Tomas Percival is an artist, researcher, and writer. His work critically investigates the intersections of space and security, with a particular interest in structures of assessment, risk governance, carceral geographies, data infrastructures, and border administration. He holds an MFA from the University of California, Los Angeles. He was previously a visiting research fellow at the Institute of Political Science at Leiden University and artist-in-residence at the Jan van Eyck Academie. He is currently a Lecturer at the Centre for Research Architecture at Goldsmiths, University of London.
Recent projectsView all 

Border Environments

Editor with Riccardo Badano and Susan Schuppli

Date: April 2023
Publisher: Spector Books

Available here
The first publication in the Centre for Research Architecture book series exploring pedagogy, politics, and practices.

Border Environments investigates the entanglement of ecology and migration. It examines the interplay between discriminatory politics, emergent technologies, and bordering practices within the context of (constructed) natures by highlighting a variety of interventions, investigative techniques, visual projects, and modes of witnessing that address the role of both human and more-than-human actors in border struggles. As such, the book is also a provocation that can be used to identify and organise new lines of struggle connecting environmental and mobility justice.

Contributors include Dimitra Andritsou, Areej Ashhab, Riccardo Badano, Border Ecologies Network, Nadine El-Enany, Mustapha Jundi, Stefanos Levidis, Tomas Percival, Lorenzo Pezzani, Tara Plath, Hanna Rullmann & Faiza Ahmad Khan, Susan Schuppli, Ishita Sharma, Juanita Sundberg, Avi Varma, Gabrielle Wolf.

Psychotechne: Assessment, Testing, Categorisation

Two-person exhibition with Sasha Bergstrom-Katz

Date: February – March 2023
Institution: Peltz Gallery, Birkbeck, University of London

Further information here
Psychotechne was a two-person exhibition of works by Sasha Bergstrom-Katz and Tomas Percival. The artistic research-based projects on view examined how individuals are assessed through tests, forms, and databases that utilise psychometric technologies. A variety of institutions—including educational, medical, and legal systems—utilise such assessments to inform decisions about the people they manage and use these techniques to categorise and move individuals. For example, the outcomes of tests can transfer children into different classrooms based on test-taking abilities; assessments are used to issue diagnoses which have the power to change how people are viewed and how they view themselves; and behavioural and mental health screenings are used to assign categories of “risk” within carceral and penal systems. The two artworks in this exhibition focused on particular case studies to explore how assessment, categorisation, and testing play an active role within institutional decision-making structures.

Psychotechne was funded by Birkbeck, University of London and the Wellcome Trust ISSF Fund. The exhibition was curated by Dr Sarah Marks, Director of the Birkbeck Centre for Interdisciplinary Research on Mental Health.

The Material Force of Categories

Co-organiser of symposium with Sasha Bergstrom-Katz

Date: 11 March 2023
Institution: Birkbeck, University of London

This symposium, organised in parallel to the Psychotechne exhibition, examined how assessment and categorisation can play an active role in decision-making structures. The event explored how socio-technical systems produce categorisations—particularly categorisations of intelligence, risk, and the subject—in ways that can then be operationalised within broader institutional and epistemic frameworks. The symposium was interested in how such categories are produced through a range of psychosocial, statistical, and technical modes of assessment, including psychometric and psychological testing, risk assessment tools, and machine learning.

Speakers included Ramon Amaro, Margarita Aragon, Anthony Faramelli, Eoin Fullam, Becka Hudson, Simon Jarrett, and Ageliki Lefkaditou.
Event Research

Index: Navigating the Database

Site-specific project

Date: 23 - 25 June 2022
Institution: Jan van Eyck Academie

Further information here
Index: Navigating the Database involved a series of interventions and performances in selected locations throughout the Jan van Eyck building. The project experimented with the computational processes and bureaucratic structures that underpin the day-to-day operations of the institution. It involved the installation of RFID key-card activated locks on various spaces, alongside a series of performances in which signers are asked to improvise based on various institutional data and record-keeping structures (the WIFI network log, archival records of managerial meetings, and files from the JVE’s database).

Performed by Kristine Paseka and Dean Parker.

Security Vision

Leverhulme Trust-funded Visiting Research Fellow on Security Vision (ERC project)

Date: October 2021 - October 2022
Institution: Institute of Political Science, Leiden University

Further information here
How do technologies of computer vision work in practice in the field of security, and what are their ethical and political implications? 

Vision, understood as the capacity to see and make sense of what is seen, is increasingly being delegated to autonomous computer systems, which influence how human operators determine suspicious behaviour. We currently lack an understanding of how these technologies impact governmental and private sector actors, their decision-making, and their accountability, as well as the fundamental rights of those who are targeted. This project addresses these challenges through an innovative theoretical and methodological framework that investigates the theoretical, empirical, and political implications of the development of computer vision in the field of security. In order to carry out this task, the project builds on and advances debates at the intersection of critical security studies, science and technology studies, and visual ethnographic practices.

Principal Investigator: Francesco Ragazzi.

Border Environments: The Entangled Politics of Ecology and Migration

Co-organiser of public programme with Riccardo Badano

Date: 12 - 13 May 2022
Institution: Centre for Research Architecture x Het Nieuwe Instituut

Further information here

This public programme set out to critically investigate the interplay between environmental processes and migration struggles. This two-day programme of talks, projects, screenings, and conversations outlined a conceptual and practical framework for examining how the environment has become an active agent in making cross-border mobilities and immobilities. By examining a number of key issues—including the weaponisation of (semi-)natural landscapes in border situations, the deployment of nature conservation projects, and the transformation of ecosystems through security thinking—the programme aimed to expose the political and material effects of environmental forces in relation to bordering and exclusion.

Including contributions from Dele Adeyemo, Arun Agrawal, Andrea Bagnato, the Border Ecologies Network, Nadine El-Enany, Sara Frikech, Uriel Orlow, Hanna Rullmann & Faiza Ahmad Khan, The School of Mutants, Juanita Sundberg, and Gabrielle Wolf.

Event Research

Prison Records

PhD researcher

Date: 2019-24
Institution: Centre for Research Architecture at Goldsmiths, University of London
This PhD project examines structures of assessment within the field of security. The thesis investigates the deployment of socio-technical assemblages—which may include risk assessment tools, databases of association, modes of measurement, psychosocial testing, bureaucratic structures, and/or predictive algorithms—as a specific mode of governing individuals in relation to information, security, and risk. The study primarily investigates the data infrastructures of the UK prison estate, analysing how assessment systems are implemented to generate punitive accounts of incarcerated individuals while simultaneously producing a limited horizon of accountability. The thesis further explores how these systems leak out and reorganise decision-making and politics more broadly through demands for interoperability and multi-agency data-sharing practices. This research offers a critical analysis of the deployment of assessment systems and data infrastructures within the security field. It tracks their effects on structures of governance at various scales and intensities. Additionally, the project examines the forms of resistance that have emerged in response to these punitive structures and technical systems, and articulates possible modes of fugitivity beyond capture.