“The world was ending as it had been doing for millennia”.


From 25 May until 21 July 2019, Kunstverein München presents Leviathan — a solo exhibition by Shezad Dawood in our Kino cinema space. Leviathan is an ambitious ten-part film cycle conceived and directed by Shezad Dawood, which uses science fiction to address the urgent condition of global environmental and humanitarian crises today. For his presentation at Kunstverein München, Dawood will present the first three episodes of this project for the first time in Germany, as well as a new publication and a symposium on 16 July 2019.


Shezad Dawood’s Leviathan was inaugurated in Venice in May 2017 to coincide with the 57th Art Biennale, and has continued to unfold at various venues, progressing towards its completion in 2021. Developed in dialogue with a wide range of marine biologists, oceanographers, political scientists, neurologists, trauma specialists, and other scholars, Leviathan envisages a future very much like our present to consider possible links between climate change, migration, mental health, and marine welfare. The videos are set in an imaginary future whose inhabitants are the survivors of a cataclysmic event. Each episode is told from the point of view of a different character and follows their journeys as they drift across Europe, Asia and North Africa.


Episode 1: Ben (2017) features the paranoid and often-humorous rantings of an eponymous narrator as he recalls visits to the London Natural History Museum with his father, a marine biologist, and recollects details from a global disaster featuring sunspots, phytoplankton blooms, and mass suicide. In Episode 2: Yasmine (2017), the viewer is introduced to Yasmine, a young woman of Moroccan-French origin who is living alone within a deserted structure in Plymouth on the south coast of England, with all its associations with the Mayflower and the colonial navy. Part-way through, her thoughts are interrupted when she meets another survivor, a young man, and together they journey through this post-apocalyptic world. Episode 3: Arturo(2017) is set on an island in the lagoon of Venice populated by a religious group led by Arturo. Depraved and bacchanalian, these people worship the worm as the symbol of endings, devolution, and living from decay, and are greeted by Yasmine and Ben. Each of the videos combine a wide range of found footage carefully edited with vivid new sequences and images brought together with multi-lingual narration and an emotionally-affecting soundtrack. Together the episodes make strange our present moment and offer a complex narrative that demonstrates the interconnection of human and ecological trauma.


A publication, designed by Julie Peeters and available to take away for free, will present the scripts for the three episodes in English and German, highlighting the distinctive literary character of Leviathan, and setting into motion its future novelization. Each of the poetic texts make keen references to history, mythology, literature, politics, and science, serving as unique forms of prose in and of themselves, while also unlocking further meaning in the films.

Public Programme

leviathan symposium, 16 july 2019

A Symposium featuring presentations by Vikas Lakhani, Dr Steffen Bauer, Veronica Pastorino and Prof. Dr. Britta Schneider, followed by a moderated discussion by Shezad Dawood.


Kunstverein München presented a symposium as a substantial part of the exhibition Leviathan by Shezad Dawood. Along with the first three video episodes of the Leviathan Cycle, the symposium is part of an ongoing open-source global and collective research project. The event dealt with important issues related to Leviathan, including the history and confrontation of lived experiences with disasters, climate change, migration and language, anchoring the project in the current challenges we face as a global community.


By bringing together the artist with four scientists from different research fields, the panels deepened and broadened the topics covered in the video works, in mutual dialogue with each other and the audience, and added to the wide range of research that the artist continuously collects and presents in exhibitions and on the project’s website.


Introduction by Shezad Dawood, Post Brothers, and Christina Maria Ruederer.

panelist 1

Vikas Lakhani, MSc (PhD fellow at the Rachel Carson Center, LMU, Munich)

“Dynamic Climates of Memory: Environmental Learning, Risk Perception, Remembering and Forgetting Disasters”


My research investigates how the memory of disasters shape risk perceptions, collective action, institutional response, and decision-making. My work focuses on Machhu flood (1979) caused by a dam failure and Bhuj Earthquake (2001) in Gujarat, India. My work on disasters contributes to the current scholarship of post-disaster reconstruction and recovery, and Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR) strategies to build resilient communities.


Vikas Lakhani (Ph. D. fellow at the Rachel Carson Center, LMU, Munich) holds a B.Sc. degree in Environmental Science from the M.S.U, Baroda and a M.Sc. degree in Disaster Management from TISS, Mumbai. After completing his degrees, he worked as a researcher in Mumbai and West-Bengal focusing on climate change, disasters, and resilience of slum communities and post-cyclone livelihood assessment. Since December 2010, he worked as a Sector Manager and Deputy Director with the Government of Gujarat, India. His work involved management of research projects contributing to the Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR) framework and government policies. Before joining RCC in October 2015 as a doctoral candidate of the ENHANCE ITN, Vikas had a brief stint with the Hiroshima University (Japan) where he worked on the challenges and governance of urban areas in developing countries.


panelist 2

Dr. Steffen Bauer (Senior Researcher & Head, Klimalog Project)

“Climate change and human mobility: political challenges vs populist agendas”


My research generally addresses questions of international organization, global environmental governance and sustainable development with a special interest in the role of the United Nations and a regional focus on Africa. My current work is concerned, in particular, with geopolitical and development implications of international climate policy, the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development as well as transformative dynamics and related concerns of equity and justice in the context of global environmental change.


Dr. Steffen Bauer is a political scientist at the Deutsches Institut für Entwicklungspolitik / German Development Institute (DIE) in Bonn, Germany. A senior researcher with DIE’s “Environmental Governance and Transformation to Sustainability” programme, Steffen heads the DIE project “Klimalog: Research and dialogue for a climate-smart and just transformation”.


panelist 3

Veronica Pastorino (Social and cultural anthropologist and researcher at the department of Expert Council of German Foundations on Integration and Migration)

“New Generations conquering a voice: Italian and German “second generations of migrants” organize themselves”


This talk will focus on the strategies adopted by the European NDO and CoNNGI, established respectively in Germany and Italy, which are two networks of associations composed of people with a migratory background. The main aim of these two networks is to rethink so-called “second/third generations” as “new generations”, thereby bringing together all those subjects that feel addressed as “strangers” while feeling “indigenous” and who want to affirm their own vision of themselves by conquering a voice in public space. Established independently from each other, the birth of these two groups is strictly related to the spread of radical right-wing movements after the so-called “refugee crisis”. The escalation of hate speech about migrants and people with a migratory background in the public arena was the reason why this specific group of people felt its existence was being attacked and hence started a discourse in contrast with the negative one given by Right movements and reported in the media.


Veronica Pastorino is a social and cultural anthropologist born in Verona, Italy who is currently living in Berlin, Germany. She obtained cum Laude the bachelor degree in Anthropology, Religions and Oriental Studies at the University of Bologna Alma Mater Studiorum and she finished recently the Master degree in Social and Cultural Anthropology at the Freie Universität Berlin. She is now working in the research department of SVR (Sachverständigenrat deutscher Stiftungen für Integration und Migration). Her areas of interests are urban and political anthropology, migratory processes in Europe and Peruvian diaspora. Since 2014 she collaborates with different associations of new generations of migrants, for example Sonrisas Andinas, which is active in the developments of long-term programs that aim to improve the well-being and the socio-economic inclusion of young women victims of violence in Peru.


panelist 4

Prof. Dr. Britta Schneider (Junior professor for language and migration at Europa-Universität Viadrina, Frankfurt (Oder))

“Containment Versus Liquidity: Linguistic Metaphorical Framing of Human Migration in an Age of Mobility”


In this talk, I introduce basic linguistic insight on the role of metaphorical framing in everyday communication and problematise contemporary concepts to describe human social organisation and practices, which are characterised by presenting sedentariness as legitimate and human mobility as illegitimate. This, on the hand, contributes to a legitimation of the denial of the basic human rights to survival and, on the other hand, contradicts actual contemporary economic and social realities. Concepts of liquidity, with their particular representations of time and space, instead of being used as a weapon against the poor, should thus be theoretically scrutinised to develop democratic imaginations of global society.


Prof. Dr. Britta Schneider obtained a PhD from Goethe Universität Frankfurt am Main in 2011 and from Macquarie University Sydney in 2012. She currently holds a junior professorship of language and migration at Europa-Universität Viadrina, Frankfurt (Oder), Germany. Her general research interests are the sociolinguistics of globalization, language ideology research and the discursive construction of languages, particularly in transnational, non-ethnically constituted settings and in relation to digital environments/ human-machine interaction. Her new and third book presents an ethnographic study on discourses on language in a highly diverse Caribbean setting and is titled Liquid Languages. Post-national Acts of Identity and the Fluidity of Language Categories in Multilingual Belize. (in preparation).