Office of Experiments with Monsoon Assemblages at Venice Biennale of Architecture 2021

Office of Experiments was delighted to be able to respond to Monsoon Assemblages (School of Architecture and Cities at University of Westminster) invitation to work together on an installation titled ‘Between the Dragon Fly and the Barometer’ for the Venice Biennale of Architecture, which examines the Indian Ocean monsoon from the perspective of the Globe Skimmer dragonfly and the impact of climate change on it.

Office of Experiments developed three ‘data monsoons’. Realised as an event based light sculpture with sound – the work was experienced in relation to three topological architectural models, fieldwork video and data drawings that mapped changes to climate. The research and fieldwork focused on climate change across three cities in the Bay of Bengal. Video, fieldwork, models and data were developed by Monsoon Assemblages as a dimension of their own practice in architecture, with assistance on models from Shape Studios. Together, the approach to an assemblage echoed theoretical concerns that intersect with our own interests in the experimental.

Installed remotely due to COVID by the curatorial team at MIT led by Hashim Sarkis, Office of Experiments temporal artwork is active every 30 minutes for 18 minutes. Each storm lasts 6 minutes, and moves across the models of the cities, reflecting the migration of the Globe Skimmer Dragonfly and the changing patterns of the monsoons intensity.

Our interest in the fascinating research led by Monsoon Assemblages is shaped by our own ongoing interest in the use of data that challenges scientific objectivity, and that is at odds with the data scientists and specialist claims of data as a form of ‘truth to nature’. In this respect, we hoped to foreground the highly subjective experience of climate change by human and non-humans through the sensory use of NASA climate data modelled over 6 months.

Talking about the installation, Dr Lindsay Bremner said: “In responding to the question posed by the curator of the 2021 Venice Architecture Biennale, Hashim Sarkis, ‘How will we live together?’, Monsoon Assemblages teamed up with Neal White’s Office of Experiments to design an installation framed by the monsoon and the flight of the Globe Skimmer dragonfly. By drawing connections between geology, meteorology, monsoonal cities and nonhuman lifeways, our installation highlights the mutual entanglement of human and nonhumans in changing climates.”

Monsoon Assemblages is a five-year multi-disciplinary enquiry funded by the European Research Council (ERC), hosted by the University of Westminster. It is studying the relations between changing monsoon climates and rapid urban growth in Chennai, Dhaka, and Yangon, three of the largest cities in South Asia. The research project was proposed by Dr Lindsay Bremner to the 2015 European Research Council (ERC) who awarded her with a Starting Grant of  €1.5m. 

The Preview Video was developed with John Cook and Beth Cullen of Monsoon Assemblages – 2021