2021/07/04: Essay
Performative Research and Techno-Aesthetics, in Heba Y Amin: The General’s Stork (Sternberg, 2020)

“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

2022/05/02: 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

2020/04/11: Launch of the Journal of Digital War (Palgrave/ Macmillan)

Blueprint #6 (extract), 2020. Courtesy of Shona Illingworth in discussion with Andrew Hoskins and Renata Salecl.

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.

2020/07/10: Book Publication: Heba Y. Amin: The General’s Stork  (Sternberg Press, 2020)


Screen Shot 2020-09-03 at 17.31.35



The General’s Stork



In 2013, Egyptian authorities detained a migratory stork for espionage. This incident is the focus of Heba Y. Amin’s The General’s Stork, an ongoing project that investigates the politics of aerial surveillance—against the backdrop of biblical prophecies, drone warfare, and colonial narratives—from a bird’s-eye view. The research that informs The General’s Stork looks at how conquest from the sky—through land surveying, mapping, bombing, and drone technologies—has effectively transformed Western power into a spectacle of high-tech weaponry. Through the lens of the paranoia that led to a bird being accused of spying,  and with contributions by Adam Harvey, Adel Iskandar, Haitham Mossad, and Laura Poitras, this volume also reveals the extent to which military techniques of visualization both define and, ultimately, delimit the topography of the Middle East.

For further details of the book, see here.

Heba Y. Amin: The General’s Stork is volume 02 in the Research/Practice series, edited by Anthony Downey and published by Sternberg Press (2019-ongoing). Each volume focuses on artistic research and how it contributes to the formation of experimental knowledge systems. Drawing on preliminary material such as diaries, notebooks, audiovisual content, digital and social media, informal communications, and abandoned drafts, the series examines the interdisciplinary research methods that artists employ in their practices. Each volume endeavors to ask: In their often speculative and yet purposeful approach to generating research, what forms of knowledge do artists produce?

For further information on the Research/Practice series, see here.

Screen Shot 2020-09-03 at 17.40.45

2020/01/10: Curated Show: Heba Y. Amin: When I see the future, I close my eyes, Mosaic Rooms, London.



Screen Shot 2020-09-03 at 17.22.47


The Mosaic Rooms announces the first UK solo exhibition of artist Heba Y. Amin. Amin investigates how the elusive narratives of regional politics in the Middle East relate to global concerns. Her research-based, multimedia works take speculative, and sometimes satirical, approaches to understanding these historical events and processes.

This exhibition presents the latest iterations of three distinct and evolving bodies of work by the artist: Project Speak2Tweet, The General’s Stork and Operation Sunken Sea. All stem from real life subjects; from the new technological formats that were instrumental in Egypt’s revolution, to a migratory bird turned international ‘spy’, and finally a proposal to ‘solve’ the migration crisis by draining the Mediterranean Sea.

Alongside performances and interventions, Amin’s research integrates film, photography, and digital technology in order to think through present-day issues and the potential future significance of occluded stories and archived, largely overlooked, material. The research incorporated within these works will be added to by the artist as the show unfolds.

The exhibition is curated by Anthony Downey.

For further information, see here.

2020/02/20: Algorithmic Anxieties: Trevor Paglen in conversation with Anthony Downey, Digital War, Vol. 1, No. 1.

Screen Shot 2020-02-20 at 13.32.23

In September 2019, I met with Trevor Paglen as he prepared to present a new project at the Barbican Curve in London. “From ‘Apple’ to ‘Anomaly’” explored the images—so-called datasets—that are used to train algorithms. In a subsequent far-reaching conversation, recorded at the Barbican Centre on 26 September 2019, Paglen presented an extended overview of the ideas behind this work, observing how artificial intelligence and “machine learning” utilise datasets to recognise different objects and, more problematically, produce classificatory systems for “recognising” individuals. For full interview, see here.

Cite this article: Paglen, T., Downey, A. Algorithmic anxieties: Trevor Paglen in conversation with Anthony Downey. Digital War (2020). https://doi.org/10.1057/s42984-020-00001-2

Download full interview here: PDF

Download edited extract of Trevor’s presentation and the interview: PDF

2019/15/11: Book Launch: Research/Practice 03: Larissa Sansour: Heirloom, Copenhagen Contemporary, December 12, 2019

Screen Shot 2019-11-15 at 16.03.04



Copenhagen Contemporary is pleased to invite you to the opening of the exhibition Heirloom by the Danish-Palestinian artist Larissa Sansour. On the occasion of the opening, there will be free admission, and CC will be serving a glass of wine when the exhibition opens.

The evening starts with an Art Talk, where you can experience the artist in conversation with curator Nat Muller. We will also present the book Larissa Sansour: Heirloom edited by Anthony Downey, which focuses on the research and preparations for the exhibition.

Afterwards, the director of CC, Marie Nipper and chair of the Project Support Committee for Visual Arts, Lisette Vind Ebbesen, will give their welcome speeches, before we open the doors to the exhibition and DJ’s Atusa and Angel Wei will create the soundtrack of the evening. Vinhanen will serve you at the bar.

We look forward to welcoming you!


17.00: Art Talk with Larissa Sansour and Nat Muller along with the book launch of Larissa Sansour: Heirloom
18.15: Welcome greeting by director of CC, Marie Nipper and chair of the Project Support Committee for Visual Arts, Lisette Vind Ebbesen
18.30: The exhibition opens & DJ’s Atusa and Angel Wei
21.00: Thank you for a great evening

For full details of show and book launch go to here.

For further details fo book, see here.

2019/10/30: Book Publication: Research/Practice 03: Larissa Sansour Heirloom (Sternberg Press: Berlin and New York, 2019)

Larissa Sonsour Heirloom Cover
Research/Practice 03: Larissa Sansour Heirloom (Sternberg Press: Berlin and New York, 2019)
Editor: Anthony Downey
This volume includes an essay by Nat Muller and an in-depth interview between Sansour and Lindsey Moore.


Heirloom documents the development of the artistic research for Palestinian artist Larissa Sansour’s project for the Danish Pavilion at the 58th Venice Biennale. It explores how recurrent notions in Sansour’s oeuvre, such as memory, trauma, identity, epigenetics, and belonging, intertwine with the discourses of science fiction and environmental disaster narratives. The volume also examines what it means to produce work from within contested geographies, specifically considering how, through research and the process of production, the artist grapples with complex issues of national representation. In keeping with the focus in this series on the research that informs the elaboration of an artist’s work over time, the material for this publication has been collated in parallel with its development over the past year.

Edited by Anthony Downey, Research/Practice focuses on artistic research and how it contributes to the formation of experimental knowledge systems. Drawing on preliminary material such as diaries, notebooks, audiovisual content, digital and social media, informal communications, and abandoned drafts of projects, the series examines the interdisciplinary methods that artists employ in their practices. Each volume endeavors to ask: In their often speculative and yet purposeful approach to research, what forms of innovative knowledge do artists produce?

For full details of the volume see here: https://mitpress.mit.edu/books/heirloom

For full details of the book launch see here: https://copenhagencontemporary.org/en/event/cc-opening-larissa-sansour/


2019/09/30: Public Talk: “Performing Rights”, Institute for Global Prosperity, UCL, London, 14 November, 2019



Screen Shot 2019-09-30 at 13.06.51


Performing Rights: Contemporary Art, the Refugee Condition, and the Alibi of Engagement  

Professor Anthony Downey

Contemporary artists  are increasingly engaging with some of the most pressing issues facing our world today, from globalisation, migration and citizenship to conflict, sustainability, gentrification, and social activism. Anthony Downey will discuss the implications of this engagement in relation to human rights and conditions of displacement. If the disavowal or absence of legal and political representation is a feature of being a refugee, then what happens, he will ask, when artistic representation is inserted into this already compromised regime of visibility?  In an all too amenable substitution that can often reconfirm the absence of legal accountability, is it possible that cultural forms of representation are compensating for—if not replacing—the very systems and procedures of political and legal responsibility that are being denied refugees in the first place? Who, we need to ask thereafter, really benefits from the work of art?

To book tickets, see here.


Date And Time

Thu, 14 November 2019

16:00 – 18:00 GMT

Add to Calendar


Roberts Building, G06 Sir Ambrose Fleming LT

UCL Engineering Front Building, Torrington Place


WC13 7JE

View Map

2019/08/22: Public Talk: Trevor Paglen in conversation with Anthony Downey, Barbican Centre, London, 26 September, 2019


Screen Shot 2019-08-22 at 16.13.27


To coincide with the new Curve commission From ‘Apple’ to ‘Anomaly’, artist Trevor Paglen will be in conversation with writer and academic Anthony Downey.

Touching on themes of secrecy, surveillance and state, Paglen’s new installation of some 30,000 photographs invites a critical consideration of how we teach artificial intelligence to “see” and perceive the world, revealing the powerful, and often hidden, forces at play.

To book tickets, see here.