Cloud Studies - VISUAL

VISUAL Centre for Contemporary Art &
The George Bernard Shaw Theatre

Cloud Studies

Forensic Architecture

10 November 2021 - 06 February 2022 |

Tear gas clouds spread poison where we gather, bomb clouds vaporise buildings, chemical weapons suffocate entire neighbourhoods and air pollution targets the marginalised. Our air is weaponised. Our clouds are toxic.

From Palestine to Beirut, London to Indonesia and the US–Mexico border, Forensic Architecture investigates, explores and exposes how power reshapes the very air we breathe in this urgent and compelling exhibition. Cloud Studies presents findings from Forensic Architecture’s long-term investigation into how the air we breathe can be weaponised, including through herbicidal warfare, tear gas, forest fires, oil and gas pollution and bomb attacks. Collecting years of research, scientific findings, architectural mapping and on-the-ground reportage, Cloud Studies is a vital part of a global investigation.

This exhibition also includes ‘Environmental racism in Death Alley, Louisiana’, the first phase of a major new Forensic Architecture investigation on how racism and pollution intersect along the banks of the Mississippi. Along an 85-mile stretch of the river, between New Orleans and Baton Rouge, lies a region once called ‘Plantation Country’ and now known as the ‘Petrochemical Corridor’. Over 200 industrial plants occupy the footprints of formerly slave-powered sugarcane plantations. Today, in the shadow of those plants, neighbouring communities – mostly historic ‘freetowns’ inhabited by the descendants of people enslaved on those same grounds – breathe some of the most toxic air in the US. They refer to their homeland as ‘Death Alley’. Forensic Architecture’s new video piece presents its investigation and research into the injustices inflicted upon this region of Louisiana.

Forensic Architecture’s research has become even more pertinent in the wake of Hurricane Ida, which in September 2021 became the second-most damaging and intense hurricane on record to make landfall in Louisiana, behind Hurricane Katrina in 2005. In solidarity with these communities in Louisiana, we ask you to make a donation to Foundation for Louisiana‘s Hurrican Ida Relief Fund, which provides direct relief to those most severely affected by this catastrophic event. Click here to donate.

About Forensic Architecture

Forensic Architecture (FA) is a research agency of architects, artists, filmmakers, journalists, lawyers, scientists, and software developers that investigates human rights violations including violence committed by states, police forces, militaries, and corporations. FA works in partnership with institutions across civil society, from grassroots activists through legal teams, to international NGOs and media organisations, to carry out investigations with and on behalf of communities and individuals affected by conflict, police brutality, border regimes and environmental violence.

Cloud Studies curated and co-produced by the Whitworth, The University of Manchester, and Manchester International Festival

Louisiana investigation commissioned by RISE St. James and supported by the Whitworth, The University of Manchester, and Manchester International Festival.

Please note: Headphones are required to fully experience this exhibition. You will be given a pair of sanitised headphones upon entry to the exhibition and these should be returned when you leave. You are very welcome to bring your own headphones for use in the exhibition


Environmental Racism: a term coined by African-American civil rights leader Dr Benjamin Chavis in 1982, environmental racism refers to racial discrimination in environmental policy making, regulations and laws. This might include populations of colour being disproportionately affected by pollution and toxic waste, and/or being excluded from the leadership of ecology movements.

Freetowns: communities first established by survivors of slavery in the wake of abolition

Hurricane Ida: what can I do to help?