the air above, the memories within

Posted: March 8, 2022 in galleries, history
Tags: , , , , ,

Shona Illingworth at The Power Plant

This blog post looks at a portion of one of the exhibits now on at The Power Plant Contemporary Art Gallery. “Topologies of Air” by Shona Illingworth was commissioned by The Power Plant; it involves some video pieces that I have not included here. “Amnesia Museum” is a series of small works exploring how memory and forgetting intermingle. A sample (with apologies for the poor quality of the image):

two pieces of artwork on a green wall. by Shona Illingworth, part of her amnesia museum series

below: Paintings from “Topologies of Air”

Three images by Shona Illingworth at Power Plant Contemporary Art Gallery

an image by Shona Illingworth in an art gallery from her Topologies of Air series

below: The full title is “The Right to Live Without Physical or Psychological Threat from Above” and it fills a wall.  Across the top the images are related to satellites and the solar system.  Images of people and human activity are on the bottom.  The words fill the air gap between the two.

part of a full wall covered with words and black and grey images, on psychology of air space and the struggle for human rights to have no interference from above - such as military, drones, etc

Some of the text:
“Airspace also encompasses shared radio frequencies, our electromagnetic commons. Each drone is operated by a team of a dozen or hundreds who watch video and audio-track cell phones. Companies operate powerful algorithms in military command centers half a world away to decide who is a combatant and is not. But never forget that these are almost indistinguishable from the algorithms that are used by Facebook and Twitter to categorize us and profit from us. There algorithms are often staggeringly inaccurate. The margins of error built into these powerful databases are huge. ” and
“Humans need protecting. We’ve got an air gap. We’ve always lived with an air gap, which is simply the unconnected world. The ability to conduct your activities of any kind, in any way you want, without any form of connectivity, surveillance or control.”

We can argue as to whether or not this wall is art;  we can argue as to the validity of some of the statements.  But as I stood looking at the wall, it was thoughts of Ukraine that went through my head.  The idea that air supremacy over that country was being fought over at that moment and that the Russians would love to control those skies.  Not for the first time. Countries have used air power throughout recent history, from the time of the invention of the zeppelin and the airplane through to the introduction of drones into the modern arsenal.

We can also argue over the merits of living in a connected world but I’ve already ventured far from the focus of this blog. I’ll just end with three short notes. First, without a connected world, you wouldn’t be reading this. And second, how do you separate the good uses from the bad? Lastly, is this art’s role?

The Airspace Tribunal website

Power Plant Contemporary Art website

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