Unmanned Aerial Ecologies

C-Astral UAV in flight

C-Astral UAV in flight

References and Acknowledgements for the presentation given at:

Look Up in the Sky!
Brussels, 16 April 2013


We often ask ourselves if it still relevant for us to be supporting and talking about media art, today, when technology has become pervasive, ubiquitous even, and therefore mundane. Surely, as it becomes enfolded into the practice of all artists, media art as a form becomes obsolete? Well I would argue the opposite, that media artists are some of the culturally deep and urgent guides to a landscape which is becoming increasingly difficult to navigate using the maps and compasses we’ve grown up with.  Media artists are the veritable canaries in the mine, detecting weak signals about how our technologised world is shaping up, and giving us ways of both perceiving this changing world, and acting within it.

This talk will show how media artists have, for the past 15 years, created projects which presciently framed and contextualsied the issues and technologies which have collided to enable today’s drone-wars.  During this period, the work of a selected group of media artists expressed an understanding, and an unease, with the expanding technological capacity of commercial and military organisations.  As their ability to carry out acts of pervasive surveillance and aggression, using technologies such as UAVs, grew, so did the concern of a generation of artists using the tools and strategies of tactical media. Artists such as Marko Peljhan, Bureau of Inverse Technology and Trevor Paglen created canonical works between 1998 and 2008 that both revealed the growing capabilities of drone technologies, but also used these very capabilities to turn our attention towards the manifucturers and users of these devices.  These were classic acts of tactical media, a form of activist art practice, that goes beyond mere revelation, and actively intervenes within a system deemed to be morally, politically or ethically problematic.

Today, a new generation of practitioners his emerged who are monitoring and critiquing the use of drones not only for military purposes, but also for civilian activities. Their hallmark is a playful curiosity, about how these technologies may be integrated into our daily lives.  Working in parallel to the growing movement of UAVers, the ham radio operators of the drone world, these artists and makers, are hacking freely available UAV technology to create unusual aerial antics. But whilst these blithe, inquiring actions are needed and valid, in the meantime, the drone-war continues, with hundreds of civilians killed each year, its remit ever expanding.  It would seem that now more than ever, robust critical, tactical media interventions, are urgently required.

Credits and References

A very special thank you to: Marko Peljhan. Sincere thanks also to: Kate Rich, Natalie Jeremijenko, Usman Haque, Trevor Paglen, Ryoji Ikeda, and all the artists & technologists cited.

Lighthouse: http://www.lighthouse.org.uk/

Particle Decelerator: http://decelerator.blogspot.co.uk/

Title Slide: Time study (Predator; Indian Springs, NV) by Trevor Paglen (2010)

Closing image (and above): C-Astral UAV (courtesy of Marko Peljhan)

Slide Design: Thanks to Jamie Wyld

Artworks/projects referenced in Introduction:

In the Air by Nerea Calvillo & collaborators: http://intheair.es/info/project-credits.html
New Zealand Wireless Map by Mark Hansen: http://markhansen.co.nz/nz-wireless-map/
oval.maschine by r a d i o q u a l i a (1999). Photographed at CACSA, Adelaide, Australia: http://is.gd/rqateq
– Honor Harger and Adam Willets, photographed at the Acoustic Space Lab, Latvia, 2001: http://acoustic.space.re-lab.net/lab/
Frequency Clock – tactical radio system by r a d i o q u a l i a (1998-2002): http://v2.nl/archive/works/the-frequency-clock.
Frequency Clock being used to create thing.fm, New York, 2002: http://fm.thing.net/
Polar Radio by r a d i o q u a l i a and I-TASC, Antarctica, 2007: http://is.gd/polar_radio
Atlas of Electromagnetic Space by Jose Luis de Vicente & Bestario (2008). Co-commissioned by AV Festival: http://spectrumatlas.org/
Aeriology by Joyce Hinterding (2008), exhibited at the Reg Vardy Gallery, Sunderland, as part of AV Festival: http://is.gd/aeriology
20Hz by Semiconductor (2011), co-commissioned by Lighthouse: http://is.gd/20_hz
Mesopotamian Dramatugies (Su & Mayhem) by Kutlug Ataman (2011), exhibited at Brighton Festival, 2011: http://is.gd/kutlugataman
Laboratory Life at Lighthouse, 2011: http://is.gd/laboratory_life
levelHead by Julian Oliver (2008) shown at Suspending Disbelief, Lighthouse, 2010: http://www.lighthouse.co.uk/programme/suspending-disbelief
Frequency & Volume by Rafael Lozano-Hemmer, shown at Invisible Fields: http://is.gd/invisible
Evolution of Fearlessness by Lynette Wallworth shown at Brighton Festival, 2011: http://is.gd/lynettewallworth
Happenstance (2012) – residencies for creative technologists: http://www.lighthouse.org.uk/programme/happenstance-residencies-for-technologists
data.tron [8K enhanced version] by Ryoji Ikeda (2008-09): http://www.ryojiikeda.com/project/datamatics/#datatron_8k_enhanced_version
bitplane by Bureau of Inverse Technology (1997-98): http://bureauit.org/plane
Situational Awareness by Marko Peljhan (2007) at Ars Electronica, Austria, 2007: http://is.gd/situational
– C-Astral UAV: http://c-astral.com/ – Image courtesy of Marko Peljhan.
– William Gibson quoted in Spooky Country (2007): http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spook_Country
– Northrop Grumman RQ-4 Global Hawk: http://is.gd/globalhawk
– RT32, VIRAC, Latvia. Photograph courtesy of Raitis Smits, RIXC, 2002.
– Trevor Paglen with telescope. Photograph from MIT: http://arts.mit.edu/va/artist/paglen/
– Marko Peljhan at the World-C4U exhibition, Brussels, 2000: http://is.gd/WorldC4U

Images referenced in Part 1:

The Knife – stock-trading algorithm. Image courtesy of Kevin Slavin: http://is.gd/kevinslavin
– The Boston Shuffler – stock-trading algorithm. Image courtesy of Kevin Slavin: http://is.gd/kevinslavin
– The proposed Center for Innovation, Testing and Evaluation, New Mexico: http://www.forumforthefuture.org/greenfutures/articles/worlds-first-city-robots
– Google Data Centre, Dulles: http://www.google.co.uk/about/datacenters/
Accelerate to the Cloud billboard, photographed at Auckland Airport, New Zealand, August, 2011. Photograph by Honor Harger.
– Microsoft Data Centre, Dublin: http://is.gd/3TMFkA
– Facebook Data Centre, Prineville, Oregon: http://is.gd/gGk6fE
– Cloud computing survey commissioned by Citrix, August 2012: http://www.citrix.com/lang/English/lp/lp_2328330.asp

Artworks/projects referenced in Part 2:

bitplane by Bureau of Inverse Technology (1997-98): http://bureauit.org/plane
– Bureau of Inverse Technology quotations come from the Decade Project: http://bureauit.org/decade/
– Photograph of Marko Peljhan: http://www.ladomir.net/bio-summary
Makrolab, Rottnest Island, Australia (2000): http://makrolab.ljudmila.org/mark2.html Photograph from: http://www.ladomir.net/peljhan-territories
Makrolab, Blair Atholl Estate, Scotland (2002). Photograph by r a d i o q u a l i a: http://radioqualia.va.com.au/documentation/makrolab/index.html
– Fixing satellite dish, Blair Atholl Estate, Scotland, 2002. Photograph by r a d i o q u a l i a
SCATTER! by Marko Peljhan and colleagues (2008), AV Festival, BALTIC, Gateshead, UK: http://www.ladomir.net/Scatter-2008
– Marko Peljhan quoted in Invisible Territory, a documentary by Zemira Alajbegovic, RTV Slovenia, 2007: http://vimeo.com/44982545
TRUST 15 [Tactical Radio Unified System Transport] by Marko Peljhan (1999), at PS1 Gallery in New York. Images courtesy of Peljhan.
TRUST-SYSTEM 22: http://is.gd/TRUST22
– Marko Peljhan quoted in Situational Awareness catalogue (2007), Ars Electronica, Linz, Austria: http://is.gd/situational
Territory 1995 by Marko Peljhan (2009), Istanbul Biennale, Turkey: http://www.ladomir.net/territory-1995-istanbul-biennale-2009
INSULAR technologies by Marko Peljhan (1999): http://www.n5m.org/n5m3/pages/insular3.html & original concept (1997): http://is.gd/insular_nettime
– Marko Peljhan quoted in transcript of Strategies of Minimal Resistance, lecture given at SCCA, Ljubljana, 1999. English translation: http://is.gd/ljSTBg
System-77-CCR (SYSTEM-77 / CIVIL COUNTER-RECONNAISSANCE) by Marko Peljhan (2004): http://s-77ccr.org/
Makrolab, Isola di Campalto, Venice Biennale (2003): http://makeworlds.net/node/12
– Marko Peljhan quoted in Invisible Territory – see above.
– Transmission from Iranian television allegedly showing footage of captured U.S drone RQ-170, December 2011:
– Nejc Trost, pictured with C-Astral UAV. Photograph: http://is.gd/5VbKJE
– C-ASTRAL UAV systems, Slovenia: http://c-astral.com/
– Documentation of Bramor gEO UAV from C-ASTRAL: http://c-astral.com/. Additional photographs courtesy of Marko Peljhan.
– Bramor gEO UAV flying over Gijon, Spain in 2009:

Artworks/projects referenced in Part 3:

– Invisible Fields (2011), co-curated by Honor Harger and José Luis de Vicente at Arts Santa Monica, Barcelona 2011-12: http://is.gd/invisible
– Wireless in the World by Timo Arnall (2010): http://is.gd/wirelessworld – shown at Invisible Fields.
– Timo Arnall quoted in No to NoUI by Timo Arnall, March 2013: http://www.elasticspace.com/2013/03/no-to-no-ui

Artworks/projects referenced in Part 4:

Geographies of Seeing by Trevor Paglen (2012), co-curated by Honor Harger and Celia Davies, at Lighthouse: http://is.gd/paglen
Paglen artworks shown:
Artifacts (Spacecraft in Perpetual Geosynchronous Orbit, 35,786 km Above Equator) (2010)
PAN (Unknown; USA-207) (2010)
KEYHOLE IMPROVED CRYSTAL from Glacier Point (Optical Reconnaissance Satellite; USA 1860) (2008)
After Galileo (Jupiter and Moons)
They Watch the Moon (2010)
National Reconnaissance Office Ground Station (ADF-SW) Jornada del Muerto, New Mexico (2012)
N5177C at Gold Coast Terminal Las Vegas, NV; Distance ~ 1 mile (2007)
Detachment 3, Air Force Flight Test Center #2, Groom Lake, NV, Distance ~26 Miles (2008)
Reaper Drone, Indian Springs, NV Distance ~ 2 miles (2010)
Untitled (Predators; Indian Springs, NV) (2010)
Time study (Predator; Indian Springs, NV) (2010)
– Trevor Paglen quoted in, “Limit Telephotography”, Under Fire research forum, 2006: http://underfire.eyebeam.org/?q=node/469

Artworks/projects referenced in Part 4:

Hercules Missile Landscape by Mariele Neudecker (2010), being shown at Lighthouse for Brighton Festival 2013: http://www.lighthouse.org.uk/programme/lighthouse-at-brighton-festival – Nike Historic Missile Site, Golden Gate National Park, USA: http://www.nps.gov/goga/nike-missile-site.htm
Psychopomp by Mariele Neudecker (2010) – Hercules Missile rubbings: http://www.marieleneudecker.co.uk/marieleneudeckej.html – to be exhibited at Lighthouse, May 2013
The Air Itself is One Vast Library by Mariele Neudecker (2010): http://www.marieleneudecker.co.uk/marieleneudeckei.html
– Charles Babbage quoted in The Ninth Bridgewater Treatise (1837): http://is.gd/babbage
Electronic Countermeasures by Liam Young, Tomorrows Thoughts Today (2011): http://vimeo.com/36267881

Artworks/projects referenced in Conclusion:

Here Be Dragons: the Unstable Landscapes of GPS by Will Gowland (2011): http://vimeo.com/44446581
– C-Astral UAV in sunset, courtesy of Marko Peljhan.

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