From their emotive aerial views to works inspired by their shadowy presence, drones are becoming more prevalent within art for the visual opportunities they offer, or to be explored aesthetically for the attitude they represent.

Entangled within secrecy and misinformation, privacy concerns and that quiet threat of death, drones have come to depict the technological and detached attitude present within modern warfare. In reaction to this is the work of artists such as James Bridle, Trevor Paglen and George Barber who through installations and Instagram are revealing the previously unseen and the unknown, whilst productions such as those by Danny Cooke and Ghost + Cow Films seek to explore that tentative space where algorithm and aesthetics meet.

 

George Barber, Freestone Drone, 2013

George Barber, The Freestone Drone, 2013, Film Still

Patched together from found and made footage, and drawing on the ambiguous narrative of Alain Renais’ ‘Last Year at Marienbad’, the somber stills of Chris Marker’s ‘La Jetée’ and the soundtracks to Godard’s films, ‘The Freestone Drone’ follows the darkly poetic musings of a self-aware drone, navigating cityscapes and oceans as he reflects on death, love, time, and ultimately his own destruction. Within the film, George Barber draws comparisons between Thomas the Tank engine and the Freestone Drone who in cartoon voice and sweet naivety is described as ‘just a child and a machine’. A comment perhaps on both a technology in it’s infancy, as well as the young lives it has taken.

 

James Bridle, Dronestagram, 2013 - present

James Bridle, Dronestagram, 2013 - Present

James Bridle, Dronestagram, 2013 – Present

Military drones are stealth, surveillance, and silent death – their very nature is to be invisible. Not many people have seen them or understand their physicality. Through his work ‘Dronestagram’, James Bridle uses GoogleMaps and The Bureau of Investigate Journalism to post drone strike sites from aerial view on Instagram to make these occurrences more tangible, and more real. Yet there are still gaps in our knowledge. The geographical location is not always accurate and the image is taken months, years before the strike, the drone remaining this malevolent, unseen thing.

 

Trevor Paglan, Untitled (Reaper Drone), 2010, C-Print 48 x 60 inches

Trevor Paglem, Untitled (Reaper Drone), 2010, C-Print 48 x 60 inches

Trevor Paglan, Untitled (Reaper Drone), 2010, C-Print 48 x 60 inches

Trevor Paglem, Untitled (Reaper Drone), 2010, C-Print 48 x 60 inches

For his Untitled series, Trevor Paglem shot US Military reconnaissance drone training exercises over Nellis Range to capture images that “don’t necessarily speak for themselves, images that ask questions and, in many cases, create paradoxes.” The result is impressionistic swathes of icing sugar skies and cirrus clouds with indistinct specks lost within them. The drones are placed at the very limit of our vision and without knowing where to look you may not see them at all, and this in itself is the reality of drones within the everyday: unseen, unknown and all-knowing.

 

Danny Cooke, Postcards from Pripyat, 2014, Film Still

Danny Cooke, Postcards from Pripyat, 2014, Film Still

Filmed using a DJI Phantom 2 Quadcopter drone and Canon 7D camera, ‘Postcards from Pripyat’ brings haunting new narrative to the city lost to the Chernobyl nuclear disaster of 1986. Through sweeping footage over poisoned forests and rusted fairground rides, quiet moments looking out of decayed buildings and over this desolate place, filmmaker Danny Cooke offers a beautiful and terrible reminder of the lives that were lived and lost here through previously unseen vistas.

 

Ghost + Cow, Drone Boning, 2014, Film Still

Ghost + Cow, Drone Boning, 2014, Film Still

Sun filters through morning light over marbled scrub land, through pine forests and hidden coves, and lost in these once private landscapes are couples caught in the act. Whilst the title might suggest otherwise, ‘Drone Boning’ – a risque meeting of The Qatsi Trilogy with ‘Where’s Wally’ – set out to make social commentary and beautiful Art, repurposing drones for something humorous and live affirming. “Why not take something negative and make something really positive? Make porn not war” Brandon LaGanke, one of the Brooklyn based filmmakers commented of the work produced by Ghost + Cow Films earlier this month.

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