Topologies of Air
Shona Illingworth

Topologies of Air, completed and first exhibited in 2021, examines the impact of geopolitical, technological and climate change on airspace and challenges the narrow terms by which it is currently represented and defined in law. Developed in collaboration with Professor Nick Grief (University of Kent), an expert in human rights, the legal status of nuclear weapons and air and space law, the project explores the ecological, cultural, social, legal, military and historical perception and definition of airspace and proposes the establishment of a new human right to protect the freedom to exist without physical or psychological threat from above.

Topologies of Air brings into dialogue representations from diverse areas of expertise such as international law, including air and space law; human rights; earth and life sciences; technology; neuropsychology; cognitive neuroscience; cultural studies; sociology; art; architecture; politics; theology; philosophy; environmental studies and economics, with lived experience, in a unique integration between art practice and the legal preparation for the creation of a new human right. Within a rapidly changing world, this major commission presents a dynamic and challenging series of artworks, alive to the complex and changing parameters and contexts involved in making the case for this new and vital human right.

On 21 September 2018, the inaugural hearings of the Airspace Tribunal contributing key research and discussion towards Topologies Of Air will take place at Doughty Street Chambers. More about the Airspace Tribunal

Read about the exhibition of Topologies of Air at the Bahrain National Museum (27 September 2022 – 5 January 2023)

Topologies of Air was commissioned and produced by The Wapping Project with support from Bahrain Authority for Culture and Antiquities, Sharjah Art Foundation, the British Council, Arts Council England and the University of Kent.

Shona Illingworth is a Scottish-Danish artist who works across video, sound, photography and drawing. She is known for her immersive video and multi-channel sound installations and evocative, research-led practice in which she explores the dynamic processes of memory, cultural erasure and the impacts of accelerating geopolitical, technological and environmental change.

Her work has been exhibited internationally, with shows at Les Abattoirs Musée-Frac Occitanie (Toulouse, France), The Power Plant (Toronto, Canada), Museum of Modern Art (Bologna, Italy), FACT (Liverpool, UK), UNSW Galleries (Sydney, Australia), and the Wellcome Collection (London, UK). She has received high profile commissions from Film and Video Umbrella, the Hayward Gallery and Channel 4 Television. Her work 216 Westbound was exhibited at the Imperial War Museum (London, UK) and was purchased by the Contemporary Art Society for the Imperial War Museum’s permanent collection.

Illingworth was shortlisted for the prestigious Jarman Award in 2016.