hira.sheikh@hdr.qut.edu.au | QUT Design Lab LinkedIn Twitter

Hira is a Ph.D. Candidate with the Urban Informatics Research Group at the QUT Design Lab and QUT Digital Media Research Centre. She is an architect and an urban design theorist by background. Her research focuses on more-than-human smart urban governance. Before commencing her Ph.D., she worked as an urban planning consultant at The United Nations Development Programme and as a Research Assistant with [urban interfaces] at Utrecht University. Her artistic practice similarly takes on an multispecies and decolonial, and performance-based “mixed” approach.




Grant Proposal 

TransHuman Saunter is a geolocative artwork, by two women from the Indian Subcontinent living in Brisbane (Australia), that documents the artists’ entanglements with the multispecies ecosystem of the Indian Banyan or Indian Fig Tree. Constituting imagined narratives of multispecies, the artists utilise a decolonial ecocriticism lens on their collaborations with the nonhuman colonised Indian Subcontinent being: Indian Banyan Tree. It will also draw attention to the artists’ micro-narratives of brownness based on their identities as ‘lesser’ humans and that of the Indian Banyan Tree as ‘non’ human. The entanglements represented will feature weaving of lived experiences of colonialism, migration, oppressions, and everyday living in ‘White Australia.’
This is further juxtaposed with human-planetary crises of climate change, forest fires, a pandemic: all psychosis of disjointed human/nonhuman entanglements. This artwork digitally locates itself in Australia and on the Indigenous land of the Turrbal and Yuggera people. In engaging with the Indian Banyan Tree and unearthing the atrocities of the “other,” the artists hope to provide a space to transcend and disrupt White colonial forms of knowing so as to heal and repair. The eventual work will be a contribution to the pluralistic ways of knowing through an evocation of the narratives of the unseen: the “lesser”-humans, the “non”-humans, and the “non”-beings. The artists employ geolocative media, maps, images, sounds, poetry, and video to create this multispecies saunter. The project funds will be utilised to rent filming and recording equipment and register for editing and geolocative media software.

︎Brisbane, Australia



Between the Sixth Extinction and the Fourth Industrial Revolution, there has never been a more urgent time for humans to renegotiate our relationship to both our own information technologies and to the more-than-human world.

︎Brisbane, Australia


Video Art 

REFRACTus is Refraction in Latin.

A language widely unspoken.

A language that is now just traces of a colonial legacy.

A metaphor for what could be the future of humans.

REFRACTus is a creative reflection of human-fish intra-actions where decolonial and feminist poetics are utilised to explore the violence caused by capitalism, colonialism, and other White anthropogenic ways of engaging with the deep-water. The narrative and visualisation reflects on the inherent violence and disconnection of oneself with the human-inflicted planetary crisis: polluted waters, warming waters, rising waters, and melting waters. In this work, the artists seek a pathway through Zoe Todd’s theory of ‘fishy refraction’. The air-water interface is imagined as the lens of Indigenous knowing which allows for the bending and diffusing of human knowledge towards multispecies understanding and coexistence. Humans are inherently unstable on land but in the deep oceans, their fragility is apparent. Once dispelled from the fluid womb sac, they are deaf-mute, visually impaired and breathless in water. Their engagement with the underwater world largely depends on prosthetics and technological extensions. The artists evoke human fragility in these refracted intra-actions with underwater beings in two places: Brisbane, Australia (2020), and Hanimadhoo, Maldives (2017). Both places represent deep trauma of underwater life due to blooming algae or rising temperatures of water. This refraction between interfaces and coloured bodies modes of engagement creates conditions that ask for healing, reparation, care and justice towards non-humans, so that humans survive.
︎Brisbane, Australia


Locative Storytelling

Arboretum is a forest – a forest of trees – imaginary or real – breathing leaves – whispering breath – join the forest – add your tree – as we weave our trees throughout the world – here in the wisdom of murmuring leaves as we receive the solidarity of the forest.
︎Brisbane, Australia 


Auto-ethnographic Photo Essay

Humans are a destructive force on this planet: exclusive, authoritarian, and up to man’s whimsy. Glimpses of human vulnerability exist in the form of environmental agents, such as allergens, but they have not had a considerable impact on human living. In this piece, the COVID-19 virus is juxtaposed with allergens where the virus has had consequences beyond human life. The virus is an invisible threat: looming between touch, surfaces and breath. This auto ethnographic photo essay explores the ways the virus hijacked human interaction with their environment – a shift that the discourse on Anthropocene has been trying to inspire.

︎Brisbane, Australia


Performance Lecture

Is there something about Nancy? How was Nancy born? And most importantly, is Nancy pretty? These are some questions that popped up when we were exploring how we are able to relate to space and technology. Next to extensive theoretical discussions about ecologies of technology, agency and embodied cognition, we were also experimenting with ourselves. What would happen to us when relating to other bodies in an environment where human intentionality and technology melt? In this lecture performance we shared our process of exploring a wondrous feedback loop which removes us from all known ways of making sense and simultaneously inspires us with new stories, such as the story about Nancy.

︎Utrecht, The Netherlands 


Seminar Series

Urban processes have been impacted by frictions all throughout history. The remarkable pace and dynamics of the current phase of global urbanization in the age of mediatization, datafication, and pervasive connectivity suggest a new age where insular, political boundaries have come to shift radically. Perhaps to a larger extent than before, people are identifying as global citizens. However, as a result of this spatial accumulation social, political and cultural frictions within our cities manifest themselves on a wide scale. In this year’s [urban interfaces] graduate seminar series we open up a forum to debate and inquire about contemporary frictions being experienced in urban cities, namely:

Civic Empowerment and “Right to the City”
Mobility and Migration
Urban Institutions and Smart Platforms

We intend to question these frictions from a critical, yet optimistic perspective. Frictions can be both obstructive and productive and, and we aim to disclose this paradox and approach frictions as a prospect to discuss their positive potential for urban culture and society. This seminar series proposes a framework to think about urban frictions, and about how urban media, art and performance as interventions in our cities’ public spaces can productively address these frictions. In each session, we will focus on the temporality and performativity of media, art and performance, and the ambitions of the design of “frictional” urban interfaces as a form of critical making.

︎Utrecht, The Netherlands 


Interactive Media Art

This interactive media installation was created as a collaborative team work at FIBER Festival's Architectural Intelligence Lab with Refik Anadol in 2017. The selected site for the project was three old silos in Zeeburgereiland, Amsterdam. We engaged with datasets of marine transportation around the chosen site for creating an interactive environment. We used digital media to communicate real-time information about marine transport services to bring awareness to the fact that we are shifting the sea landscape with ever-increasing influx of shipment pollution. Given that ninety percent of everything we have and use, at some time, travels to us by shipment, through immense network of water routes and ports. The objective was bringing awareness to this predicament through an interactive work of art. The three main reasons we selected this specific site were: firstly that Amsterdam’s identity has always been linked to the sea and the site had immense potential of exploring that relation. Secondly, there was already a call out to propose an adaptive re-use for the silo structures. Thirdly, this site offered receptivity towards the sustainability discourse and its potentiality to be further empowered by our media installation design.

︎Amsterdam, The Netherlands 


Architectural Project

There is no question people are spending more and more time indoors these days, and that creates the need to bring more light into residential situations. Perception of light is something we do not develop enough in residential design. In this project I focus on the concept of volumetric light. Typically, we think of light as something that strikes a single surface and then that surface reflects the light back to the eye. If you begin to think about volumetric light, though  – that is, where the same light strikes one surface and then perhaps a diffused surface, perhaps a reflective surface and then another diffused surface – then you actually use the same light source to reveal itself in multiple ways on multiple surfaces.  This creates the perception of greater amounts, depth and richness of light. I use this concept of volume metric light by playing with different forms and various different reflective and diffused surface to help distribute and give different perception of light’s qualities indoors. This project reinvestigates very simple optical principles and then applies them to very conventional systems, so they become something that is more dynamic and more active relative to their ability to gather and display qualities of light. In this project I used very discreet reflectors so that building is activated as a light source itself.

︎Islamabad, Pakistan