Daniel Urban Kiley Lecture: Dilip Da Cunha, “The Invention of Rivers”

Welcome. This is a wonderfully
celebratory night for us every year. I see a lot of
guests from outside. To those of you
that don’t know me, my name is Anita Berrizbeitia. I’m professor and chair of
the Department of Landscape Architecture and together
with Diane Davis, chair of the Department of
Urban Planning and Design, it is my pleasure to introduce
Dilip da Cunha as the Kiley lecture of this academic year. The topic of this evening’s
lecture, the Invention of Rivers, Alexander’s
Eye Ganga’s Dissent is Dilip’s most
recent work on what has been a sustained
effort to broaden our understanding of
how, as designers, we know water, how
we should know it, and the historical roots
of our misunderstandings about rivers, rains– rain, evaporation, inundations,
and all other states of the condition of wetness. In his work, this topic has been
explored in a variety of media, design proposals, and
speculative projections, all of which have been
disseminated in many exhibitions and brought together
in four groundbreaking books, which he co-authored
with Anu Mathur– Mississippi Floods, designing
a shifting landscape in 2001; Deccan Traverses, the making
of Bangalore’s terrain in 2006; Soak, Mumbay in an
estuary in 2009; and Design in the
Terrain of Water of 2014. In the Invention of Rivers,
Dilip adds to this body of work and argues that the
visualization of the line that separates land from water– that is, the creation
of a rigid boundary between the dry and the wet– is precisely what has
produced our confrontations with water today, such as large
scale and destructive flooding, landslides, storm events,
and of course the sea, which now rises against us. He traces this way of
seeing rivers to antiquity, specifically to Alexander
the third’s failed attempt to colonize the Indian
subcontinent as a result of a pervasive wetness
that weakened his troops and drove them away. What a fantastic image. In the ensuing 2000 plus
years, Western civilization has tried to separate,
compartmentalize, organize, and impose an order to
that which, in his words, is quote “everywhere before it
is somewhere,” end of quote. This work is a call for the need
to reject the pervasive land water divide and instead
embrace the idea of wetness in this era of climate change. This will entail,
according to Dilip, the recognition that
to design rivers in the way we have
been doing thus far is to intervene in
a limited segment of the hydrological cycle. His research also questions
the three basic parameters that define a river– its course, its source,
and its flood pattern. In doing so, he makes
rain rather than rivers the main protagonist of the
book and of our future– a timely proposition. This incredible
book is illustrated with historical maps and
surveys, aerial photography, Dilip’s own analytical
sections and diagrams, photographic records of his
field work, to name a few. And his work exemplifies
the work of visualization as a fundamental step in the
challenge to normative thinking and towards the creation of
a much needed paradigm shift. Visualization is posited
here as a primary form of inquiry and design and a
precondition to invention. Dilip’s writing is
vivid and engrossing, demonstrating an
expansive imagination that dares to question
all basic assumptions and received binaries. And if this visualization is
a precondition for design, then imagination is a
precondition for visualization. In his case, his
has been nourished throughout a lifetime
of observation, upwards of two decades of
research and scholarship, and not insignificantly
through sensing wetness at every scale from the
familiarity of its sense in everyday life to the immense
flatness of the ocean of rain, the concept I hope we will
hear more about tonight, and the overwhelming and
indescribable fear of water in its most violent
manifestation– the Himalayan Tsunami of 2013,
which he experienced while on a research trip there. Dilip is a lecturer in
urban planning and design and co-area head of the
MDes Risk and Resilience group here at the GSD. He is also adjunct professor at
Columbia University’s Graduate School of Architecture,
Preservation and Planning. Please join me in celebrating
his work as a Daniel Urban Kiley lecture of 2019. [APPLAUSE] Well, thank you so much, Anita. And I feel you
have said it all– a wonderful, wonderful summary,
which I hope to expand on. I must get a copy
of that some point. Well, I am honored. I’m really honored
to be here tonight. And of course, I am
particularly honored to play a small role in the
quiet rhizomatic legacy of Dan Kiley, particularly his
image as a modernist. Growing up in Bango
amidst rain holding tanks and the smell of
rain on parched earth, I learned early that, even when
you do not live on a river, the river comes to you. It comes in pipes and drains
in flows and flow thinking, in history and
geography classes, in architectural and
philosophical discourses, in mythology,
novels, comic books, and everyday conversations. And it keeps coming. It brings water, but
it also brings flood. It brings a vocabulary of
place and a design imagination, an imagination infused
with a particular space and time, an imagination
that marginalizes before it consumes, simplifies
before it complicates, separates before it unites. I have since learned
the many ways that drivers can and
have been engineered to do our bidding with
dams, embankments, channels, and supply and drainage systems. And I have learned the many
ways they refuse to obey– flooding, depleting,
and polluting. Over the last five
years, however, I have learned something
crucial and significant. The river is itself
a product of design. Nature and– I daresay– god
followed its creation in a bid to universalize
it, naturalize it, making it disappear
into a backdrop, shielding its design
from sight and critique, making it one of the most
successful design projects in history– history, by the way,
of its own making. And it is ongoing. We all work for the river
in almost everything we do. But we work most basically and
unconsciously by separating water and land,
maintaining the separation, advocating it, and
universalizing it. However, while everyone
separates land and water, the last two millennia
has witnessed the rise of a professional
class that has aggressively taken over the care
of the separation. Professing its value
and its opportunities, they are designers of
the built environment– architects, planners engineers,
landscape architects. They care for an Earth’s
surface comprised of land and water, a
surface widely presumed to be the universal
ground of habitation, underpinning difference,
as it does infrastructure, governance, academic discourse,
and everyday conversations. Disciplines gather on it as do
the foundations of settlements and the traces of nomads. What would it mean,
I ask, for designers to take responsibility for
the existence of the surface and with it the
existence of the river? So what is the
act of separation? It is an act that does not
merely divide land from water. It brings them into being
on either side of a line. On one side is water
that is not land. On the other side is
land that is not water. We use a line to
make the separation but also to image it and
maps, imagine it in our minds, and enforce it with
regulation and constructions on the ground. It is naturalized in the
coastline, the river bank, and the water’s edge. These are places subjected
to artistic representations, scientific inquiry,
infrastructural engineering, and landscape design
with little attention to the act of separation
that brought them into being. Today, however, with
increasing frequency of flood and– not
unrelatedly– sea level rise attributed
to climate change, this line has come
into sharp focus with proposals for walls,
levees, natural defenses, pumps, and retreat. These responses raise questions
on where the line is drawn, but they also raise
questions on why it exists in the first place. It presumably creates
land apart from water, but the question is,
created from what. The answer is wetness. It is everywhere, in the
air, soil, flora, and fauna. The sea is very wet,
the desert less so. There is no such
thing as dryness. There is only wetness
of varying degrees. An apple is 86% wet,
a cucumber 96% wet, and a prickly pear
can be 95% wet. We don’t call them water bodies,
yet they can quench a thirst. So if wetness is
everywhere, how have we come to see it as land
and water somewhere? It is with the help of river
literacy, a visual literacy that is made possible by
the choice of a moment and the drawing of a line. First the moment–
it is a moment in the hydrologic cycle, a
diagram of movement of water through multiple
states and places. It is familiar to
fifth and sixth graders as it is to hydrologists, and
to artists like Paul Klee. He depicts the flow of
water through four states. And perhaps simplified, but
this is how actually every child learns it. Four states and places– precipitation from clouds
that you see up there there. Sorry, precipitation, number
one, is precipitation. Flow formation from land
to see, that you see here. Evaporation from land and sea to
atmosphere and cloud formation that leads back
to precipitation. Now this is a cycle that has
been ongoing, as we all know, with perhaps the same
water that has been around for billions of years. It is the second moment,
however, of flow formation that we choose to anchor
reality, a moment when it is not precipitating, not
evaporating, and not clouding. In this moment, a
moment of clarity undisturbed by rain and storm,
unhindered by mist and fog, we are able to call
out an Earth’s surface and to separate what we call
land and what we call water. So you see there– this line separating what
is above from what is below and then you have this line
separating land from water. In this moment, we draw
maps, demarcate property, write history, and
plan the future. And while we anchor
in this moment, we make other
moments ephemeral– rain, wind, and
clouds are visitors while rivers, as places
of flows, are resident. That’s a series anchor to make. Surveyors wait for the rain
to stop before they survey. And Google Earth
waits for the clouds to pass before they piece
together the whole earth image. In short, we are
fair weather people. Rain dampens our spirits. It takes away the sunshine
and creates gloom. All you have to do is actually
listen to a weather channel to see how rain is
demeaned every day. The second rule of river
literacy is the line. It begins in a point,
follows a trajectory, and accommodates erasure. It can hardly be a coincidence
that these three essentials of the drawn line are also
three essentials of the river. A river begins in a point
source, flows in a course, and erases in flood. And you see them over here. Now the line that articulates
a river is not any line, and there are many that
we see in the articulation of gestures, connections,
symbols, alphabets, shadings, and contours. The line that
articulates a river is a line that Euclid defined as
only length and no breadth– a geometric figure that
is basically invisible. So even though we draw it,
we actually don’t see it. We are trained, in fact, not to. We only see what
lies on either side. Yet this invisible
line does a lot. It separates water from
land, contains it to place, and collaborates it into a flow
from an origin to a destination or at least a
before to an after. Without that line, we
wouldn’t know time of a flow. It also facilitates
the extraction of an object from
the Earth’s surface to a map at a
reduced scale, it’s breadthlessness
allowing the form of the object extracted to
remain true to its shape on the ground. I’m sure that, as designers,
you’ve all experienced that. If I keep that line and maintain
its exaggeration with scale, you will see all its
reduction with scale, you know the form
goes out of order. This line is an ingenious,
an ingenious invention. I cover each of these
essentials of a line and river in a section of the book– course, source, and flood. I’ll just give you a brief
actually on each one of them. The story of course
begins with oceanus. Homer saw it as a
river of rivers. He describes it on
Achilles’s shield that you see here drawn by
Alexander Pope on the left. He shows it as
encircling the earth, flowing back upon itself. According to Aristotle,
Homer was likely describing the hydrologic cycle. It envelopes the
earth in wetness. But Greek scholars of
the school of Miletus, in their bid to initiate
scientific inquiry in the centuries
before the common era, understood it in
geographic terms as water surrounding
the inhabited earth. So today, we see Oceanus across
land’s edge, as you see here, is basically on the
terms of geography now rather than on the terms
of ecology or hydrology. It is the destination
of rivers that have [INAUDIBLE] Oceanus is
the destination of rivers that have been made to serve land,
rivers that have been made to serve land by draining
it, rivers that can be straightened, channeled, dammed,
diverted, and extended in pipes and drains. Did Hercules not use
the river Alpheus like a hosepipe to clean
the stables of King Augeas. Did Cyrus King of Persia
not punish the river Gyndes for sweeping away one of
his sacred white horses by splitting the river
into 360 separate channels to make it so weak
that even a woman could cross it without wetting
her knees as Herodotus writes? Do the Army Corps of
Engineers not make the Mississippi do our bidding? It is the line and choice of a
moment that make it possible. The story of source
begins in the observation made by several ancients
including Aristotle and Plato, but most famously in the
book of Ecclesiastes. All the rivers run to the
sea, yet the sea is not full. Unto the place from which rivers
come tither they return again. Paradise is the place
of their return. Much is written about
the four rivers that originate there– the Gihon,
the Pishon, the Tigris, and Euphrates. Little is said– and you see
them actually emerging here. But little is said
about the river of Eden that returns waters from
the sea to source, which you see actually surrounding here. Did it come through the
earth or via the air? Anthanasius Kircher, the
17th century polymath, was one among many
who argued for a route through the earth
via pyrophylaciums, that you see over here– oops. pyrophylaciums in
the earth actually that then ascend to
hydrophylaciums on the surface of the Earth that
then begin rivers. That was his imagination. It made for a veined earth. And you see it returning here
actually through the earth. But it also made for
an earthly paradise that remained elusive
because a river source if found was always
its second source– a disappearance into the
earth that emerged elsewhere. So you see it in
these medieval maps, there are amazing hydrological
drawings that show rivers actually emerging
from paradise– do you see over here– and then going into the
earth and disappearing. So anybody who came to a source
only went to an elsewhere was led to an elsewhere
that they could never reach because there’s
always a second source. It’s a wonderful
narrative actually of how elusive paradise
always turned out to be. Then there were those who
argued for the return of earth from sea to source
via the atmosphere. They saw paradise
in the mountains transforming rain on the
east wind into rivers. So you see that over here. This is the east wind
blowing into paradise that begins the rivers. So it’s a wonderful way to
see mountains– mountains at a transformative
moment, rain to rivers. The more secular
Leonardo da Vinci followed rivers into mountains,
the Apennines in his world, in search of a point
at the start of a line. He devised a way to draw
mountains and plan using complex perspective and tones. His effort would evolve
in the hands of surveyors who in the 18th century
invented hashes, contours that effectively
brought mountains down to sea level. It’s wonderful to see
this actually in relation to the exhibition outside. In their bid to follow
lines to their source, these surveyors read
in a tradition reaching to Herodotus, and Thales before
him, of the school of Miletus, who founded the
school of Miletus, and their search for
the source of the Nile. Alexander the Great,
Napoleon, John Hanning Speke would all seek that point
until as recently as 2006 when a National
Geographic team declared that they had found the
longest source of the Nile in the Nyungwe Forest of Rwanda. They had effectively drawn the
longest line called the Nile. The story of flood
begins with the deluge. As told by Ovid
in metamorphosis, Zeus, having decided to
destroy the human race, sends down sheets of
rain from a darkened sky. And when his own sky cannot
yield sufficient water, he adds waters of the
mountainsides and depths, telling them, open
all your doors, release the flood gates
of your dams and dikes, let all your rivers run without
restraint until there are no longer boundaries between
Earth and the sea, for everything is sea and
the sea is everywhere without a shore. A deluge, in other words,
erases the line of separation and, with it, civilization. But Egypt flooded under
blue skies between June and September every year. It puzzled Thales, founder of
the Greece school of Miletus, and widely considered
the first scientist, leading him to ask the
first design question– why does the Nile flood? Records of the time are scarce,
but Herodotus in the fourth century was asking
the same question. . He asked it of Egyptians,
from whom he got no answer. He ponders the normal Nile. Which is it, the river
between October and May when it is between two banks– between two banks– or
between June and September when it is between two deserts? That is like asking–
and this what I tell my students
sometimes that’s like asking which is the normal
Dilip when I breathe in or when I breathe out. Herodotus never thought it
possible that the Egyptians did not see flood at all,
that they inhabited not the banks of a river
that flowed and flooded, but a wetness that
rose and fell. And it rose gently with the
rains of the monsoon that fell in Ethiopia. It was 2,000 miles
away, a rise that seemed to come to them
from a netherworld, that you see over here
in this hieroglyphic. This is the drawing actually of
the ground of Egypt between two desert and the waters beneath. And they led this rise
of fertile wetness into their fields
and reservoirs even as they raised their
habitation on mounds, cultivating its slopes by
the rise and fall of wetness. But Herodotus insisted
on seeing a river that violated its normal, depositing
alluvium in the process and settling fertile land. It led him to speak the
language of settlement in his description
of habitation, a language that persists today. Indeed, so enamored was he
with settlement and the city as the quintessential settlement
that he demeaned the grounds that did not settle– deserts, seas, and mountains. These grounds became
the home of barbarians doomed by an unsettled ground
to be unsettled people– nomads. Now these three
essentials of the river raised some serious questions. The first, witnesses
everywhere– why do we see water somewhere? The second– why
do we see rivers beginning in a
point or points when precipitation falls all over? Even when we admit
a river basin– the Mississippi basin here– we remain bound to
points at the ends of a multiplicity of lines. The third question–
flood is water crossing a line that is basically drawn. Why do we see it
as a natural event? This by the way– I mean, more and more
I see it actually developing across the world. The idea that flood
is a natural event is a criminal observation that’s
never been brought to question. How can it be natural
if it’s crossing a line that I have drawn? The answers to these questions
lie beyond river literacy in the use of science,
philosophy history, religion, and infrastructure to
enforce and rationalize the choice of a
moment and accommodate its inconsistencies. To this end, the river has
led to the creation of nothing less than nature
for its defense, making it a source
of wonder but also a weapon used to
subjugate people who choose to anchor their
reality in another moment of the hydrologic cycle. I refer in particular
to people of the monsoon belt across Asia. They likely anchor in the
first moment of precipitation that you see here rather than
in the second moment of flow formation. Their moment of reality is
made a moment of ephemorality in a world of rivers. The things by which
they individuate the world are not
necessarily the things created by the
act of separation. In other words, they do not
just see things differently. They see different things. Consider it like this both
these worlds receive clouds of the monsoon heavily
laden with moisture, evaporated off the Indian Ocean
between June and September. And I’m talking about
now the clouds that are in this part of the cycle. So both worlds receive it. In the first, the one of
the left, this moisture falls to a land surface as
rain soaking a parched earth and gathering inflows that run
eventually back to the ocean to begin the cycle again. We all learned this in school. We all learned this in school,
how rain becomes rivers. Now in 1901, an English
textbook in geography teaches it like this. It’s between a conversation
between a brother and a sister Harry and Madge– very English names. Harry is unable to study in his
usual place under the poplar tree because it is raining. He has to stay indoors
with his sister Madge. Do you know what a river is? When you have a little sister,
you test your knowledge. So do you know what a
river is, he asks her. A river, a river is what? It’s a river, isn’t it? It’s water, anyway,
replies Madge. You’re right, says Harry. A river is a stream
of water that rises in the land and flows into
another river or into a lake or into the sea. That is what my geography says. But where, asks Madge,
does the water come from. Well, now Madge, why can’t I
go out this morning with my map and sit under the
old poplar tree? Because it’s raining so
hard, Harry, Madge replies. Of course, says Harry. But now, do you see the
rain dripping off the trees and running down
the windowpanes? You can hear it
also running down the pipes of the roof of the
house and all down the garden parts. You can see these
little streams. Well, it is the rain
that makes the rivers. Dad said that perhaps it
is raining all over England today, like most days. If so, see what a lot of
water is falling everywhere. All the water is running off
the trees and fields and roads into tiny little
ditches and brooks. The brooks run into bigger
ones and the bigger ones into small rivers. The small rivers run into
larger ones and the larger ones into big rivers, which soon
becomes a part of the sea. Madge is amazed, and
I’m sure all of us were amazed when we heard this. Their father takes
them to London, the biggest city in the world
on the banks of the river Thames, which gathers all
the rain of the country through pipes, ditches,
and brooks, and streams. We then learn that there
are rivers in North America and India so big that
it would make the Thames look like a village
brook beside them. This whole story is so
ordered, so civilized. [INAUDIBLE] is destined to
rivers and river civilizations. The Second World, the
one you see on the right, receives the monsoon
very differently. Here the moisture carried on the
wind does not fall to a surface at all so much as deepen
a wetness that is already everywhere in some degree,
a wetness that does not flow as water does but
rather holes in clouds, air, earth, and living matter. It soaks, blows, seeps,
osmotes, and transpires its way to ever extending holdings
of wetness, holdings that eventually become the ocean
that reconnects with the wind. And this ocean is not the vast
expanse of sea beyond the land. It is rather an all encompassing
wetness, ready similar to Homer’s Oceanus. These, I suggest, are
two first natures, to use a word from Cicero
that drives actually from the writings of Cicero– two first natures. It takes a unique
sensibility and imagination to inhabit each, to live in
wetness versus on surface, experience holding witness
versus draining water, hold thinking versus
flow thinking. It is this, the second
world, an ocean of rain that was disrupted by Alexander
the Great in the fourth century B.C. And this monarch was
educated into river literacy by his teacher Aristotle. He carried with him a world
map, one of the first conquerors to carry a map and to battle
on the ground of a map, a representation of
an earth’s surface invented two centuries
before him by Anaximander. Thales, his student– that is,
Anaximander, Thales’s student– Alexander came across
the Hindu Kush mountains, having marched from
Egypt in the monsoon shadow of the regions of Asia. So he comes from the
Nile actually across here behind there the
highlands of Oman and then behind the Hindu
Kush mountain, [INAUDIBLE] island range. And he crosses here into India. So he had marched from Egypt. He was determined to articulate
the entire inhabited earth’s surface. To him this articulation
was the means to empire as it was to
empirical knowledge. But then he ran, as Anita
actually has already told you, he ran into the
southwest monsoons, a wind laden with rain
like nothing he had seen. The profound wetness
would unsettle his men, forcing Alexander to turn
back, but not before he had planted an eye for a surface
comprised of land and water. Over two millennia
this eye would flatten an ocean of
wetness called Sindhu into a subcontinent called
India, leaving inhabitants torn between a world that lends
itself to being mapped, labeled, formal, and a world
that refuses the map, labeled, informal. Among the many rivers that
Alexander the Great called out is the Ganges. He did not reach it, but he
is the earliest on record to refer to it by name,
seeing it in his mind’s eye as a flow that would take him to
the eastern edge of the Earth. Over the centuries
since, the Ganges would be drawn most
ambitiously by Europeans in the 18th and 19th
centuries, who saw themselves in Alexander’s footsteps. They formed its delta, turning
a world of modern mangroves that for centuries were seen
beyond the edge of the Earth into islands and channels. They plodded its course
through the plains, narrowing the vastness of
wetness that reached from sky to deep into the earth into
a channel on the surface, a wetness that two millennia ago
rose only a couple of feet with the monsoon each year because
it was so widely held in a depth of soil, a biomass that
multiplied exponentially with each monsoon, and a system of
well,s tanks, and reservoirs, and fields. Today the same Ganges rises
30 to 40 feet each year. And they defined its
source in the Himalayas, the south side of
the Tibetan Plateau that was once seen as the
singular Mount Kailash, or Mount Meru, that
deformed the Earth with an average height of Mont
Blanc, the highest mountain in Europe. Making the Ganges has literally
been a Herculean task. Over two millennia,
it has produced a river that is the
spine of civilization and a drain of
settlement, a river that today is one of the
most endangered in the world. It has also produced a river
that can be trained, dammed, and linked. And it has produced a river
that is today granted rights. I got this picture in Delhi,
and you can see the school. It was sort of a
flashing light, Adopt an age being adopt a tree,
adopt an animal, adopt a river. It’s become a being. And today it has rights. And the Herculean task does
not stop at making a river. It extends to cultivating
people to appreciate the many opportunities
that rivers afford– water supply, drainage,
transport, electricity, and today river fronts– for real estate–
so much so that we are seeing rivers being
made so that cities can have river fronts. It’s one of the most
astounding set of projects across, at least India, and
I’m sure further afield. This cultivation involves
implanting Alexander’s eye in the classroom and the street
through maps, books, computers, and cell phones, structured by
the discipline of geography. Nowhere is this implanted
eye more apparent than in the periodic gathering
of millions of people on the banks of the Ganges– Kumhb Mela that
you see over here. They flock to a
goddess that they’re cultured to see
incarcerated between lines, a river that carries their
hopes and their waste. We may wonder at the
spectacle and infrastructure, yet it is the design of
naturalists, surveyors, administrators, and conquerors
who call for our wonder. Following in the
footsteps of Alexander, they have created the
ground for this event, a river that is itself
an infrastructure driven to spectacle. It is ultimately the
inhabitants of wetness who pay the price for
its unsustainability. Their goddess is
called Ganga, and she refuses to conform to
the lines of the Ganges. She refuses to allow
her wetness to be contained by Alexander’s eye. The story of her
descent from the sky is told in the epics
in the piranhas. King Bhagirath, they say,
sought of the earthly presence of this goddess to perform the
last rites of his ancestors who had been reduced to
ashes by the Sage Kapila. So he renounced the
world to receive the gods to send her down. But the gods worried
that the earth would shatter under her fall. Shiva, god of this
fear of earth, offered to take her
fall on his head. Ganga flowed down his hair
and, led by Bhagirath, to reach the
netherworld where she reconstituted his ancestors. Now millions of people have been
taught to see in this account a river descending by
the locks of Shiva’s hair, a river beginning
in the ever receding front of a glacier above Gangotri
in the Himalayas gathering hundreds of
tributaries in a floor 1,569 miles before reaching
the sea at Ganga Sagar. In short, they thought that
Ganga is the Ganges River. But the story can be read
with another imagination. What if Ganga came down, not
the locks of Shiva’s hair, but each of his infinite hairs? After all, he’s a god. Her descent would not picture a
river as much as it would rain. Here Ganga does not flow as
the Ganges does in a course to the sea. She is rather held in
soils, aquifers, glaciers, living things, snow fields,
agricultural fields, tanks, terraces, wells,
cisterns, even the air– all for a multiplicity
of durations that range from minutes and
days to centuries and eons. She soaks, saturates, and fills
before overflowing her way by a multiplicity of roots. Bhagirath’s task of leading
her to a netherworld is much more challenging,
much more mysterious, much more befitting of the
infinite capacity of the gods. Unlike the river
Ganges, her source is not in a point or
points, but in clouds. Also unlike the river Ganges,
her course cannot be drawn in a map because the roots
are too complex, emergent, and changing across
a vast depth. The only anchor
she offers people is the moment of a descent,
the coming of the monsoon. It is, however, the Ganges that
fuels the design imagination– infrastructure, education,
science, translations, and conversations. 70 years after political
independence from Britain and two millennia after
Alexander turned home, Ganga is seen to signify
a river rather than a ubiquitous wetness. The river itself generally
and across the world has established itself as the
leading element of an Earth’s surface, spawning what
Brett Bowden calls the empire of civilization
and Neil Brenner here calls planetary urbanization. It has also proven to be a
remarkable colonizing device, offering another explanation
for the subjugation of indigenous peoples and the
creation of an underclass. These are people who today
suffered a profound dissonance. Their experience is
grounded in one moment of the hydrologic
cycle while they are made to inhabit
another, which is to say that they do not
experience what they know and they do not know
what they experience. They are labeled
informal, underdeveloped, and traditional. But if there is anything that we
can learn from the many crises today, it is that
wetness is everywhere before it is land
and water somewhere and that these people
may hold the way forward. So what is it to design
with the appreciation for ubiquitous wetness? To recognize the multiplicity
and autonomy of the raindrop rather than the singularity
and hierarchy of the river, to experience the
holding of wetness rather than the
draining of water, to operate by negotiating rather
than articulate by separating. In short, what is it to
design in an ocean of rain rather than on a surface
drained by rivers? This is what we sought to do
in Soak, a book and exhibition that explored Mumbai,
as a place in an estuary rather than on an island,
appreciating rain as a resident rather than a
visitor and the sea as an insider rather
than an outsider. We did not stop at the present. We’re told of the
past of this place as an estuary, a past that
accommodated the sea as already within. It was the past of locals rather
than the history of colonials. We developed estuarian proposals
for a future articulated in section through practices
rather than in plan through form, which
for centuries were the colonizers means of
promoting a land centric island city. Designing in
wetness is also what we sought to do in the
Deccan Traverses, a book and exhibition that
presented Banglo as an intersection
of four trajectories. We made the case that these
trajectories surveying, triangulating,
picturing, and botonized constituted a colonial
entity labeled the Garden City of
India out of a wetness operated by locals through
ritual, cultivation, and negotiation. 70 years after independence,
these colonial trajectories continue to grip the
planners’ imagination. They enforce a land centric
entity supplied with and drained of water by
relegating wetness to a shadow world that they deal with
as informal, traditional, and exotic, a shadow world
that refuses to go away. Our turn from water
to wetness was in many ways set by
Mississippi Floods, a book an exhibition that
called attention to the rule of the river in
creating a landscape of flood, her landscape at odds
with the Native American, whose mounds suggest
that they inhabited not the banks of a
river that flowed and flooded but a wetness
that rose and fell very much like the Egyptians. It offers another explanation
for what Brian Fagan calls the clash of cultures, one
that occurred following the arrival of Columbus. It was a clash of peoples who
anchored in different moments of the hydrologic cycle. They did not just see
things differently. They saw different things. Five years ago, we built on
this ontological difference in our project for
the lower Chesapeake that sought structures
for coastal resilience. Our project, as we
like to describe it, turns the coast from a line
separating land and sea into fingers of high ground
that negotiate rain and tide. It prepares– and if I can
just take a moment here. I mean, much of
the ecology that we found actually moved between
salinity actually and freshness water over here. So the coast– and this
is the only solution here is to actually redraw
or to create barriers. We said that what if he
actually turned the coast here. And the way we see it
is not as an equal tone over here but changing the
orientation of a designer to look that way and the
accumulation of points along a different
trajectory, if you will. It prepares a place. It prepares a place
to accommodate hurricanes on the one hand
and rising sea on the other. It keeps in mind that
there is no such thing as a natural disaster. There is only design disaster. Now Anu and I are currently
working on a sequel to the Invention of Rivers. We call it Ocean of Rain. It presents a design
with another beginning in a reading of elements as
not concentrically ordered but coextensive. Their place is stemming
from negotiation rather than the act of separation. So this is what we were
educated to do actually is, to see the geosphere or the
hydrosphere or the atmosphere and so forth, whereas over
here of what we’re seeing is negotiating spheres. They’re coextensive. Negotiating that operates
through a multiplicity of the small, the
raindrop rather than the hierarchy of rivers. We see it as a means to explore
wetness on its own terms as an alternative to a
geographic surface threatened today by sea level rise,
melting glaciers, floods, and violent conflict
over river waters, not to mention political
violence, deforestation, underdevelopment,
and severe pollution. What will it take, we ask,
to transition habitation from a surface to
ubiquitous wetness, from flows of water to
holdings of wetness. And so to conclude, the river
is a truly remarkable product of design created with
an ingenious line drawn in the chosen moment of
the hydrologic cycle. It has led in the articulation
of an earth’s surface but also in a colonization
that has turned people’s reality
into ephemerality and their ephemerality
into reality. This colonization,
which reaches back to the birth of science
and the academy, made the territory
possible and with it empire and latter
day colonialism. Perhaps there is an answer here
to the often asked question, why did the west colonize the
east and not the east the west. If the question is
asked differently, why did Alexander’s eye
colonize Ganga’s descent? And why did rivers colonize rain
and not the other way around? And that is a question
for academics. For designers in particular,
I have this question. Can you anchor your
imagination in other moments of the hydrologic cycle? It promises entire new
languages of place and design. After all, to
paraphrase Einstein, we cannot design with the same
language of place that created our problems. Thank you. [APPLAUSE] Would you take any
questions with us? Sure, sure. So we have we have a few
moments for questions. There’s a question. I’m interested in the Soak
exhibition you showed us. I was just wondering why it
started in the 17th century, particularly not– I’m sorry, [INAUDIBLE] –not any earlier. The Soak exhibition,
or the Soak project– why did it start in the 17th
century and not centuries earlier or centuries later? I’m particularly
interested in that. Well, it started
actually in the time that we were
documenting over there. It was this transition
actually from the Portuguese to the English. And we were looking specifically
at European colonization that had constructed an
island city out of an estuary. And in that transition from
the Portuguese to the English– you may be aware actually that
it was the gift of an island, together with Tangiers, I
believe, as part of a dowry. And then it led to an amazing
search for this island. What is this island? And so it gave us a
fantastic starting point of the birth
of an island city and the transformation
of an estuary into what became the
island city of Bombay. It is actually quite hilarious
to read that transition from island to [INAUDIBLE]
because the British walk across actually the low
ground when waters are low. And they claim much more land
than the Portuguese apparently gave them. So the Portuguese viceroy
wrote to his King, saying that here we have
people who are taking more than they are given. And they said, well, we
are taking an island. We’re walking as
far as we can walk. It’s an island, but they
were walking in low tide. So that set up the ground
for our investigation at that time of how an
island city was born. But to a larger
point, I mean, I think trajectory of thinking
from the Mississippi down has moved back, I
think, in terms of the past. And when we went to India
we were after Mississippi. We decided we don’t want to
be known as river people. So we said, let us take
on a so-called city. And when we started our
investigations there, we went back again to
the British occupation of Bangalore. And then in the case of Bombay,
we went a little further. But that introduced us
to the whole colonial, post-colonial arguments
that then in this book we have gone now back to
the school of the Miletus. But maybe I’ll do Bombay going
back to the school of Miletus now. In an era of climate
change, our focus, our fixation on the line
between land and sea may be heightening. I suppose with that
change, encroachment, we have a lot of fear
distilled within our perception of that line. Do you think it is important
for us to let go of that fear or can that fear be productive? The way I see it, actually–
the drawing of the line has created an other. And the other
always creates fear. It’s coming to get to you. And so I’ve been at meetings in
Norfolk, in community meetings where there is this growing
up of a kind of momentum and a voice that is saying,
the water is coming, the water’s coming. It was really bizarre. And it was like a
religious gathering, a new age kind of experience. And that’s what happens
when you create an other. An other always comes together. I mean, this is the
same fear, actually, that Alexander had
when he goes to India. And he wants to conquer
the entire earth. And he tells his men,
encouraging them to move on– because they mutinying– he’s telling them, let’s
move on because, if you leave anything uncaptured,
they’ll come and get us. So that sense of actually
making everything your own is something that
keeps us going. So my sense is, I don’t think
fear is a good way to go. We have to just
give up the line. And it’s not so much
giving up the line and maintaining an
earth’s surface. We have to give up the
earth’s surface too and embrace a
ubiquitous wetness. That sense I think then we
can’t live with fear, no. And this conversation,
by the way, if I can just extend this
answer a little bit– well, it was brought
up in a conversation with the Army Corps of
Engineers in Washington. And someone asked,
I mean, what does it actually for a child to grow
up in this kind of milieu. They’re growing up
in a problem milieu where they’re learning
things, on the one hand, that things are
being deforested, that the future
is being sabotaged and so on and so
forth, on the one hand. On the other hand,
they’re learning things like, trees
give us oxygen, the utilitarian sensibilities
that are being– because they’re being
made into problem solvers. And so that I think comes
from a few this milieu. And so someone brought this
up actually as a concern for the future, that
we’ve got to find a way to get out of here. You can’t bring up kids in
that kind of environment. So in the city of
Varanasi, you would have seen when there are floods– over the years people have
launched a shift that– it’s a very busy area,
the river front 24 hours. And you see people
shifting their activities, like all the worshipping
rituals and small stores and heavy activity. It just shifts very flexibly
up towards the line, as if like this is not a hazard. So do you think this
is about embracing what’s happening with water
and giving up the line? Or is it the way to the future? Well, this is certainly
one of the things that we advocate actually. We advocate the gradient and
the appreciation of a gradient. But it is not necessarily toward
a kind of migratory settlement, if you will. So for example, in Norfolk
we designed the fingers of high ground with a gradient,
with actually two gradients– one from high ground to low
ground and another gradient from low ground to high
ground to facilitate actually the rise of sea and the
migration of sea inhabitants. And at the same time,
what we encouraged towards was uses, human uses
that could be sent down– like play fields and
things like that, that could accommodate waters
in certain times of the year and then recede to higher
ground in other times. So yes, there are
certain what we call land uses that could be
seen on the ground of time rather than on the ground
of space that could react in exactly the same position. But I think to your larger
point, that is the way to understand our relationship. It’s between low
ground and high ground. And I wouldn’t use the
word flood anymore. I just use rise and
fall of wetness. And so water, what
we see as water is basically wetness
of a certain form. And so given the
Vanarasi, which now has been made into a river front. It’s really obnoxious,
actually, because that’s not the way it was. It wasn’t there was
never a riverfront. And in fact, all of Varanasi was
turned the other way actually around tanks, around tanks. And there are tanks
that had been destroyed. And when Prinsep actually
designed the drainage system in Varanasi, he drained
these tanks into the Ganges. But the initial
understanding of the guard was that it was at the
end of the street, a step to lower ground. You went down and
wetness rose to meet you. That’s the way I
understand the god. It is not this
front that confronts a river with all the
pomp and splendor that comes with it
today and spectacle, which is sort of bizarre
in a world of rain. Thank you for a beautiful
presentation, Dilip. And I really love the
historical, the maps, the art, the philosophy, et
cetera, et cetera. I was an overwhelming,
beautiful presentation. I want to ask you a
question a little– if you don’t want
to respond too much it’s OK, because I know you this
is a project of challenging us in our design imagination and
the way things are mapped. But I’m just wondering if
you could say a little more about the political economy
behind the project of drawing the line. And I very much appreciate
starting with Alexander. That’s imperial colonial
project, et cetera. But it seems to me that there
are a kind of periodization of the colonial project in which
it becomes important to create those lines because of
the economy of river trade extraction of goods– so grounding, if I
can use that word– the colonial
project in what else is happening in
those spaces that you need that line on the river. And I just want to build
that just a second more because I just came
back from London. Happened to be walking
along the Thames because I was going to something
like greater London Authority and near the tower bridge. And if you look at the
historical description of the river, it’s all about
the importance of the river and containing it with
the bridges over it for the protection in battle. So there’s kind of
a military strategy, and then there’s a
political economy. So not to say that that’s not
consistent with the mapping and the design, but maybe
say a little something more about the
historiography from Alexander because there’s some centuries
[INAUDIBLE] between where you really start to see the
channeling and the mapping in the way that you’re
sharing with us. I mean, I’m sort of drawn in
two directions, two directions. One is to look at the paradigm
of wetness as an alternative to rivers. And that is a larger
project, given sea level rise and given enemy that
we have made of water. So that drive is there, and that
has a sort of global desire. And it goes down to
challenging disciplines. I mean, our disciplines
have come from the divide between land and water. So is there a way to not
just be transdisciplinary, but to be predisciplinary,
which is why I very often try to recover that moment of
the Enlightenment, which for at least a short
period of time, suspended knowledge as
we knew it and allowed being to be restructured
in empirical forms– things like that. But that is one voice
that the book speaks with. The other one is just to
point to the difference. And I mean, you used the
word political economy. The possibility of
another mode of living, another economy that operated
in the moment of rain. And it’s interesting when you
read all the books on Alexander that were written in the first
and second century, three centuries after
him, quoting people who were with him, like
[INAUDIBLE] et cetera. That particular narrative
is about is about rain– I’m calling out Alexander. Alexander makes the
observation that he says these are the
most peaceful people. They do not know war, that
the people of India, what he saw as India, do not know war. He said, they’re
easy to conquer. So let’s move forward. And this is very interesting. It sort of brought my mind. People in rain may not
be driven to the violence that the people of rivers are. So when you talk about
the militaristic– I mean, I believe that
the first act of violence is putting water out there. And telling water what to do
is the first act of violence. And so when you look at what
Cyrus did to the Gyndes, the Persian King– the sixth century again,
sixth century B.C. So Gyndes is a
tributary of the Tigris. And when he divides 360
parts so that it will not rise enough to reach a
woman’s knees or whatever, that act is one of violence. So I mean, if you
read Greek mythology, I mean, rivers are
treated as living things that you fight against. So Achilles is actually also
fighting against rivers. And so that the sense
of reading of water is I think a prelude to the kind
of violence that then follows. And of course, there
is a desire on my part to actually see this as a
grounding of a dualism that then sets up many
other dualisms. We talk about gender. You talk about the colonized
and colonizer, et cetera, et cetera. You have many of these
dualism and [INAUDIBLE],, whereas wetness is classically
a non dualistic position, where you negotiate
in a coextensive– Maidan as an example of that. It’s a different
way of socializing. And the space– I can take it from the level
of the planet, if you will, or the idea of the earth and
the spheres of air, fire, et cetera, and what, down
to actually the way in which it operates in
everyday communities. So when I see the Maidan
operating in India as a space where multiple
gains are going on and multiple activities
are going on, people are constantly
negotiating it and negotiating the ground, not because
they’re protecting their space, but because they have
a right to the whole. And so I can take that
argument into understanding political economies differently
on the ground of negotiation as opposed to this land
water divide and separations that then call for– I mean, take things
like zero sum games and this and that
and the rest of it. Then that is one
of the initiatives an ocean of rain and
a larger project, an ocean of wetnesses– can this lead to other ways by
which we talk to one another, the way we educate
children, the way we learn, the way we do we engage
place, and so on? I just wanted to ask a question. I’m up here at the back. Hi. Dilip, thank you very
much for the presentation. Definitely being in
your classes and hearing about this concept
of wetness– it’s great to sit
through this lecture and know that the
book is out there now. So this has been wonderful. I just wanted to
ask you, in terms of what you’re just
saying about dualisms, do you engage at
all in the book? Or how do you approach maybe
minimal wetness or drought or dryness and the lack of
water or an absence of water? And maybe the lines
aren’t there but there’s a similar difference
that we see, and also a discussion through
climate change narratives. I’ve just returned
actually from a trip to Rajasthan following the Luni. And the Luni is articulated
as a river in maps. I mean, our whole
trip was actually through this dry ground
that had just [INAUDIBLE] for a growing all over and
various other polluting puddles. But they’re planning on
refining this as a river. But this is a wonderful
ground where– I mean, I could look
at it differently. I could see goats
coming at certain times. And I could people, dyers
coming at certain times. I could see various occupants. And then water rain comes
through at some other time. That sense of a negotiated
ground in the desert is something that people
have lived it for centuries. But today they’re
diverting waters actually that are going into Pakistan,
the Sutlej and other rivers, and bringing water
into these in order to make a perennial river. And people are growing
rice in the desert. So we’re finding that
there is this whole drive for infrastructure that comes
from a river infrastructure that is entering the zone of– and I don’t use the word
dryness with pleasure. But it is precisely because they
see the need to make it wet. And a desert has its own wetness
in the sense that there’s due, there were these tankers. There are amazing
systems by which wetness was held in a desert. Now I understand that the drive
today is to settle everywhere. And maybe we’re paying
the price for this. Maybe there are grounds
that you should not be encouraging such settlement. And I find that many people
speak with both voices. On the one hand, they want
to speak with this the sense that we are
environmentally conscious and, on the other hand, we
are developmentally open. And so some of you have got
to come to terms with that. And so I don’t see
these as dry places, if they are less wet, yes. But they all have
systems that have– and I’m not pointing to
just histories to a past. I think we need to invent
today ways of gathering wetness that doesn’t need to
channel water like a river from 2,000 miles away
and say that you’re greening the desert. Thank you so much for the
rich, one might say loamy talk. Two comments– one
is your talk has led me to think that perhaps
the source of wetness in India are the tears that
Alexander reportedly shed when he no longer
had any worlds to conquer. But my comment very quickly– it’s not a question
at all– has to do with your very rapid
invocation of Euclid as the source of the line. And what I’m taking to
be the assumed stability of the line as such. And it makes me
think very quickly of the [INAUDIBLE]
of Euclid that was put out by the press
at Oxford University. It’s there that we’ve
seen for the first time the iconography of
the frontispiece of the shipwreck of
Aristippus on Rhodes where we see, be of good hope. We see traces of man
through precisely these Euclidean
figures on the shore. And the moral
there is you surely go through life possessed
of those things which will survive a shipwreck. We should say we’re
always in peril. We’re always subject to fortunes
of these oceanic systems. But what’s not said in
the story, which obviously originates to Vitruvius, is that
with the incoming of the tide, the lines will be erased. They’ll be swept from the shore. So I’m just left with
this question of how endurable or robust are lines. And with your conceit that with
Euclid, it’s not a line at all. It’s just an extent. It troubles that figure in
the text in a very intriguing. This was was a
conversation I was having with Steve earlier on– [INAUDIBLE] there’s a reading
of Homer’s return of– when he talks about water
flowing upon itself, the question of a
flowing upon itself has often been equated with
tides, tides and the sense of coming on land, going back. And then there are other
kinds of explanations. I mean, Aristotle
describes what he’s saying as actually
the hydrologic cycle. It can be understood as
a world with no lines. I mean, not to say actually
that lines do not exist. But when Euclid actually defines
the line– and I’m not saying he’s the first person
to see it that way. It was probably
Thales and Anaximander who also saw the line as
this breadthless length. That particular line that you
don’t see that we all presume– so for example, Heraclitus, when
he talks about you cannot step into the same river twice,
the question I ask is, everyone has pointed to the fact
that he’s talking about nature and movement and talking about
a particular view of nature, this, that, and the rest of it. But I ask what did
he actually see? And what is he asking
people to walk across? When he says step
into the river, what is he asking
them to do precisely? And so he was seeing an edge. So that sense of an edge is
a line a one way or another. I mean, once I see
it, I can erase it. I can do all kinds
of things with it. But the fact is that, if it’s
there and I begin with it, then it is always there. It’s buried. It’s erased, which is how we
look at a floodplain today. A floodplain is something
that we assume this erasure constantly in its expansion and
whatever, whatever you will. But that’s why I say that you
have to give it up in order to initiate a new
imagination completely. And you could do it actually if
you just step out of the moment into another into
another moment. I don’t know I’m answering
your point exactly. [INAUDIBLE] Thank you very much. I worked for a
watershed association on flood resilience. And so I actually have a maybe
almost a marketing question. So I look at these
flood maps, and it’s a very, very flat
watershed, the Mystic River. And we don’t have
a lot of upland. And so are our initial thought
before this conversation tonight was the
idea of, make room for the river, which
is getting closer to the idea of
embracing the fact that we will flood and
make it so without harm. Do you have a good name
for that in-between land that’s not always channel
and not always upland? Because I think that
would be the place where you design differently. But I think, starting
from this Western concept of, we’ve got a river and we
have a whole lot of people in places living
next to the river, how could we live in this
intermediate layer episodically without fearing it? I mean, this is a question
that’s for the particular. I mean, in a
particular instance, which is a subtext of the book. One of the great things
that the river has done to our imagination
is that it has made– I should say, the
geographic surface has done is that it has
made places comparable. And we design actually
by comparison. We analyze by comparison. And I mean, if you
think of what Herodotus did when he
constituted history– and why is he called
the father of history? He’s called the father
of history, in my view, precisely because
he had embraced a geographic surface
that had been invented two centuries before him. With that geographic
its surface, he was able to place nomads. He was able to
place the Egyptians. He was able to
place the Persians, and then bring them into some
kind of conversation and time. And with that, he basically
constructed common time with common space. So the way I see it now is
that, if you move to rain, you have to move
to a particularity. You have to move to a
ground of emergence. So there’s this middle ground
that you’re looking for– I mean, the way that we’ve
found useful everywhere is to identify a gradient. And the gradient in
an interesting way first comes up with two extremes
in the language that we speak– the extreme wet and
then the less wet, is it, or the high and
the low, and then we orchestrate between. And so it’s hard to say
what that middle ground and to name the
middle ground, but I’m sure there must be a name
and a particular place for that middle
ground if one looks up the past somewhere that
maybe not there [INAUDIBLE].. That’s going to be a
transformative word. I hope that you come
up with it because I think that will
be transformative as we’re thinking
about flood resilience. No, you’re absolutely right. There’s a wonderful appreciation
of the middle, I mean, which is where some would
say there’s a delusion– that if you look at
the world as a middles and then move from there
one way and the other, with horizons on both sides
rather than boundaries, then you’re living in a– like you say, it’s
the most vital place. Thank you, Dilip, for this
wonderful presentation. Ever since I visited your
exhibition Soak in Mumbai, yours and Anu’s work has been
like a continuous inspiration for my continuous research on
how do we visualize and draw this ephemeral and temporal
nature of water and also sometimes the unseen part, which
is, for example, groundwater. And I’ve been trying
to do research on it for I think now three
years of how do you convey and how do you talk
to people about this. I see you’ve done it
through a lot of images and that is something
that people can see. But there is a lot
of things that people just experience but don’t see. And I wanted to
ask that, when we talk to a lot of
communities, we realized that they understand the flow. But in design discipline and
in the pedagogy and perception, do you think there is a
new type of visualization or a new method that
is required so that we stop mapping the static and
talk about this temporal nature? Also as we go back in time
in the history of mapping, we always actually– like long back, we used to
draw these sea monsters, talk about the unknown factors. And because we said that that
is something unknown to us, we advanced in our explorations. But suddenly, I feel that,
when we draw and when we visualize in our discipline,
it’s always we know everything. There is never that
room for unknown. And do you think that is
something that is stopping us actually in a way it? And actually acknowledged this
temporary nature, and it could be a way to lot of like these– not say, solutions, but a
new perception to how water and its movement. Thank you. That’s a good question. One of the things
that the river does– I mean– and I would
think a geographic surface prior to the river does is that
it creates finite knowledge. So when someone like Alexander
wanted to conquer the earth– I know it’s said
sort of flippantly. He was actually conquering
the inhabited earth. He was constructing the ground
for empirical knowledge. And I always find it amusing– empirical knowledge and
empire come from same roots. I mean, and I think there’s
something there that someone can build on, I think. But this sense of
finite knowledge actually makes us
know and not know. And it’s a very funny
thing to say, but I mean, it’s almost something– I forget who that administrator
was during the Bush’s time– we know what we do not know. It is bizarre. I mean, how do we know
that we do not know? But yet we seem to know
that you do not know. So there’s something there that
is telling us to know more. There is something that
is positing the limit in, let’s say, some
sense of giving us some sense of this
unknown that is knowable. I don’t believe that
happens in wetness. Wetness is an acceptance
of an infinite– and this is where it’s
about the particular. But it is also
about the emergent. There’s an emergent and then
there is this constant– I mean, and you know
it seems like it comes across to
us as a nightmare because we’re constantly
dealing with shifting. And you use the word ephemeral. So if I had to point
to my own trajectory, that Anita so nicely put
actually from the Mississippi Floods down, in
Mississippi Floods we’re talking about
a shifting landscape. And we looked at
ephemerality seriously. And we asked why don’t
maps capture ephemerality. And that I mean, now
there’s a whole lot of studies on that
you know that are capturing that ephemerality. We’ve moved away
from that point. It’s not about shifting. It’s like you standing
on a platform, watching the trains move. And that’s what we were
documenting in some way and asking us, how– and then what people are
doing today interestingly is mapping now more frequently. So we worked with
maps 10 year maps. Now you get maps that
are every second. And you get real maps. The people are
going into thinking that they can capture shifting
landscapes by capturing time in all its duration. And what we are seeing is that
you have to get out of that. It’s not about shifting. It’s about inhabiting what
we think is ephemeral. We have to make that real. It’s not ephemeral. So When we move to move
to another moment, it’s about anchoring
in that moment and asking at that time and
that moment of rain and moment of precipitation– inhabiting
this moment requires a certain accommodation
of wetness. It requires seeing differently. And you’re absolutely right in
terms of pointed visualizing. Visualizing has to
come in some way. And that is what we’re
working with an ocean of rain. And frankly, it’s a project. I’ll never know and [INAUDIBLE]. But we are aspiring
to do [INAUDIBLE].. And maybe it’s not even about– I’m prepared to
give up visualizing. And this I’ve learned
from just watching people in India even today. When they’re told to
be tourist, they just see what they’re told to see. Otherwise they don’t look. They’re not using their eyes. They’re using something else. So the other senses
that come into play– I mean, which is
this wonderful class that I’m doing this semester. And so maybe at the
end of semester, we might find some explorations
point in this direction. But if I expand witness to an
understanding of complexity and to the breakdown
of many dualisms– and that’s what we’re
doing in this class. It’s not really going
to be about wetness. But people are finding
other preconditions that have been made into
dualistic relationships and asking if they can
be presented in some way. And so we’re working with
analogs and things like that in order to get to that. But it’s not an easy task,
but it’s a pleasurable one. Well, that’s a great
note to end with. Thank you very much, Dilip. This was fantastic. Congratulations. [APPLAUSE]

1 thought on “Daniel Urban Kiley Lecture: Dilip Da Cunha, “The Invention of Rivers”

  1. I was soo lucky to attend his talk during the event ANC '19.  A treasure of wisdom🏵

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