Drone Shadow Ljubljana

Exhibition and Public Intervention, Ljubljana

Under the Shadow of the Drone


“The drone, for me, stands in part for the network itself: an invisible, inherently connected technology allowing sight and action at a distance. Us and the digital, acting together, a medium and an exchange. But the non-human components of the network are not moral actors, and the same technology that permits civilian technological wonder, the wide-eyed futurism of the New Aesthetic and the unevenly distributed joy of living now, also produces an obscurantist “security” culture, ubiquitous surveillance, and robotic killing machines. This is a result of the network’s inherent illegibility, its tendency towards seamlessness and invisibility, from code to “the cloud”. 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 [1]

These lines effectively sum up the conceptual background that supports James Bridle’s ongoing work with drones and his artistic research in general. Filtering and editing the flow of information, making more visible and legible data that is available out there in rough form, but somehow hidden until somebody starts digging, categorizing and ordering it, is one of the main concerns of his work, which is itself emblematic of the attitude of a whole generation that has grown up in between the omnipresent cloud and the flying drones.

Bridle’s Dronestagram project (2012 – ongoing) is a good example of this approach. Bridle explores websites such as the Bureau of Investigative Journalism or Dronewars UK in search of reliable information concerning drone strikes in war zones. When he finds evidence of a drone attack, he goes to Google Maps Satellite, finds the attacked location, takes a screenshot and publishes the photo on an Instagram account that syndicates this feed to Tumblr and Twitter, adding information about the drone strike in the notes. All this is done in real time, using available yet hidden information and common tools, redistributing the information in ways that can be meaningful for the average audience. Bridle writes: “Drones are just the latest in a long line of military technologies augmenting the process of death-dealing, but they are among the most efficient, the most distancing, the most invisible. These qualities allow them to do what they do unseen and create the context for secret, unaccountable, endless wars.” With Dronestagram, he makes these remote, often-unknown locations “a little bit more visible, a little closer, a little more real.”

A similar concern with the visualization of the surveillance apparatus is reflected in all his drone-related projects, in many different ways. The Light of God is a manipulated photograph attempting to make visible to us something that only exists, so far, in the accounts of the military personnel who saw it. “The light of god” is a laser targeting marker emitted by a flying drone that can be seen only when wearing night vision goggles, used in Afghanistan and Iraq to point to the target of a hellfire missile strike. The image is an effective symbol of technology that has gone far beyond the human, and that manifests itself with the cold precision of a divine force.

A Quiet Disposition (2013) is instead a visualisation, in the form of a series of books and networked software, of the disposition matrix, the system used by the U.S. Government to make sense of masses of surveillance and intelligence information. Bridle turns this apparatus onto itself by constantly scanning the Internet for information about the people complicit in drone strikes and involved with the Disposition Matrix.

Bridle is literally Watching the Watchers (2013), as in the series of aerial photographs of military surveillance drones collected online. The information gathered about the drones is translated into new forms, as in the UAV Identification Kit (2012), containing three 3D printed models of military UAVs (unmanned aerial vehicles), better known as drones.
Finally, Drone Shadow is an ongoing series of urban interventions in which Bridle draws a 1:1 shadow of a flying military drone on the urban soil. What’s meant to be invisible is turned visible; a remote, distant reality is turned into something very close and present. While all of his previous works will be presented at Aksioma Project Space, on the occasion Drone Shadow will be presented in the form of a public intervention, for the first time in Slovenia, in three locations: in front of Hotel Park; in front of the Kino Šiška Centre for Urban Culture; and in front of the Kolosej multiplex, at the BTC shopping centre.

Credits and more information about this event HERE.

[1] James Bridle, “Under the Shadow of the Drone”, in Booktwo.org, October 11, 2012.http://booktwo.org/notebook/drone-shadows/.


14 October – 20 November 2015
Aksioma | Project Space

Curated by Aksioma


James Bridle