<iframe src="https://player.vimeo.com/video/79872109" width="640" height="360" frameborder="0" webkitallowfullscreen mozallowfullscreen allowfullscreen></iframe><!-- [et_pb_line_break_holder] --><p><a href="https://vimeo.com/79872109">Ravi Agarwal</a> from <a href="https://vimeo.com/user20520873">contingentmovementsarchive</a> on <a href="https://vimeo.com">Vimeo</a>.</p>




The Contingent Movements Symposium will take place at the Maldives Pavilion and at the Library of Historical Archives of Contemporary Arts (ASAC) of the Venice Biennale over the 28th and 29th of September 2013.


The Contingent Movements Symposium emerges from the Contingent Movements Archive, an online archival project that speculates on the contingent circumstances the low-lying island nation of the Maldives may face as global temperatures and sea levels rise. It is predicted that the country could be uninhabitable by the end of the 21st century.

The Contingent Movements Symposium will unpack some problematics and possibilities of this scenario. Speculating on the circumstances Maldivians may face as a permanently displaced population, and exploring these contingencies within a global context, it will address the potential humanitarian and cultural consequences of this situation. Contributors from a range of disciplines will think through the effects of national and international law on human movements, and consider how mobile technology and the Internet might assist in preserving the culture of theMaldives, while helping dispersed communities adapt and connect.

Suvendrini Perera (Curtin University) challenges the island as a sign of spatial completeness as she discusses three island states – the Maldives, Sri Lanka and India – as artefacts of colonial history now cast into states of ontological, political and environmental crisis. While Mariyam Shiuna (Maldives Reseach & SOAS, University of London), through a focus on processes of democratization in the Maldives, engages with questions relating to the preservation ofMaldivian culture, history and sovereignty should the nation cease to exist. Marianne Franklin (Goldsmiths, University of London) will speculate on floating digital archives as a medium for preservation and regeneration of cultural heritage.

Contesting the violence of ‘unintended consequences’ of climate change, Nabil Ahmed (Goldsmiths, University of London) asks how shifting territories redefine legal and political definitions and boundaries, and whether new laws need to be imagined. Davor Vidas (Fridtjof Nansen Institute, Norway), chair of the committee on International Law and Sea-level Rise and member of the Anthropocene Working Group of the International Commission on Stratigraphy, will in turn develop on the challenges of international law in response to sea-level rise in the 21st century. T.J. Demos (University College London) will consider how various environmental crises are increasingly bringing about forced displacements, approaching discussions of political ecology, environmental crisis, and artistic and activist aesthetics in the current global moment. Having investigated the relations between location, positionality, subjectivity and arts practices in her work, Irit Rogoff (Goldsmiths, University of London) will go further to discuss recent shifts in relation to place and the exhaustion of geography.

Ravi Agarval will join for discussion following a screening of his work, and Rosa Barba’s film Outwardly From Earth’s Centre will also be shown.

Also in association with the Maldives Pavilion, artist Klaus Schafler and curator Maren Richter will take symposium participants on a boat trip to the lagoons of Venice, where they will discuss with Venetian urbanist and activistStefano Boato and scientist Luca Zaggia the recent effects of the rising sea level in the region.

Curator and writer Dorian Batycka and curator and theorist Mike Watson, currently in residence at the Gervasuti Foundation, will introduce the project Joan of Art: Towards a Free Education and present a course on art, politics and ecology to be delivered in November. For more information visit http://joanofart.net/the-venice-process/

The Contingent Movements Archive and Symposium are curated by Hanna Husberg and Laura McLean, and developed with Kalliopi Tsipni-Kolaza for the Maldives Pavilion.



Speculating on the contingent circumstances Maldivians may face as a permanently displaced population, and exploring these within a global context, the Contingent Movements Symposium addresses the potential humanitarian and cultural consequences of this situation. Contributors from a range of disciplines have been brought together to think through the effects of national and international law on human movements, and consider how mobile technology and the Internet might assist in preserving the culture of Maldives, while helping dispersed communities adapt and connect.

In financial terms, the role of speculators is to absorb excess risk that other participants do not want, and to provide liquidity in the market place. The Contingent Movements Symposium aims to provide liquidity in the market of ideas surrounding an unprecedented scenario with a not-yet-fixed outcome. Hosted in the archives of the Venice Biennale, on another island affected by floods and inundated by tourism, it seeks to open a dialogue on the future of the Maldives, and the complexity of global responsibility in the face of the world’s changing climate.




Saturday 28th September

Maldives Pavilion & Library of Historical Archives of Contemporary Arts – ASAC

Mariyam Shiuna is a Maldivian researcher based in the Maldives and London. She is currently a PhD candidate at the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London. Her PhD research focuses on democratisation and violence in the Maldives. She currently works as a Senior Project Coordinator at Transparency Maldives. She also works as Director of Projects for Maldives Research – a public policy think tank based in the Maldives and the UK. Her research interests include Maldivian politics, culture and history, violence and conflict.

The political landscape of the Maldives has seen a significant transformation over the past eight years. After decades of political repression and authoritarian rule, the Maldives’ first free and fair election was held in 2008 resulting in the first change of leadership and government in 30 years. The people of the Maldives created high expectations of the tangible benefits of democracy and embraced the democratic features introduced with the political transition with great zeal. Tracing the sociocultural landscape of the Maldives, this presentation considers the sociocultural transformations the Maldives has experienced since the onset of democratisation, and engages with questions relating to the preservation of Maldivian culture, history, and sovereignty should the Maldives cease to exist.


T.J. Demos is a critic and Reader in the Department of Art History, University College London. He writes on contemporary art and politics, and is the author, most recently, of The Migrant Image: The Art and Politics of Documentary During Global Crisis (Duke University Press, 2013), and Return to the Postcolony: Spectres of Colonialism in Contemporary Art (Sternberg, 2013). He recently guest edited a special issue of Third Text (no. 120, 2013) on the subject of “Contemporary Art and the Politics of Ecology,” and is currently at work on a book on the subject for Sternberg Press.

His presentation will consider how various environmental crises (distinct but not unrelated) are increasingly bringing about forced displacements of life from various territories – including the Maldives, the Arctic, and Fukushima. These contexts offer ways of approaching the discussion of political ecology, environmental crisis, and artistic/activist aesthetics in the current global moment.


Ravi Agarwal is an artist, environmental activist, writer and curator. He has pursued an art practice integrally with his other pursuits. An engineer by training, he writes extensively on ecological issues, and is also founder of the leading Indian environmental NGO Toxics Link. His earlier work, in the documentary oeuvre, encompasses ‘nature’, ‘work,’ ‘labor,’ and the ‘street,’ while more recent work has been traversing questions of the self and ecological sustainability based on explorations of ‘personal ecologies.’ He now works with photography, video and installation. Agarwal has shown in several international shows including Documenta XI (2002), Horn Please (Berne 2007), Indian Highway (Serpentine Gallery, London and MAXXI, Rome) After the Crash (part of the ISWA European Project, Rome 2011) and Where Three Dreams Cross (Whitechapel Gallery, London 2010).

The Sewage Pond’s Memoir

We seem to know nature as something outside us, as a deep experience. The separation makes us know nature as an ‘other’, a duality. But we all also know nature through our myths and memories. Post enlightenment nature has been understood as a set of scientific laws and theories, as an absolute. But as Bruno Latour says, we as social beings co-create ideas of nature. Sadly though today we increasingly know nature as a ‘resource’ to be exploited and plundered. The film is a reflection of all these, as a personal myth about water turning to sewage in a forest I helped protect.

I would like to raise the issue of the role of institutions and related legislative structures, which are supposed to safeguard the environment. Often these are forest departments, regulatory bodies, urban planning bodies, energy regulatory bodies or water management bodies. We have relegated our rights of ecology to institutions, which should work and act, on our behalf. The battle is how these institutions embed older values and ideas of nature, historically, with little space to reflect new relationships with evolving  understandings.  For example, in India the imperial colonial ‘gaze’ of natural landscapes has continued even to this day, even though social power structures are changing rapidly in the relatively new democracy.  Reforming institutions to reflect new relationships and values is a challenge.


Rosa Barba takes a sculptural approach to film, often taking apart its elements to create new mobile objects or directing the camera at objects and landscapes with a particular attention to form. Her work considers the situation of cinema, whether it be the physical characteristics of celluloid light, projector and sound, the structures of narrative, or its often improbable people, places or stories.

Outwardly from Earth’s Center is a fictitious narrative about a society on an unstable piece of land that is in danger of disappearance. The situation requires the population’s collective initiative in order to secure individual survival and to allow the society to remain. The concept’s background is somewhat realistic since Sandön moves approximately one meter per year. The fictitious reports from experts strengthens the surrealistic atmosphere that creepily offsets the experience of what is first considered a beautiful documentary, and second a more abstract, absurd picture of a people’s struggle and vulnerability.


Marianne Franklin is Reader in Global Media and Transnational Communications at Goldsmiths, University of London, and Co-Chair of the Internet Rights and Principles Dynamic Coalition at the UN Internet Governance Forum (www.internetrightsandprinciples.org). Her academic background spans the Humanities (Double Major in History and Music) and Social Sciences (Politics/International Relations) alongside a number of years experience as a communications consultant in the private sector in Europe and her current advocacy work around human rights and the internet. A recipient of research funding from the Social Science Research Council (USA) and Ford Foundation, she has held teaching and research positions in Humanities, Social Science, and Engineering faculties in New Zealand, the Netherlands, USA, and the UK. Her latest book is Digital Dilemmas: Power, Resistance and the Internet (Oxford University Press, 2013).

Portable Cultures/Traveling Bodies: The Floating Archive in an Age of Digital Redistribution

As the political and economic fallout of debates around climate change divide national legislatures and international bodies island nations do not have the luxury of waiting to see who gets to be right. Digital technologies, the internet in particular, provide both means and medium for preserving and regenerating cultural heritage, e.g. language acquisition, visualizing cultural artefacts and art forms, and storing encyclopedic knowledge. Digital archiving in libraries, museums, art galleries and other public institutions in the internet’s heartlands are big business and labours of love whilst the many uses of simple internet access, mobile phones and nowadays social media for island peoples and their diasporas date from the early days of the internet. These online traversals are integral to the larger global online archive that is the web, as we know it, even as the digital footprints non-western peoples leave online remain relatively under-estimated. Both accidental and engineered archives work with the hardware and software of the day. But what about in the future? For island nations, like the Maldives, as rising sea levels already pose a threat to the economy, traditional ways of life, and physical homeland, the solution that (cloud) computing offers is a compelling one. For a legacy project on this scale however, the techno-economic and cultural politics of content selection, technical sustainability, terms of access and use, and location for this floating digital archive can overlook the fact that like the planet, like culture itself, technologies are also in flux.

The presentation, with visual help from Jochen Jacoby (www.jarcarte.de), will be in the form of a speculative Wikipedia page for considering some of the “unavoidable truths” that murmur between the lines of this agenda. Themes under consideration, open to audience input, include: offline/online traversals, reimagined communities, enhanced embodiments, homeland and diaspora after the internet, 3-D cultures, the accidental archive and geopolitics of data-storage.



Nabil Ahmedis an artist, writer and curator. His works have been presented internationally including at the 2012 Taipei Biennale, Haus der Kulturen der Welt in Berlin, the Serpentine Gallery’s Centre for Possible Studies, and South Asian Visual Arts Centre (SAVAC) in Toronto.  He has written for Third Text, Media Field Journal and the forthcoming book Architecture and the paradox of Dissidence. He is co-curator at Call & Response, an artist run sound art project based in London. He is currently a PhD candidate at the Centre for Research Architecture at Goldsmiths, University of London where he also teaches. He lives and works in London.

HIC SVNT LEONES (Here are lions)

The 1951 Refugee Convention and 1967 Protocol remain the main legal instruments for defining refugees, their rights and the legal obligation of states. Persons displaced by climate change are not protected. There is both a policy and operational protection gap for environmental refugees. Yet the distinctions between conflicts and environmental violence are complicated. In terms of loss of land to the sea, the earth is itself a direct cause of forced displacement. Historically laws of war and the sea have been developed to facilitate antagonistic struggles, trade, and colonial expansions by European nation states. While north-south asymmetries continue to be illustrated by the militarization of borders, ‘unintended consequences’ of climate change are a potential instrument of violence. The phrase ‘unintended consequences’ must be questioned as it can render matters of environmental concern apolitical while short-circuiting their legal possibilities. This brings into tension the linear line of causality of conflict with more complex and diffused causalities of environmental violence. The question is whether existing normative frameworks to protect displaced persons found in Human Rights Law and International Humanitarian Law are enough? Or do entirely new laws need to be imagined in the Anthropocene? As territories shift, how do they redefine legal and political definitions and boundaries?


Davor Vidas is Research Professor and Director of the Law of the Sea Programme at the Fridtjof Nansen Institute, Norway. He is the Chair of the International Committee on International Law and Sea-level Rise of the International Law Association, and a member of the Anthropocene Working Group of the International Commission on Stratigraphy. He is the author or editor of ten books, including The World Ocean in Globalisation (Brill, 2011), Law, Technology and Science for Oceans in Globalisation (Brill, 2010), Protecting the Adriatic Sea (Školska knjiga, 2007), Protecting the Polar Marine Environment (Cambridge University Press, 2000/2006), Order for the Oceans at the Turn of the Century (Kluwer, 1999) and Governing the Antarctic (Cambridge University Press, 1996).

The Anthropocene and International Law: Challenges of Sea-level Rise for the 21st Century

With the onset of the Anthropocene, fundamental challenges for international law may be on the horizon. Core aspects of international law rely on the stability of Holocene conditions: geographical features, due to their perceived stability, are taken as a key objective circumstance in determining the rights of states to maritime zones, as well as in resolving maritime delimitation disputes. A defined territory is a constituent element of statehood under international law. In some of its key aspects, international law today is a system of rules resting on foundations that evolved under the understanding of ever-valid circumstances of the Holocene.

In not too distant future, important questions may arise about the sustainability of those aspects of international law, while other aspects, such as the population of the state – and, accordingly, human rights – may gain in prominence and acquire new dimensions, all likely to require profound re-examination of currently-accepted paradigms of international law. The perspective of sea-level rise may be among key factors prompting a thorough re-examination of some aspects of international law. The International Law Association recently (in November 2012) decided to establish a new International Committee – on International Law and Sea Level Rise – to initiate an analysis of the issues involved.


Suvendrini Perera has lived on islands almost all her life. Born in Sri Lanka, she completed her PhD at Columbia University, New York, and now lives in the port city of Fremantle, Australia. She is Professor of Cultural Studies in the School of Media Culture & Creative Arts and Deputy Director of the Australia-Asia-Pacific Institute at Curtin University. Perera is the author/editor of six books, including Australia and the Insular Imagination: Beaches, Borders, Boats and Bodies (2009). Her research interests include histories of coexistence, state violence, and diaspora cultural studies. She is working on a book on trophy war images titled Old Atrocities, New Media.

Ungirt by sea: Crisis Geographies, Island Futures

As a political and imaginative figure, the island projects wholeness in Western epistemologies. An island is a world apart. Against temporal asymmetries and anxieties (who came when? who was here before?) the island is a sign of spatial completeness and collectivity. The self-enclosed world of the island implies affective and imaginative bonds among inhabitants held together within naturally given limits. Amid flux and fracture, the island signifies as an unbroken, bounded, self-sufficient, even organic, entity: a nation.

This discussion considers three island-states – the Maldives, Sri Lanka and Australia – as artefacts of colonial history that are now cast into states of ontological, political and environmental crisis. These are understood as an undoing or dissolution of their core identities. In mapping these new crisis geographies of islands, the paper marks the racial and economic asymmetries by which they are characterised, even as it also seeks to trace the contingent and fleeting interconnections between them.


Irit Rogoff is a writer, curator, and organizer working at the intersection of contemporary art, critical theory, and emergent political manifestations. She is Professor of Visual Cultures at Goldsmiths, University of London where she heads the PhD in Curatorial/Knowledge program, the MA in Global Arts program and the new Geo-Cultures Research Center. Rogoff has written extensively on geography, globalization, and contemporary participatory practices in the expanded field of art. A collection of recent essays, Unbounded – Limits’ Possibilities, is published in 2012 with e-flux journal/ Sternberg and her new book, Looking Away – Participating Singularities, Ontological Communities, comes out in 2013. Rogoff lives and works in London.

Exhausted Geographies

are those that cannot sustain the claims they have been mobilised for – territorial, national, regional, ethnic, cultural, economic, ideological. In particular I am interested in how geography in crisis, whether political, economic or climatic can or cannot sustain its identity. And so I have been thinking of exhaustion in relation to political conflict, not a mode of opting out and withdrawing, but as one of recognising the limits of a logic that has dominated that conflict for most of its duration. I suspect that this exhaustion takes the form of an act of treason – for in the realm of living out long term political conflict, treason and exhaustion are not unrelated to one another. Treason, in Deleuze’s sense of treachery, as the refusal to support and sustain that which demands it of you because it claims to support and sustain you. The exhausted geographies of which I speak are the material manifestations of what I am trying to describe, territorialities and territorial claims that cannot sustain themselves. It is of great interest to bring this form of largely political exhaustion into contact with the geographical limit lines enacted by extreme climate change, as foregrounded in this conference.


Part of the public program of the Maldives Pavilion, the Contingent Movements Symposium and Archive are curated by Hanna Husberg and Laura McLean, and developed with Kalliopi Tsipni-Kolaza.

The Maldives Pavilion is curated by Chamber of Public Secrets, a critical production unit of art and culture. Alfredo Cramerotti and Maren Richter, both curators of the Maldives Pavilion, are moderating discussions at the  Contingent Movements Symposium.

Also in association with the Maldives Pavilion, Richter and artist Klaus Schafler and will take symposium participants on a boat trip to the lagoons of Venice, where they will discuss with Venetian urbanist and activist Stefano Boato and scientist Luca Zaggia the recent effects of the rising sea level in the region.

Curator and writer Dorian Batycka and curator and theorist Mike Watson, currently in residence at the Gervasuti Foundation, will introduce the project Joan of Art: Towards a Free Education and present a course on art, politics and ecology to be delivered in November. For more information visit http://joanofart.net/the-venice-process/

Ravi Agarwal