When I see the future

Public Program 2020 – 2021

Foregrounding the interdisciplinary research and digital methodologies that are explored throughout the exhibition, the public programme for When I see the future, I close my eyes is co-curated by Heba Y. Amin and Anthony Downey.  We would like to thank Lisa Deml and Siegrun Salmanian for their extensive organisational support.

Oct 7, 2020
Online Book Launch

Heba Y. Amin: The General’s Stork

Join Heba Y. Amin and Anthony Downey for the online launch of their new book The General’s Stork (Sternberg Press, 2020), about Amin’s project which is now on display as part of her new exhibition now on view at The Mosaic Rooms.

In 2013, Egyptian authorities detained a migratory stork, accusing it of espionage. This incident, that seems initially amusing, became the impetus for Heba Y. Amin’s The General’s Stork, an ongoing project that investigates the all-too-deadly politics of aerial surveillance in the Middle East. The General of the title is Allenby (pictured), once governor of Egypt and instrumental in the British occupation of Palestine, shown with his pet stork, among other works on show.

Amin and Downey give insights into the project, and the book. They discuss how land surveying, bombing, drone technologies and other forms of technology have transformed Western power in the Middle East into a spectacle of high-tech weaponry.


Online Book Launch | Heba Y. Amin: The General’s Stork

Oct 22, 2020
Online Presentation

Conspiracy Theory as Historical Materialism

In partnership with RITA: Research Institute for Technical Aesthetics

Join Baruch Gottlieb and Steph Holl-Trieu from the Research Institute for Technical Aesthetics (RITA) as they present their latest research into why people follow conspiracy theories, and suggest the transformative potential of taking the motivations of their followers more seriously. 

The 2016 US election results sent shock waves through the establishment, but only because they had not been paying attention. For Slavoj Zizek, those who voted for Trump were akin to Jacques Lacan’s figure of the hysteric. In this context, the hysteric is not permitted to address the grievance they consider responsible for their distress. The researchers of RITA propose that conspiracy theories are a legitimate form of intellectual activity—a form of dissent against an illegitimate but powerful, monolithic orthodoxy.  

RITA present their findings on this growing phenomenon. They suggest that legitimising the paranoia associated with conspiracy theories could help redirect the intelligence and creativity invested in them towards social and economic emancipation. 

Initiated by Baruch Gottlieb, with students from the University of Arts, Berlin, the Research Institute of Technical Aesthetics (RITA) is concerned with how we refocus the current interest in conspiracy theories.
Conspiracy Theories as Heuristic


Presentation & Discussion | Conspiracy Theory as Historical Materialism

Nov 12, 2020
Online Workshop & Discussion

Collective Infrastructures and Knowledge Production in a Post-Digital Age

In partnership with The New Centre for Research & Practice

The New Centre, Heba Y. Amin and Anthony Downey invite you to participate in an online workshop to test new forms of learning in a post-digital world. Guided by live presentations, this workshop with Mohammad Salemy, Brunella Antomarini, Valentin Golev, Reza Negarestani and Patricia Reed will generate a glossary of terms that will develop as a collective response to the online discussions. By thinking through the limits of computational technologies, the event will encourage users to rethink the conventional infrastructures that inform online learning and, in turn, formulate an experimental approach to shared knowledge production and political action.

The event is introduced by Heba Y. Amin and Anthony Downey and will be moderated by Mohammad Salemy and Martina Cavalot

Speakers: Brunella Antomarini, Valentin Golev, Reza Negarestani & Patricia Reed

The New Centre for Research & Practice is an international, non-profit, higher education institute in the Arts, Humanities, and Sciences. It is conceived upon the idea that the space of knowledge is a laboratory for navigating the links between thought and action. Its teaching approach challenges the conventional role of the arts, humanities, and sciences to construct new forms of research and practice. The New Centre’s aim is to assemble an environment, both virtual and actual, for members to invent alternate understandings that can be put into collective practice. This session offers the opportunity to be part of this ongoing project. https://thenewcentre.org


Nov 19, 2020
Online Screening & Discussion

Mega Future – Speculative Fiction and Worldbuilding

Curated by Nada Bakr, Cairotronica

Enjoy a screening of Mariam Mekiwi’s short film Before I Forget, a science-fiction story set in an indistinct coastal region, between land and sea, above and below water. The screening will be followed by a conversation between filmmaker Mariam Mekiwi, visual artist and architect Mostafa ElbaroodyNada Bakr and Heba Y. Amin and presents the first part of a programme curated by new media platform Cairotronica.

Dedicated to the theme of Mega Future, this selection of short films and videos tests how fiction can be used as a critical tool to expand our understanding of present realities and imagine future narratives. The film and conversation look into the manifold possibilities of speculative fiction as a tool for imagining alternative futures and a means of radical world building.

Mega Future explores how the notion of technology is deeply intertwined with constructing future scenarios. Emerging, smart technologies are shaping the future by attempting to fix failures in our present reality. It is easier to imagine such a technology-driven and all-encompassing future than thinking of alternatives. Who determines this concept of a future and for whom? And how is this future communicated to us in the present? Alternatives are lacking, yet most needed to discuss potential ways of being and to envision counter-narratives that, instead of succumbing to a reality prescribed by technology, imagine how things could be.

Cairotronica is a Cairo-based platform for new media arts that supports and enables practices from Egypt and the region to operate at the intersection of art, science, and technology. Established in 2016, it aims to inspire a regional narrative driven by experimental knowledge production and critical thinking, to engage in re-imagining possible scenarios of the future with practitioners across disciplines. http://www.cairotronica.com/

Dec 03, 2020
Online Journal Launch

Journal of Digital War

Explore the rapid evolution of our contemporary environment of hypervigilance and the consequences for those targeted by predictive surveillance. Chaired by Andrew Hoskins, this online launch of the Journal of Digital War is presented by Heba Y. AminAnthony DowneyShona 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 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. https://www.digital-war.org/


Launch | Journal of Digital War

Dec 10, 2020
Online Launch & Visual Presentation

Undoing Facism(s)

In this presentation-led workshop, Heba Y. AminEmilio Distretti and Ian Alan Paul will introduce a new participatory database that documents the diverse afterlives of Mediterranean fascism(s). In the 1930s, European fascism(s) used the Mediterranean Sea as a laboratory for state and ideological formation, imperial ambitions, and the creation of a strategic military asset. The speakers will present investigations and entries to the Undoing Fascism(s) database that propose new analytical tools to reconfigure and resignify the legacies of fascisms that continue to affect our collective future.

In conversation with DAAR (Decolonizing Architecture Art Research), the event will engage modes of thinking to respond to a global present suffused with resurgent ethno-nationalisms, authoritarianisms, and dispossession. The Undoing Fascism(s) database is organised as a lexicon that aims to cultivate new political communities in an antifascist and de-colonial spirit.

Outside respondents:
iLiana Fokianaki
Angela Dimitrakaki
Mohamed Elshahed

Participants of the first Mediterranean Facism(s) conference at the University of Basel 2019: Heba Y. Amin, Ida Danewid, Emilio Distretti, Beth Hughes, Platon Issaias, Emily Jacir, Léopold Lambert, Ian Alan Paul & Alessandro Petti.


Launch | Undoing Fascism(s) Database

Jan 28, 2021
Artist Presentation & Panel Discussion

Egypt’s 2011 Internet Shutdown: Digital Dissent and the Future of Public Memory

Heba Y. Amin, Abdelkarim Mardini and Adel Iskandar in conversation.
moderated by Anthony Downey

On January 27, 2011, in the first days of Egypt’s uprising, the national government shut down the Internet to quash online dissent. To circumvent the blackout, programmers developed Speak2Tweet, a digital platform that allowed Egyptians to record voice messages by phone. Composed of thousands of audio recordings, the messages were automatically uploaded to Twitter, producing a unique archive of the collective Egyptian psyche during a time of unprecedented upheaval.

On the 10th anniversary of the Egyptian internet shutdown, the co-developer of Speak2Tweet Abdelkarim Mardini, Middle East media scholar Adel Iskandar, and artist Heba Y. Amin revisit the importance of Speak2Tweet. In light of escalating digital surveillance and censorship, all the more notable during the current pandemic, the panelists discuss the revolutionary promise once associated with social media platforms. What impact have advances in communication technologies had on the freedom of speech, dissent, and democracies worldwide? What can be gleaned today from listening to those unrestrained voices recorded a decade ago?


Egypt’s 2011 Internet Shutdown: Digital Dissent and the Future of Public Memory

Feb 25, 2021
Online Book Presentation

(W)Archives: Archival Imaginaries, War, and Contemporary Art
(Sternberg Press, 2020)

Presentations by Heba Y. AminAnthony DowneySophie Dyer and Oraib Toukan, moderated by Daniela Agostinho and Solveig Gade

Join Heba Y. Amin, Anthony Downey, Sophie Dyer and Oraib Toukan for the book presentation of (W)archives. Chaired by co-editors Daniela Agostinho and Solveig Gade, the event explores how digital and data technologies are actively transforming the archives of contemporary warfare, and how artists respond to these changes.

Bringing together artistic and scholarly perspectives, (W)archives (Sternberg Press, 2020) investigates digital archiving as an integral technology of warfare and its bearings on art and visual culture. Throughout the book, the (w)archive emerges as a term to grasp the extended materiality of war today, wherein digital archiving intersects with images, bodies, senses, infrastructures, environments, memories, and emotions. (W)archives examines how this new digital materiality of war reconfigures the archival impulses that have shaped artistic practices over the last decades, and how archives can be mobilized to articulate political demands, conjure new forms of evidence, and make palpable the experience of living with war. https://www.sternberg-press.com/product/warchives/

Respondents: Nanna Thylstrup and Kristin Veel


Book Launch | (W)archives. Archival Imaginaries, War and Contemporary Art

Mar 18, 2021
Virtual Exhibition Tour & Discussion

Images with Agency: Towards a Speculative Glossary

In Conversation: Heba Y. AminSabine BitterAnthony DowneyLaura U. Marks, and SFU visual art students

Join SFU third-year visual art students, professor Sabine Bitter and resident artist Heba Y. Amin for a virtual tour through the exhibition Images that Take, Images that Give. Using a glossary of terms which describes the politics of imagery within frameworks such as archives, surveillance, technology, and perception, the exhibition investigates tactics and technologies that artists use to create, produce and circulate them.

This speculative terminology delineates notions of, for example, the ‘operational image’ and the ‘militant image’, and will be extended by Laura U. Marks’ reflection on the ‘talisman image’, alongside Heba Y. Amin and Anthony Downey’s investigation of the ‘counter-operational image’. The presentation of the exhibition and glossary will be followed by a conversation between Sabine Bitter, Laura U. Marks, Heba Y. Amin and Anthony Downey on post-digital technologies and other ways of seeing.

As a curatorial framework and site of research, the exhibition examines and critiques digital methodologies for artistic practice and knowledge production. Under the mentorship of Audain resident artist Heba Y. Amin, professor Sabine Bitter, and MFA candidate Aakansha Ghosh, the third-year visual arts cohort at SFU have developed artworks that question the conditions and environments of their production — especially since this class project has been realized via digital tools like email and Zoom.


Images with agency: Towards a speculative glossary

Mar 25, 2021
Online Roundtable Discussion

Counter-Strategies: Digital Methodologies and Practice-Based Research

In Conversation: Heba Y. AminSabine BitterAnthony DowneyClaudette LauzonGillian Russell (Digital Democracies Institute), and SFU visual art students

How can we develop counter-strategies for image production and circulation in a post-digital age? This roundtable with Heba Y. Amin, Sabine Bitter, Anthony Downey, Claudette Lauzon and Gillian Russell will discuss how research and artistic practices advance methodologies for thinking from within and through the digital image.

Drawing on their own research and artistic practice, the speakers will explore how practitioners can realign and potentially redefine how we understand the production, dissemination, and reception of digital imagery. This implies that we revise methodological approaches to the question of digital epistemologies and enquire more fully into what is it to produce knowledge through creative practices in an age of apparent digital dystopia.


Counter-Strategies: Digital Methodologies and Practice-Based Research

March 27, 2021
Online Screening and Q&A

Mizna x Mosaic Rooms: Film Programme “Surveillance”

Q&A: Kamal Aljafari in conversation with Kareem Estafan
Screening: “An Unusual Summer” Kamal Aljafari

Drawing on footage from a surveillance camera installed by his father following an act of vandalism on the street outside his home, An Unusual Summer  captures fleeting moments of poetry of everyday life in the family and the neighbourhood while in the background, the daily choreography of El Ramle under Israeli occupation comes to the surface.

The film depicts and critiques with the impacts and meaning of surveillance technologies––those we know about, those we only think we know about, and those we willingly participate in every time we pick up our devices. Acknowledging the realities of corporate and governmental forms of surveillance, violence, and control, the film also explores the banality of the modern surveillance state and our complicity within it.

As part of the film and discussion event, artist and writer Lamia Abukhadra composed a critical essay on An Unusual Summer. Read here.

May 13-
June 3, 2021
Online Symposium

When I See the Future…


How does digital imagery affect the construction of our historical consciousness and socio-political imagination?

This symposium puts forth lines of inquiry that have informed Heba Y. Amin’s exhibition When I see the future, I close my eyes and its accompanying nine-month online programmeIt serves as a resource for exploring digital methodologies and evidentiary practices, and for examining the production and dissemination of historical knowledge.

Invited participants will reconsider the themes of the exhibition, in light of the increased reliance on digital networks throughout the ongoing global pandemic, and their own research practices.