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MONSOONAL MULTIPLICITIES EVENT RECORDINGS

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.

Screenshots from the opening event on 4 March 2021 showing Lindsay Bremner, Dilip da Cunha, Sunil Amrith, Beth Cullen, Harshavardhan Bhat and John Cook.

Thanks to all who participated in, supported or attended the events and contributed to the fantastic discussions that ensued.

MONSOONAL MULTIPLICITIES

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: http://exhibition.monass.org

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 Rivers and Monsoons 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?’

Practicing Architecture Otherwise
March 11, 13.00-15.00 UTC (08.00-10.00 EST, 18.30-20.30 IST)
Speakers: Alison Killing, killingarchitects; Alfredo Ramirez, GroundLab; Evelyn Choy, Architects Climate Action Network UK; and Jonathan Cane, University of Pretoria, Rufus Maculuve, Kaleidoscopio and Ben Pollock, 4d island, Sounding the Monsoon.
Chair: Lindsay Bremner

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.

How is London a Monsoonal City?
March 18, 13.00-15.00 UTC (09.00 – 11.00 EST, 18.30-20.30 IST)
Participants: Feedback Theatre (Nina Feldman, Debora Mina, Mita Pujara); Hydar Dewachi; Sheila Ghelani and Naiza Khan.
Chair: Corinna Dean

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.

Cultures of Climate Change Workshop
March 25, 13.00-15.00 UTC (09.00-11.00 EST, 18.30-20.30 IST)
Collaborators: Bengal Institute of Architecture Landscapes and Settlements, Dhaka; Blue Temple, Yangon; Care Earth Trust, Chennai; Research Initiatives Bangladesh; Urban Design Collective, Chennai.
Chairs: Lindsay Bremner and Beth Cullen

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
l.bremner@westminster.ac.uk or c.dean@westminster.ac.uk
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)

Publication: Constructing the Monsoon

MONASS is pleased to announce that the following publication prepared for a Special Issue of History of Meteorology is now available online:

Cullen, B. and Geros, C. (2020). ‘Constructing the Monsoon: Colonial Meteorological Cartography, 1844-1944.’ History of Meteorology. Online Open Access here: https://meteohistory.org/ojs/index.php/journal/article/view/3

The abstract of this paper reads as follows:

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.

GeoHumanities Publications: Monsoon Assemblages Special Forum

MONASS is pleased to announce that the following two publications prepared for a Monsoon Assemblages Special Forum in GeoHumanities are now available online:

Bremner, L. (2020). ‘Sedimentary Ways.’ Online Open Access here: https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/pdf/10.1080/2373566X.2020.1799718

The abstract of this paper reads as follows:

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.

Cullen, B. (2020). ‘Intuiting a Monsoonal Ethnography in Three Bay of Bengal Cities.’ Online Open Access here: https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/pdf/10.1080/2373566X.2020.1798800

The abstract of this paper reads as follows:

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.

Monsoon Assemblages drawings to show at the Royal Academy

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.

Publication: An excess of thought

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.

For access to the paper go here: http://hy-phen.space/journal/issue-2/powis-an-excess-of-thought/.

Publication: Following-the-brick

MONASS is pleased to announce that the following publication arising from the grant research has just been released on line:

Cullen, B. (2020). ‘Constellations of weathering: following the meteorological mobilities of Bangla bricks.’ Mobilities. Online Open Access here: https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/17450101.2020.1759929 

This publication is open access and available to download from the link provided.

Monsoon Assemblages invited to contribute to the 17th Venice Architecture Biennale 2020

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.

Monsoon [+ other] Grounds published

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.

MONASS News, December 2019

Since March 2019 when we held our final symposium, Monsoon [+ other] Grounds, the MONASS team has been busy. The following is a summary of what we have been doing:

1 Design Studio 18

The final MArch level design studio aligned with Monsoon Assemblages ended in June 2019. The studio worked on the Ayeyarwaddy River in Myanmar. Each student selected a non-human being around which to develop their research and design work. One of our students, Rachel Wakelin was entered as one of two of the University of Westminster’s School of Architecture and Cities entries to the RIBA Silver Medal competition and won the Serjeant Award for Excellence in Drawing for her project ‘Avian Air – A Tropospheric Bird Sanctuary.’ The studio was taught by Lindsay Bremner, John Cook and Ben Pollock. Moving forward, DS18 will be taught by by John Cook, Ben Pollock and Laura Nica, all former students.

Rachel Wakelin: Avian Air – A Tropospheric Bird Sanctuary.

DS18 Myanmar OPEN Exhibition, June 2019.

2 Field Work

During September and October, Lindsay Bremner and Beth Cullen spent three weeks in Myanmar and one week in Bangladesh conducting field work. In Myanmar they spent time in Yangon, Bagan and Mandalay. They interviewed officials from planning and meteorology departments and met with a number of NGO’s and professional groups. They visited the New Yangon City Development site, a proposed development to extend the city to the west and journeyed south to Letkokkon on the Gulf of Martaban to visit a mangrove resuscitation project. Within the city, Beth conducted research into the back alleys and plastic and Lindsay was interested in the plant life on ruined colonial buildings. While in Yangon, high end shopping malls and upmarket condominiums, and their relationship to the jade economy began to assume importance for the project.

The Gyobyu pipeline, supplying water to Yangon.

While in Bagan, they took day trips to see the mud volcanoes at Minbu and climbed Mount Popa, one of Myanmar’s extinct volcanoes. In Mandalay they extended their research into jade and its exchange, spending a fascinating day at the jade market and visiting a newly constructed jade pagoda on the outskirts of the city.

Minbu mud volcano.

They then flew to Dhaka in a small aeroplane at a low altitude, which gave incredible views of the delta.

View of the Rhakine Delta.

In Dhaka they renewed contacts with the Bangaldesh Institute of Architecture, Landscapes and Settlements and the Bangladesh Research Initiative and spent time on Madani Avenue, visiting brickfields and interviewing a number of officials. It was a highly productive time and Lindsay and Beth would like to thank all who made themselves available to speak to them and facilitate the work. Harshavardhan Bhat also conducted his last period of PhD field work in July 2019, spending time in Delhi and Bangalore.

Brickfield on the outskirts of Dhaka.

3 Publications

This past year, our first two peer reviewed papers and a number of other published works came out:

Bremner, L. (2020). ‘Sedimentary logics and the Rohingya Refugee camps in Bangladesh.’ Political Geography 77. Online

Open Access here: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.polgeo.2019.102109

Bremner, L. (2019). ‘Planning the 2015 Chennai Floods.’  Environment and Planning E: Nature and Space. Online Open

Access here: https://doi.org/10.1177/2514848619880130

Bremner, L., Geros, C. and Cook, J. (2019). ‘Emergent and Erratic: Monsoonal Transmogrification of Land, Air and Sea.’ In

Antonelli, P. and Tannir, A. (eds.).  Broken Nature, XXII Milan Triennale, 106-107. Milan: Electa.

Cullen, B. (2019). ‘Haunted Landscapes: Ghosts of Chennai Past, Present and Future Yet-to- Come.’’ In Bremner, L. (ed.).

Monsoon [+ other] Waters, 185-197. London: Monsoon Assemblages.

Bhat, H. (2019). ‘Malhar’ Theorising the Contemporary. Fieldsights, June 27 https://culanth.org/fieldsights/malhar

Bhat, H. (2019). ‘As I sit down to write a monsoon story without cloud bands – some mucus, confrontation and sadness.’

Hyphen Journal 1. http://www.hy-phen.space/journal/issue_1/

In addition, Lindsay Bremner has been invited to contribute an essay to Postcards from the Anthropocene: Unsettling the Geopolitics of Representation (eds.Tiago Torres Campos and Benek Cincik), Beth Cullen has contributed a chapter to Weather Mobilities (eds. Kaya Barry, Maria Borovnik and Tim Edensor) and Christina Geros a chapter to an edition of AD titled The Landscapists, Redefining Landscape Relations. (ed. Ed Wall).  These will be published in 2020. Lindsay Bremner is also collating a forum (special issue) of the peer reviewed journal, GeoHumanities. In addition to papers by MONASS, contributions from participants at our annual symposia have been invited to contribute to this. Most of these papers have now been submitted and are under review by the journal. We anticipate that the special issue will come out in 2021.

4 Exhibitions

MONASS was invited to contribute to the XXII Milan Triennale, Broken Nature, March – September 2019 with four drawings by Christina Geros and John Cook. Following this, we have been invited to contribute to the Venice Architecture Biennale in 2020 and have proposed a site specific installation for that show. It will be developed in collaboration with Office of Experiments, the art practice of Neal White of the Westminster School of Arts. It will run from May – December 2020 in the Giardini in Venice.

MONASS at the XXII Milan Trienale, Broken Nature, March – September 2019. Photograph: John Cook.

5 Additional Funding Applications

Lindsay Bremner put in a Proof of Concept Grant application to the ERC in early 2019 for impact activities in Chennai, Dhaka and Yangon, but this application was not successful. However, a similar application has successful advanced to the second round of the University of Westminster’s Quinton Hogg Trust Fund for 2020. A successful application to the University’s Community Research Fund resulted in £5,000 being awarded to support our Venice Architecture Biennale installation. An application has been made to the Graham Foundation for additional funding for the MONASS book and in 2020 additional funding for our final exhibition will be sought from Arts Council England.

6 Lectures and Presentations

Bremner, L.

‘On Monsoon as Method.’ Urban Studies Seminar Series, University of Glasgow, 05 December.

Invited Participant, Delta and River Cities Workshop, World Projects and Center for Resilient Cities and Landscapes, Columbia University, New York, 22 – 23 November.

‘On Monsoon as Method.’ Tyler School of Art and Architecture, Temple University, Philadelphia, 20 November.

‘On Monsoon as Method.’ Wits Institute of Social and Economic Research, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, 29 October.

‘On Sediment as Method.’ At: Monsoon [+ other] Grounds Symposium, University of Westminster, 21 – 22 March.

Cullen, B.

‘Haunted hydrological landscapes: Ghosts of Chennai past, present and future yet-to-come.’ At: Royal Geographical Society (RGS-IBG) Annual International Conference, London, 27 – 30 August.

‘Introducing Monsoon Assemblages.’ At: Participatory Steering of Complex Adaptive Systems Workshop, Synthesis Center, Arizona State University, 23 – 26 April.

‘Bangla Bricks: Making and unmaking monsoon grounds.’ At: Monsoon [+ other] Grounds Symposium, University of Westminster, 21 – 22 March.

Geros, C.

‘Here be Dragons: Grounds and Groundings of our Atmospheric Belonging.’    At: Monsoon [+ other] Grounds Symposium, University of Westminster, 21 – 22 March.

Bhat, H.

‘Acknowledging the Monsoon.’ At: Imagining the Eco-social postgraduate workshop with Jane Bennett and William Connolly, Cardiff University, 10 – 11 December.

Bhat, H. and Zehner, B. ‘Cyclones and the Monsoon’ At: HAT Research Center, Adam Mickiewicz University in Poznan, 15 November.

Bhat, H. in conversation with Tamlit, A’On Grow Heathrow’ At: Politics of Air – Air Matters Symposium, Watermans Art Centre, 9 November.

‘Methodologies within the Monsoon.’ At: Millennium Conference – Extraction, expropriation, erasure? Knowledge production in International Relations, London, 19-20 October.

‘Circulating stories of the air.’ At: Royal Geographical Society (RGS-IBG) Annual International Conference, London, 27 – 30 August.

‘Notes on a Monsoon Air Methodology.’ At: OP Jindal Global University, Sonipat, 02 August.

‘Notes on a Monsoon Air Methodology.’ At: Centre for Policy Research, Delhi, 18 July.

‘The Monsoon as a Political Air.’ At: Resilience and Hope in a World in Relation – European Workshop on International Relations, Krakow, 26 – 29 June.

‘Entanglements of the kikar and the dust storm.’ At: Urban Climates: Power, Development and Environment in South Asia Symposium, University of Cambridge, 07 – 08 June.

‘Fieldwork/Stickiness.’ At: Hyphen Symposium, P3 Ambika, University of Westminster, London, 24 March.

‘About a Monsoon Forest.’ At: Monsoon [+ other] Grounds Symposium, University of Westminster, 21 – 22 March.

Powis, A.

‘The materiality of Groundwater in the Chennai rainwater harvesting programme II.’ At: Urban Climates: Power, Development and Environment in South Asia Symposium, University of Cambridge, 07 – 08 June.

‘The Materiality of Groundwater in the Chennai rainwater harvesting programme I.’ At American Association of Geographers Conference (AAG), Washington DC, 03 – 07 April.

‘The Materiality of Groundwater: leaking, Seeping, Swelling, Cracking.’  At: Monsoon [+ other] Grounds Symposium, University of Westminster, 21 – 22 March.

Cook, J.

‘Air, Architecture + Other Climates, Investigating and Drawing with Data.’ AHO The Oslo School of Architecture and Design, 15 November.

‘Monsoon Assemblages: Chennai.’ At: Norwegian Institute for Air Research (NILU), 14 November.

Lindsay Bremner at the Wits Institute of Social and Economic Research, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg. Photograph: Steven Lenahan.

7 Looking ahead

2020 will be an extremely busy year for the MONASS team. We are now committed to an installation at the Venice Architecture Biennale, which opens on 21 May 2020, and to deliver our book manuscript to the publisher at the end of July. During the second half of the year, we will conduct stakeholder workshops in Chennai, Dhaka and Yangon, which will include exhibitions and and design charettes. These may involve interdisciplinary groups of students from the University of Westminster and each of these cities. The announcement and call for papers for our final conference, which will take place at the University of Westminster in March 2021 to coincide with an exhibition in P3 will go out in January 2020. Our two PhD students plan to submit their PhD’s by mid 2020 and will then be involved in assisting with planning our final conference.

We will not hold an advisory board in 2020, but will hold a concluding advisory board meeting as part of our wrap up events in March 2021. We wish you all a good break over the holiday period and a productive and fulfilling 2020.

All photographs by Lindsay Bremner unless otherwise indicated.