Digital images are integral to the process of deploying drones, aerial-bound surveillance systems, and lethal autonomous weapons (LAWs). Extrapolated through algorithms and other forms of machine learning, data is extracted from their binary code and re-calibrated for the purpose of predicting threats, targeting individuals, and eliminating subjects. These images, often referred to as ‘operational images’ are, in effect, instrumentalized to assert and maintain prevailing structures of power and control. To more fully understand the logic of ‘operational images’ – which have given rise to vast online archives and ‘data sets’ for training algorithms – and how they aspire to define and predetermine present-day realities, this paper will observe the degree to which their taxonomic methods and categorical foundations have been developed from the representational technologies of colonization. The inclination to calculate, measure, and quantify – the propensity, that is, to over-determine subjects as objectified, calculable, and disposable entities – discloses a causal, if not fatal, link between the historical categorizations of colonial discourse and the neo-colonial, algorithmic rationalizations of life and death that are increasingly established through drone technologies and aerial-bound surveillance.
For the talk, see here.
“Human beings must learn anew to recognize the pattern of the earth from the perspective of the air.” —Harun Farocki, Images of the World and the Inscription of War, 1988
What forms of aerial threat do communities across the globe endure today, and how do they differ from previous levels of exposure? If we consider the apparently unstoppable ascendancy of drone reconnaissance and satellite surveillance, then it is evident that we are undergoing an epoch-defining evolution in the deployment of aerial technologies. The multiple concerns raised by civilian, civil rights, humanitarian, and military agencies in relation to autonomous systems of warfare would suggest that such operations have likewise realigned the relationship between the material (physical, environmental, legal) and immaterial (psychological, ethical, and existential) impact of these technologies.
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.
WHEN I SEE THE FUTURE, I CLOSE MY EYES: CHAPTER II 01/05/2022 – 30/07/2022
Zilberman | Berlin is delighted to announce the solo exhibition When I see the future, I close my eyes: Chapter II by Heba Y. Amin and curated by Anthony Downey.
Heba Y. Amin’s research-based practice proposes speculative, often satirical, approaches to examining how ideals of ‘progress’ have been advanced through the various technologies of colonization. Foregrounding interdisciplinary methods and performative investigations, When I see the future, I close my eyes: Chapter II presents a series of works that explore the political determinations of these technologies and how they define contemporary frames of representation.
Topologies of Air and Lesions in the Landscape are two major bodies of work by Shona Illingworth. Informed by the artist’s long-term investigations into individual and societal amnesia, these projects critically examine the devastating psychological and environmental impacts of military, industrial, and corporate transformations of airspace and outer space. Employing interdisciplinary research and collaborative processes, Illingworth’s practice uses creative methodologies to visualize and interrogate this proliferating exploitation of air space. Through the development of a proposed new human right, Topologies of Air and Lesions in the Landscape connect diverse cosmologies, knowledges, and lived experiences to counter the colonization of the sky and protect individuals, communities, and ecologies from ever-increasing threats from above.
With contributions by CATERINA ALBANO, AMIN ALSADEN, JILL BENNETT, GIULIANA BRUNO, MARTIN A. CONWAY, ANTHONY DOWNEY, CONOR GEARTY, DEREK GREGORY, NICK GRIEF, ANDREW HOSKINS, CATHERINE LOVEDAY, ISSIE MACPHAIL, WILLIAM MERRIN, RENATASALECL, GABRIELE SCHWAB, GAËTANE VERNA
For link to book, see here For link to Introduction, see here For PDF of Anthony Downey, “The Algorithmic Apparatus of Neocolonialism: Counter-Operational Practices And The Future Of Aerial Surveillance”, see here
Memory, Mind & Media (MMM) explores the impact of media and technology on individual, social and cultural remembering and forgetting. This agenda-setting journal fosters high-quality, interdisciplinary conversations combining cognitive, social and cultural approaches to the study of memory and forgetting in the digital era. The pervasiveness, complexity and immediacy of digital media, communication networks and archives are transforming what memory is and what memory does, changing the relationship between memory in the head and memory in the wild.
MMM offers a new home for a wide variety of scholars working on these questions, within and across disciplines, from history, philosophy, media studies, cultural studies, law, literature, anthropology, political science, sociology, neuroscience, psychology, cognitive and computational science and elsewhere.
Anthony Downey, “The Algorithmic Apparatus of Neo-Colonialism: Or, Can We Hold” Operational Images” to Account?”, The Nordic Journal of Aesthetics Vol. 30, No. 61-62 (2021): The Changing Ontology of the Image.
For a copy of the essay, see here For the link to the journal, see here
Anthony Downey, “The Future of Protest (Images) in a Post-Digital Age”, in The Protest and the Recuperation, Betti-Sue Hertz and Sreshta Rit Premnath, Eds. (Wallach Art Gallery, 2021)
This essay was published in conjunction with the publication of The Protest and The Recuperation. The publication accompanied the exhibition, The Protest and The Recuperation, which opened in June 2021at the Wallach Art Gallery (Columbia University, New York).
“What are those?” asked the camera operator. “Women and children,” the Predator’s mission intelligence coordinator answered. “That lady is carrying a kid, huh? Maybe,” the pilot said. “The baby, I think, on the right. Yeah,” the intelligence coordinator said. —Transcript of a Predator drone strike in Uruzgan province, Afghanistan, February 21, 2010
Technology is far ahead of humanity and ethics. —Jonas Mekas
In September 2013, Egyptian authorities detained a migratory stork that had arrived in Egypt after traveling from Hungary via, among other countries, Israel. Reportedly captured by a fisherman who viewed the bird with suspicion after noticing an electronic device attached to it, the unfortunate stork was handed over to the local police station in Qena (a city situated on the east bank of the Nile in Upper Egypt).
Read Essay for Heba Y Amin: The General’s Stork (Sternberg, 2020), here
Launch of new peer-reviewed Journal of Digital War(Edited by Olga Boichak, Anthony Downey, Andrew Hoskins, William Merrin)
Chaired by Andrew Hoskins, this online launch of the Journal of Digital War is presented by Heba Y. Amin, Anthony Downey, Shona Illingworth and William Merrin and brings together key thinkers from art, visual culture, media studies and sociology.
Digital War refers to how digital technologies and media are transforming how wars are fought, lived, represented, known, and remembered. The new Journal of Digital War (Palgrave Macmillan, 2020) edited by Olga Boichak, Anthony Downey, Andrew Hoskins and William Merrin, identifies not so much a new form of war, but an entire, emergent research field.
The Journal of Digital War sets out to be a dynamic forum to address cutting-edge developments, rapid response methods to new wars, and asserts that digital war is now mainstream.
Read the new article Contesting post-digital futures: drone warfare and the geo-politics of aerial surveillance in the middle east by Heba Y. Amin & Anthony Downey (Journal of Digital War, Issue I, 2020). Download here.