Toronto Hearing

The Airspace Tribunal: an international public forum to consider the case for and against a new human right to protect the freedom to live without physical or psychological threat from above 


Online (via Zoom) 

The Toronto hearing of the Airspace Tribunal is co-presented by The Power Plant and the Master of Visual Studies program at the Daniels Faculty, University of Toronto.  Speakers from a broad range of expertise, disciplines and lived experience – including Climate Change, Human Rights, Artificial Intelligence, Geopolitics, Contemporary Warfare, Biopolitics, Psychology and Forced Migration – will consider whether we need increased protection from threats from above through the recognition of this proposed new human right. 

The hearing will take place over three 2-hour online panel discussions followed by a one 1-hour online summative session. The Power Plant’s Director, Gaëtane Verna, will be the Chair, introducing each session and all speakers. Counsel to the Tribunal, Kirsty Brimelow KC of Doughty Street Chambers (London, UK), will pose questions to the Experts. Members of the audience – our judges – will also be able to ask questions. 

The Airspace Tribunal invites representations from experts across a broad range of disciplines and lived experience to consider the case for and against the recognition of a new human right to protect the freedom to live without physical or psychological threat from above.


Sunday, 1 November 2020, 2 to 4 PM Eastern Standard Time

  • Shona Illingworth is an artist whose video and sound installations and research-led practice investigate memory, cultural erasure and structures of power and their impact on how the future is imagined in situations of social tension and conflict. She is Reader in Arts, University of Kent.

  • Nick Grief was a member of the legal team which represented the Marshall Islands in the International Court of Justice in cases against India, Pakistan and the UK concerning the obligation to negotiate in good faith towards nuclear disarmament. He is Emeritus Professor of Law, University of Kent and practises at the Bar from Doughty Street Chambers, London, UK.

  • Derek Gregory is Peter Wall Distinguished Professor and Professor of Geography, University of British Columbia at Vancouver, Canada. He is completing a new book, Reach from the Sky, which is is a genealogy and geography of aerial violence; his current research concerns medical care and casualty evacuation in war zones, 1914 to the present. 
  • Gbenga Oduntan has written extensively on air and space law, including the privatisation and commercialisation of outer space activities. He is Reader in International Commercial Law, Kent Law School, University of Kent, UK and a solicitor and barrister of the Supreme Court of Nigeria.
  • Andrew Hoskins is Interdisciplinary Research Professor in the College of Social Sciences at the University of Glasgow, UK.  He is a media sociologist known for his work on media, memory and conflict. His latest book (with Matthew Ford) Radical War: data, attention and control in the 21stcentury, will be published in 2021. He is Founding Co-Editor-in-Chief of the Journal of Digital War.

Wednesday, 4 November 2020, 2 to 4 PM Eastern Standard Time

  • Jairus Grove is Associate Professor, Department of Political Science, University of Hawaii at Manoa, USA.His recent book Savage Ecology: War and Geopolitics at the End of the World develops an ecological theory of geopolitics that argues that contemporary global crises are better understood when considered within the larger history of international politics. 

  • Jack Penashue is currently Innu Superintendent of Akami−Uapishkᵁ−KakKasuak−Mealy Mountains National Park Reserve in the Labrador region of Newfoundland & Labrador, Canada. In 2017, he retired from his position as Director of Social Health for Sheshatshiu Innu First Nations, an Innu federal reserve in Labrador. He has been a consultant to both provincial and federal governments, and has worked to ensure that the remote communities in Labrador have access to programs tailored to the unique mental health and addiction service needs of its people.
  • Gabriele Schwab is Distinguished Professor, Comparative Literature with joint faculty appointments in Anthropology, English, European Languages and Studies, and Gender and Sexuality Studies; School of Humanities, University of California – Irvine, USA. Her book Radioactive Ghosts is a pioneering examination of nuclear trauma, the continuing and new nuclear peril, and the subjectivities they generate.

Saturday, 7 November 2020, 2 to 4 PM Eastern Standard Time

  • Anthony Downey is Professor of Visual Culture in the Middle East and North Africa (Birmingham City University). His current research projects explore digital media, knowledge production, and the relationship between cultural practices and human rights. Upcoming and recent publications include Unbearable States: Digital Media and Cultural Activism (forthcoming, 2021) and Critique in Practice (Sternberg Press, 2020). He is the series editor for Research/Practice (Sternberg Press, 2019–ongoing) and sits on the editorial boards of Third Text and Digital War, respectively.

  • Abrar Mechmechia is Founder of ABRAR Trauma and Mental Health Services and Project Coordinator, Syrian Canadian Foundation. Abrar volunteered and worked in Aleppo-Syria with many NGOs (SOS -UNICEF-UNHCR), with children and youth and their families treating trauma and related mental health disorders using a trauma informed framework, CBT / CBT -TF methodology combined with art therapy. She advocates for the promotion of mental health and empowerment for those who experience mental health issues and for those who were traumatized by events particularly marginalized people, newcomers, refugees, immigrants, minorities, and people in crisis affected areas.

  • Renata Salecl is a philosopher and sociologist whose work has included radical re-evaluation of notions of liberal theories of democracy to offer new approaches to human rights and feminism. She is professor at the School of Law at Birkbeck College, University of London and senior researcher at the Institute of Criminology at the Faculty of Law in Ljubljana, Slovenia. Her recent book A Passion for Ignorance is an original and provocative exploration of our capacity to ignore what is inconvenient or traumatic.

Counsel to the Tribunal:

  • Kirsty Brimelow QC of Doughty Street Chambers, leads in cases in international human rights, public and criminal law before the courts of England and Wales, and regional and international courts and tribunals. She regularly intervenes with expert opinions on human rights law in courts globally. Kirsty was the first female Chair of the Bar Human Rights Committee (2012-2018). She is a visiting Professor at Goldsmiths University, Bencher of Gray’s Inn and Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts. Kirsty is the recipient of the Bar Council’s International Pro Bono barrister of the Year award (2018) and Barrister of the Year of the First Hundred Years Inspirational Women in the Law Award (2018).


  • Gaëtane Verna has been Director of The Power Plant, Toronto, since 2012. Previously, she was Executive Director and Chief Curator, Musée d’art de Joliette, Quebec (2006-12). She was Curator, Foreman Art Gallery, Bishop’s University, Sherbrooke, Quebec, while also teaching Art History at Bishop’s University and the Université du Québec à Montréal (1998-2006). She serves on the Board of Directors of the Canada Council for the Arts and is President of the Board of Directors of the Toronto Arts Council.

Saturday, 14 November 2020, 2 to 3 PM Eastern Standard Time

This final session will include final statements by the Experts and Counsel, followed by questions and then a vote by the audience (the Tribunal) in favour of or against the proposed new human right. 

Documentation of the Airspace Tribunal hearing in Toronto will be incorporated in a special issue of the Journal of Digital War and contribute to Illingworth’s Winter 2022 exhibition at The Power Plant. It will also contribute to the drafting history, helping to build and refine the case for the proposed new human right to be submitted to the United Nations and other bodies.


The Airspace Tribunal hearing in Toronto is co-presented by The Power Plant Contemporary Art Gallery, Toronto with the Master of Visual Studies program at the Daniels Faculty, University of Toronto.

Co-ordinated by:

  • Josh Heuman is currently Curator of Education & Public Programs at The Power Plant Contemporary Art Gallery. He held previous positions in art museum education and administration at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, Texas, USA; Salt Lake Art Center (now Utah Museum of Contemporary Art), Utah, USA; Nora Eccles Harrison Museum of Art, Utah State University, Logan, Utah, USA; and Joslyn Art Museum, Omaha, Nebraska, USA. He earned a BA in Visual Art and MA in Art History at York University, Toronto, Ontario, Canada.