I don’t know about you, but I am a huge fan of HBO’s Last week Tonight show with John Oliver. I find this show both funny and informative. So I was watching their segment on drones the other day (you can watch it on Youtube here) and as always I’ve laughed a lot while of course being horrified by what this technology is doing to people.
A drone is a pilotless aircraft operated by remote control. Used by the military, it can basically explode a target in Afghanistan by touching a button in the opposite end of the world. But as I discovered while reading an article today, it is also widely used by artists.
Of course, some projects are meant to raise awareness on drones.
Launched by a collective of artists #NotABugSplat is a project inspired by French photographer JR’s ‘inside out’ movement. It features a gigantic poster of a child in the heavily bombed Khyber Pukhtoonkhwa region of Pakistan, where drone attacks regularly occur. The hope of the collective is that the drone operators will be forced to consider the lives at risk before striking and that it might influence policy makers.You can read more about this project here.
James Bridle, a London based artist (and much more, meaning he might be the subject of another post) is fascinated by drones and is the creator of bold artistic interventions. He is known for his Drone Shadows, 1:1 scale paint outlines of U.S. military drones, which he has painted on sidewalks, roadways, and parking lots in the U.K., Turkey, Norway and the U.S. He also has created Dronestagram which publishes satellite images of the locations of U.S. drone strikes.
American artist Trevor Paglen’s approach is all about secrecy. In his Untitled (Drones) series, he photographed the vehicles as tiny specks in the sky and landscape. “To photograph something is to insist on one’s right to photograph it,” he says. “It’s an act that is very embodied – it’s a performance, in a way. It’s very creepy because you’ll look at a drone and see it turn and come straight at you. You can almost see a camera looking at you.” He also has made a video, Drone Vision using images filmed from the drone’s point of view, exploiting a glitch and security flaw in the system.
As artistic tools
Other artists decided to use this technology to change the way they create art.
The american street artist KATSU has developed a system to attach a spray can to a quadcopter, creating the world’s first true graffiti drone. The drone is capable of spraying canvases or walls hundreds of feet tall, granting the artist access to physical spaces that were previously inaccessible. You can read more here
Since 2007, Austrian painter Addie Wagenknecht uses drones to paint in her Black Hawk series. The drones paint abstract art onto a canvas laid horizontally on the gallery floor.
But drones are not exclusive and they’ve invaded many other forms of art.
Laurent Grasso, a French filmmaker, has made a video using drones flying above Pompei ruins and Stromboli volcano. French photographer Raphael Dellaporta has used drones to take photographs of remote areas in Afghanistan.
In Japan, the dance company ElevenPlay has created a performance including drones. At first the drones matched the dancers movements, before taking their place. And the Cirque du Soleil has just collaborated with the University ETH Zurich to create a short filmed titled Sparked, where dancers and drones are synchronized. The film was all shot live, without any special effects, while the drones were constantly coordinated by a digital choreographer: a computer that tracked the quadcopters’ positions 200 times a second.
What will be next?
If you’re interested in drones, a great resource is the Center for the Study of the Drone an interdisciplinary research, education and art community working to understand unmanned and autonomous vehicles and founded at Bard College.