I’ve been working with a small drone for a few years, trying to understand its technology and temperament. Is it possible to have an intimate relationship with an impersonal and alienating apparatus? There’s been a flurry of articles on the post-traumatic stress disorders of military drone operators—violent nightmares, scenes of warfare through a video screen, now recapitulated in dreams. And while drones dominate new forms of global warfare, spy drones are taking over all forms of domestic surveillance, transforming public and even private life. Black Mirror examines the rise of drone culture, the technological symptom of the fantasy of social control and total omniscience.
It’s comprised of several components, installed together or singly:
- Video studies using footage shot with my own drone and collaboratively with others, often in participatory groups, doing what it’s made for: spying on people in unsuspecting ways. This hands-on experience foregrounds the ethics involved far more than a conversation.
- Poems written through the dictation on the iPhone, which is also the remote control for the drone itself (smart phones are also a kind of drone). Is the proximity of words like sly and spy, or sight and blight, just a coincidence?
- Dream maps composed of dreams gathered from survivors of military drones, from drone operators, and from workshop participants. The maps sketch out ways these technologies filter into our psyches.
Black mirrors are ancient, polished obsidian mirrors used by the Mesoamericans as scrying devices: for rulers to see into the future or into their people’s thoughts. They’re superstitious objects that reveal persistent political truths. Power and profit always wrest control of new technologies. Future experiments in Black Mirror include new videos, sculptural pieces and public art graphics. This project received a 2013 Creative Capital Award, and I’m especially interested in working with different groups to explore the technology in critical, unexpected, and playful ways. Contact me if you’d like to work together.