not drawings of weather, but drawings of data.
MONASS is pleased to announce another great publication, this time by PhD researcher, Anthony Powis. His paper titled ‘An excess of thought, or the thinking materials of research,’ has just been published in Hyphen Journal, an open-access journal led by PhD researchers from the University of Westminster.
The abstract of the paper reads as follows:
Researching an elusive material like groundwater means working through intermediaries, patchy data, partial perspectives, and material traces. Each of these leaves its own residue on the product of research, and different modes of access offer different outcomes. In this essay, I consider these residues as moments of excess which sit outside the correlational bond between object and concept. I then apply the methodological concept of “research-assemblage” (Fox and Alldred 2015) to consider how particular episodes from my PhD fieldwork in Chennai belong neither to researcher nor subject but constitute other forms of thinking that affect research.
The Monsoon Assemblages team is pleased to announce that we have been invited to contribute to the Venice Architecture Biennale 2020, ‘How will we Live Together? curated by Hashim Sarkis. Our proposal, ‘Between the Barometer and the Dragonfly’ is being developed in collaboration with Office of Experiments, a London based Arts Practice.
Photograph: Beth Cullen.
The full list of Biennale participants is available here.
The opening of the Biennale has been postponed until May 2021 due to the corona-virus. We wish all Biennale colleagues good health during these unprecedented times.
The Monsoon Assemblages team is pleased to announce that the third and final edition of its symposium proceedings, Monsoon [+ other] Grounds, edited by Lindsay Bremner and John Cook, is now available as a PDF here: http://monass.org/writing/ or as hard copy from online stores.
It includes contributions from Alexander Arenes, Matt Barlow, Raymonde Beiler, Harshavardhan Bhat, Lindsay Bremner, Hari Byles, Beth Cullen, Corinna Dean, Tumpa Fellows, Christina Geros, Fiona Grieve, Eric Guibert, Labib Hossain, Tim Ingold, Raphael Monnier, Anthony Powis, Saif Ul Haque and Avi Varma.