22/05/01: Essay: “Calculating Skies”, MIT Press Reader, April 2022

Images from “Topologies of Air” (2021), courtesy of Shona Illingworth

Can we deploy creative practices to critically address the fatal interlocking of global surveillance technologies, neocolonial expansionism, environmental degradation, and the lethal threat of drone warfare?

From the opening shots of “Topologies of Air,” Shona Illingworth’s three-screen video and sound installation, we are presented with a restricted view of the sky. Broadly associated with expansiveness, if not freedom, this distilled vista suggests an overdetermined environment that is subject to competing interests — be they national, military-industrial, or economic — that often remain impenetrable to observers.

This is a vision of a claustrophobic firmament, a partitioned dome of airspace that is endlessly quartered through the interventions of all-consuming, mercenary systems of power and control. Under these conditions, and to ensure that national, military-industrial, and commercial interests are preserved, the apparent immateriality of airspace needs to be rendered both material and calculable. Fought over, allocated, and reserved, the substance of air must be not only quantifiable but also an instrumental element in the production of data, the maintenance of hegemony, and the projection of power.

To read the full essay, please click here