Under the shadow of drones

“Llega un grito a través del cielo” gathers works by twelve artists and artistic collectives of countries like Spain, The Netherlands, France or the United Kingdom with the purpose of fostering reflection and also generating mistrust and awe experiences in viewers.

Published: Sep 29, 2014

By Montaña Hurtado (www.zapatosrosas.com), @ZapatosRosas

A screaming comes across the sky. It has happened before, but there is nothing to compare it to now.”

Thomas Pynchon

In a previous LABlog post, Román Torre explained what drones are and why they have become so popular to the point that it is possible to buy them at affordable prices or even to manufacture them at home. The potential that this technology offers for society is unlimited. Anyone capable of manufacturing a drone can think of a domestic or professional application, as a consequence of this a provisional regulation was developed in Spain to “avoid misunderstandings”, regulating the operation of drones with a weight under 150 kilos. The regulation is simple: Drones with “commercial or professional purposes” will not be allowed to fly over inhabited areas and specific permits cannot be issued as, so far, no legal framework is in place. They will be allowed to overfly the airspace those drones used for health, research or fire fighting purposes, among others.

Drones over 25 kilos are allowed to fly within the visual range of the pilot, at a maximum distance of 500 metres, and up to 200 metres high. However, it must be mentioned that all these regulations concern civil drones, not drones used for military purposes, for, despite the concealment, drones represent a breakthrough to another era in military technology.

The journalist Roberto Montoya explains in his book “Drones. Remotelly-controlled death”, that there are currently more drone pilots than airplane pilots and governments buy more drones with military purposes than fighter-bombers. There are currently more than fifty countries that use drones in their military attacks. The reason of this increasing popularity is very simple: Drones can easily reach the targets and reduce the risk of suffering casualties because they are controlled from many kilometres away. Montoya warns also of the risk of trivialising war to the point where we can confuse it with a computer game. This, that might seem exaggerated, is becoming increasingly real. A few weeks ago we learned that the American army has developed a technology to destroy enemy drones using a laser controlled with an X-Box.

The current drones MQ-1 Predator and MQ-9 Reaper and their guided missiles are very similar to the V-2 rocket: They operate without being detected and strike without notice. The V-2 was the first long-range rocket in the world and one of the greatest breakthroughs in the history of military technology. It was designed and used by Germany in World War II. It is estimated that around 3.000 were launched and they killed more than seven thousand people, both military and civilians. The development of this rocket and its impact on the social context of the time is the point the departure of the novel “Gravity's Rainbow”, by Thomas Pynchon, whose first sentence has been taken as the title for the exhibition that LABoral opens next October 10. This international show, curated by Juha van 't Zelfde, from Lighthouse, proposes a critical reflection through art upon the impact and the fear that the most powerful war and vigilance weapons of our time have in our lives.

The response of art to this type of machines has been fast. In my previous post at LABlog I mentioned the project #NotABugSplat developed as a protest against the indiscriminate murder of civilians in Pakistan. Adam Harvey created, in 2013, an anti-drone clothing collection that allows us to keep our privacy from mass vigilance technologies.

“Llega un grito a través del cielo” gathers works by twelve artists and artistic collectives of countries like Spain, The Netherlands, France or the United Kingdom with the purpose of fostering reflection and also generating mistrust and awe experiences in viewers.

Among the artist that take part in the show, for instance, is Mariele Neudecker, presenting her work “The air itself is one vast library”, the collective Terminal Beach with its audiovisual piece Clouds of Unknowing, or AeroCoop, authors of Flone, who will also be running a workshop of November 14 and 15. And this is because this exhibition is complemented with a wide and strong programme of activities intended to foster critical reflection upon the uses of these unmanned aerial vehicles. One of these activities will be a round table that will address topics related with control and vigilance technologies and their relationship with art. It will be joined by the curator of the exhibition and some of the artists taking part in it, such as Metahaven, or James Bridle.

The latter, a British artist, wil be in charge of carrying out the intervention Under the shadow of the drone, consisting of a large-format drawing, in the marina of Gijon, intended to make these machines visible for citizens, and reminding us that even if we do not see them, we live under the shadow of drones.

 

 

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