Drone Life Shadow Play Gouache on paper 30 x 42 cm 2016
Media theorists have appropriated the figure of the drone to describe a process of "droning" - of life!* It is a way of describing the interactivity between the multitude of sensors we, either knowingly or not, engage with each day and the processes of data collection, monitoring, data mining and usage. It's not really just about collecting content, but also patterns of behaviour, preferences and so on. This data may be used by advertisers, policy makers, app developers and others to target individuals or groups of people with offerings that run a gamut of possibilities. However, correlations between and amongst collected data may not be identified as useful until some time in the future. The future identifiers of these correlations may not be working for advertisers or policy makers, but possibly more interrogative, covert or malign entities.
So where does the actual militarised unmanned air vehicle or drone fit in? It's all about its data collection capabilities, surveillance from a distance and its monitoring of data for targeting purposes - albeit a different kind of targeting to that employed by advertisers and policy makers!.
The military drone acts as a transmitter, receiver and collector of information. This information can come from its own cameras, or from data gathered from mobile phones, GPS systems, and other sensors and devices that help tract patterns of behaviour, as well as other more concrete types of information. The major task is surveillance in order to identify, monitor and target individuals or groups whose online, physical or other behaviour attracts attention for being aberrant or potentially so. In the military or counter-insurgency sphere a drone's sensor mode can turn very quickly into killing mode with the deployment of Hellfire or guided missiles.
* Associate Professor Mark Andrejevic, from Pomona College, USA is someone who writes compellingly about what he calls the "droning of experience". In fact he has written an article called The Droning of Experience published in Fibre Culture Journal. I urge you to read it.
Droned Landscape Gouche on paper 30 x 42 cm 2016
So, my paintings Drone Life Shadow Play and Droned Landscape are my imaginings of droning experiences! Rather than allude to a droning sense I have painted drones - Reapers actually.
Drone Life Shadow Play - no matter where we are or what we are doing there is a likelihood that we are transmitting data - when we make a phone call, walk into a large shopping centre, drive through a toll way, buy something with a card, use a computer, drive our cars and so on.
I imagine shadows dancing around us...shadows we cannot see, shadows from things we cannot see, actions we are taking that are unconscious yet prevail as tracks to be brought to light possibly in a far distant future. I imagine the collected data, stored in huge servers housed in massive buildings, like its an array of captured shadows - shadows caught before they could be cast. Yet, the data is not like a soul or memory or even a story. In a way it masquerades as a shadow that could be a door to a dark black abyss. Now there's a 'happy' thought!
In my painting the yellow drone casts a shadow. The yellow tree-of-life casts one too. One shadow looks like an abyss - the other does not.
Droned Landscape - I imagine the landscape covered with sensors and targets. It's like a landscape overlay that obscures where the horizon and sky meet. Note the tree-of-life standing as a beacon, perhaps a guiding signpost - if we bother to look up from our various devices and see.