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January 16, 2014 | 6 Comments

Drone Shadow (James Bridle)

From the curators: James Bridle is a writer, publisher, artist, and technologist based in London. The Drone Shadow series was born in collaboration with Einar Sneve Martinussen, a designer working in interaction design, product design, and research. It forms but one part of Bridle’s wide-ranging visual and textual activism dealing with issues germane to the post-privacy era: secret surveillance, extraordinary rendition, and the systems that permit and encourage such violence against and among citizen-subjects. He has written and lectured extensively on what he terms the “New Aesthetic”—the visual and social systems produced by the increasing interconnectedness of virtual and physical worlds. The Drone Shadow project makes the impact of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) visible at a 1:1 scale. The purpose of a drone is to be invisible, making the operators completely unaccountable for their actions. For Bridle, the drone also stands for the now-ubiquitous network of technology that makes observation and action possible at a distance: “Those who cannot perceive the network cannot act effectively within it, and are powerless. The job, then, is to make such things visible.”

James Bridle’s “Under the Shadow of the Drone” does what all great art does: it makes us see what was already there in a new way. His work spotlights a contemporary fact of existence all too easy to forget when we are not directly physically threatened. We now live in a world of drones—but most of us don’t see them or experience them.

The invisibility of the U.S. drone program in countries like Pakistan and Afghanistan is, of course, by design. And that’s what’s so dangerous about this new world. Drones are operated from the shadows on flickering, shadowy “suspects.” The idea of surgical accuracy is a fallacy; this hi-tech equipment cannot ensure zero civilian casualties, or a clean conscience. The drone was created, and its use continues to grow, with very little political discussion. That’s the point of drones—to take what should be a part of our national discourse out of the conversation and make it unseen, hidden, secret. (Except, of course, to the increasing number of those living under them 24 hours a day.) And that is why it is so valuable that the artistic community is bringing this dialogue back into the open where it belongs, as James Bridle is doing in a way that’s both powerful and provocative.

Bridle’s installation is at once an echo of the chalk outline of a crime scene that’s in the past, and a foreshadowing of a possible crime to come. It acts as a public memorial to the nameless and faceless drone victims. He makes us see or, more important, unable to not see, the fact that for many, these drones are a presence both in the air and on the ground.

His work augments our vision, switching the peripheral to the main focus. By bringing the world of drones out of the shadows and making their presence manifest in such a striking way, James Bridle is forcing us to confront what’s being done in our name.

James Bridle (British, b. 1980) and Einar Sneve Martinussen (Norwegian, b. 1982). Drone Shadow 003, Brighton, UK. 2013. Road-marking paint. 66’ x 36’ (20 x 11m). Image courtesy of Roberta Mataityte/Lighthouse. Photo by James Bridle

James Bridle (British, b. 1980) and Einar Sneve Martinussen (Norwegian, b. 1982). Drone Shadow 003, Brighton, U.K. 2013. Road-marking paint, 66′ x 36′ (20 x 11m). Image courtesy of Roberta Mataityte/Lighthouse. Photo by James Bridle

James Bridle (British, b. 1980) and Einar Sneve Martinussen (Norwegian, b. 1982). Drone Shadow 002, Istanbul, Turkey, 2012. Road-marking paint. 49’ x 30’ (15 x 9 m). Drone Shadow 003, Brighton, UK, 2013. Road-marking paint. 66’ x  36’ (20 x 11m). Image courtesy of James Bridle/booktwo.org. Photo by James Bridle

James Bridle (British, b. 1980) and Einar Sneve Martinussen (Norwegian, b. 1982). Drone Shadow 002, Istanbul, Turkey. 2012. Road-marking paint, 49′ x 30′ (15 x 9 m). Drone Shadow 003, Brighton, U.K. 2013. Road-marking paint, 66′ x 36′ (20 x 11m). Image courtesy of James Bridle/booktwo.org. Photo by James Bridle

What other secretive acts carried out on behalf of the public need to be made more visible?

  1. January 16, 2014, 10:27 pm

    […] check out the rest here. […]

  2. January 19, 2014, 5:25 pm

    ashok choudhury

    if it is visible, it's a vision!

    …a true ‘reflection’ of a heart for humanity , a mind for human rights, freedom and democracy, and a soul for every human life! it connects to the chord of humanity!!….now ,coming to the sad fact that 42 innocents just got droned to death in Pakistan, it is recommended that the ‘signature strikes” should be renamed as ”signature blindness” ! if nothing, simple commonsense reasoning sees more of purposeful accuracy’ in ‘signature strikes. and any careless and mindless hitting…the way drone kills innocents innocents … as signature blindness’.

    just ”some 20-40 military age people down there’ looking suspicious to deserve a drone looks more like a paranoia than a purposeful thinking.. the biggest fear is , this paranoia, little extended , even makes a terrible argument; that the best way to finish terror is to really finish all 20 to 40 military age people down there, looks ‘logical’ . the fact that a sensitive president had to say ” that’s not good enough for me” to all the explanations by the death executors who said well ‘always we don’t know who they are’ ,seemingly forgetting to add ‘but always we prefer to kill them, says a lot about the carelessness at the execution level,…nothing surgical about it … and a presidential concern though unfortunately followed by apathy.. is it the result of that so called political compulsion or seer arrogance, insensitivity and carelessness , the fact is, as one observer rightly puts, with every drone death america is creating ten new enemies!” . whether the drones are now busy fighting a ‘war on terror’ or winning’ everyday creating a bigger field for the bigger war by the would be terrorists’ is anyone’s guess. the only relief to any concerned or ignorant citizen around the globe is, thankfully there are some special people in the world who are now bringing the drones out of the shadows and making things visible. with all appreciations to all those ‘hopes of humanity’, i strongly think it’s time all the contexts and contents of secretive acts carried out on behalf of the public by anyone in any corner of the earth be made fully open for the public to know. the realization should go into every heart that open mind opens mind and more than drones the solution to global terrorism lie in knowing, understanding, interacting and acting. and the process begins with opening up, speaking out and knowing…because if it’s visible, only then it will lead to a new vision, to solutions.

  3. January 23, 2014, 1:04 am

    sjp

    http://www.livingunderdrones.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/10/Stanford-NYU-Living-Under-Drones.pdf

    Relevant 2012 report from Stanford and NYU on the impact of “Living Under Drones.”

  4. March 6, 2014, 5:48 am

    Hussain Salahuddin

    Response

    This post although just described James Bridle’s “Under the Shadow of the Drone” through an observer’s perspective, it failed to analyze or acknowledge the lack of connection between the artist and the subject. James Bridle made life-sized chalk outlines of drones in different areas. After reading the essay by Ian Hargraves and Nassim Jafarinaimi about Human-Centered Design and its different forms of implementation, I think that this is another example of design labeling itself as Human-Centered just for validity and purpose. Arianna Huffington talks about how this design re-iterates and reinforces the presence of something that already exists. This post spoke about how we forget things when they do not physically threaten us because we do not encounter them daily. “The invisibility of the U.S. drone program in countries like Pakistan and Afghanistan is by design.” However, coming from Pakistan, it is something that is definitely instilled in our minds. The Drone serves as a Mcguffin in a movie, we know of their presence, and there is constant fear instilled in our minds, even though there might not even be a real threat. This project spoke to me in its content, but failed when it came to its context and setting. Had James Bridle visited countries that were frequently affected by US drone attacks, and done the same thing, it would be more of a design statement, and would fuel support against fear instilled through this device. Through that, the design would be more meaningful because not only will it set a problem, but it will make a statement about how to solve the problem. It can make people more aware, by getting people’s support against such protocol because as the post stated “The idea of surgical accuracy is a fallacy; this hi-tech equipment cannot ensure zero civilian casualties, or a clean conscience.” He brings the “world of drones out of the shadows”, but making that in Washington DC is hardly making a statement.
    This also made me think of Super Normal objects as published by Naoto Fukasawa and Jasper Morrison. A book that has elaborate photographs of daily objects that are so instilled in our lives that we fail to acknowledge their presence (example: forks and chairs). I think the post posed a very interesting question in the end: “What other secretive acts carried out on behalf of the public need to be made more visible?” I think this could evolve a project like this to a larger scale. Thinking about companies like Google and their recent case over the Google Street-view Car stealing computer history and passwords from the locations it crossed. Hidden camera’s everywhere, devices recording conversations, the FBI having the ability to activate anyone’s Macbook camera and viewing them without their knowledge. All of these actions, although we might personally think are invading our privacy, are justified by the cause of the greater good and safety of our community.

  5. May 11, 2014, 6:11 am

    […] began to trace the outlines of drones on city streets to nudge passers-by into thinking about the hidden pervasiveness of those weapons. Bridle’s series, “Under the Shadow of the Drone,” has populated sidewalks in Istanbul, […]

  6. June 30, 2014, 5:38 pm

    […] Image: James Bridle’s Drone Shadow. […]

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