Topologies of Air by Shona Illingworth

Topologies of Air by Shona Illingworth is an immersive multi-screen sound and video installation examining the impact of accelerating geopolitical, technological and environmental change on the composition, nature and use of airspace. The piece questions the narrow terms by which it is currently represented and defined. The work aims to invite the audience look up and consider the air above their heads not as a void, free space, but a multi-layered, complex cultural and legal space, that is shared and personal, with a long history and rapidly changing future. This sensory and captivating piece weaves together extensive conversations with scientists, researchers, lawyers, philosophers, economists, astronomers, archaeologists and many others with evocative imagery shot in places such as Other Hebrides in Scotland, Canadian Northern Territories, Greenland, Australia, the Gulf among others, and archival footage looking at the airspace from a multitude of perspectives.

Shona Illingworth has been collaborating on the project with Nick Grief, University of Kent and Doughty Street Chambers, a law professor specialising in airspace and human rights law and member of the legal team that represented the Marshall Islands before the International Court of Justice in nuclear disarmament cases against India, Pakistan and the UK.

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


Shona Illingworth is a Scottish-Danish artist who works across a range of media including 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. Her work has been exhibited internationally, with shows at the Museum of Modern Art, Bologna, FACT, Liverpool, UNSW Galleries, Sydney and the Wellcome Collection, London. She has received high profile commissions from Film and Video Umbrella, the Hayward Gallery, London and Channel 4 Television. Her piece 216 Westbound was recently exhibited at the Imperial War Museum, London, and was recently purchased by the Contemporary Art Society for the Imperial War Museum’s permanent collection.  Illingworth was shortlisted for the prestigious Jarman Award in 2016.


Topologies of Air is commissioned and produced  by The Wapping Project and will be exhibited at Bahrain National Museum in 2020 before touring to The Power Plant, Toronto, in 2021. The exhibition at Bahrain National Museum and the accompanying public programmes are generously supported by the British Council, DCMS and GREAT through the UK-Gulf Culture and sport programme. Topologies of Air  are supported by Bahrain Authority for Culture and Antiquities and Sharjah Art Foundation, as well as a travel grant from Arts Council England. Shona Illingworth is Reader in Fine Art at University of Kent and Topologies of Air form part of her research practice.