DRONE SWEET DRONE (2016)

Installation by Anne Niemetz
Contextualisation: Dr. Sarah Baker
Multicopter designs: Hadley Boks-Wilson
Technical support: Mike McKinnon
Thank you: Victoria University of Wellington

In current literature and the popular press, drones are most commonly associated with unmanned attacks on civilians and the surveillance of populations. Quite rightly, there is significant concern about the use of drone technologies for these often ethically dubious ends (e.g. Greenwald, 2013). Most recently, drone swarms, in particular, have been the focus of this concern. At the same time, a normalisation of drone technology is taking place. In the West this year many technology lovers, hackers and makers received drones as Christmas presents; and, as Matthew J. Cousineau (2011) observes, users can even play games on the US Air Force website that mimic missions to locate and destroy enemy targets. Cousineau goes on to argue for the advantages of studying surveillance as entertainment, rather than just focusing on its affects on civil liberties. He suggests that this approach can bring to light how surveillance agents use the language of popular culture to manufacture consent for their political agendas; as well as bring the domestic affects of foreign wars to the fore. In addition, he argues that by focusing on surveillance as entertainment, new questions can be asked, such as how masculinity is being reconfigured by technologies such as drones.

 

The art installation, Drone Sweet Drone, is in dialogue with these debates and asks us to consider the ordinary and extraordinary affects of drones in our everyday lives. By referencing Home Sweet Home (an expression that was popular with troops on both sides of the American civil war), and seemingly glorifying drones, the installation aims to open up discussion about the uses of drone technology beyond its usual associations with warfare. As embroidered blueprints using Arduino powered lights, the aesthetic of the drones combines techniques associated with the past and the future; art and science; the amateur and the professional; and the feminine and the masculine. The blueprint text prompts us to further consider the potential of drones, as well as the gendering of new technologies and the masculine associations of war and surveillance. Drone Sweet Drone is purposely conspicuous rather than stealthy. Turning surveillance on its head, it wants us to study the fly on the wall that is increasingly becoming a greater part of our lives.

Sarah Baker

References
Cousineau, Matthew J. (2011) The Surveillant Simulation of War: Entertainment and Surveillance in the 21st Century. Surveillance & Society 8(4): 517-522.

Greenwald, G. (2013) ‘Domestic Drones and their unique dangers’ The Guardian. Accessed at http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2013/mar/29/domestic-drones-unique-dangers



Drone Sweet Drone was first exhibited at the UCLA Art|Sci Gallery on May 5th 2016. ->announcement