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Is it a bird? A plane? Superman? Nope, it’s a remote-controlled surveillance and/or killing machine. James Bridle, the man best known as the coiner of the New Aesthetic, has created a model kit to help civilians better understand their UAVs (unmanned aerial vehicles).
The kit, produced while Bridle was in residence at the School of Visual Arts’s Visible Futures Lab, has three models in it, one each for the MQ-1 Predator, the RQ-170 Sentinel, and the RQ-4 Global Hawk, plus tiny human figures for scale. All of the models are currently in use by the U.S. government.
Bridle’s system is modeled after tank recognition programs, in which soldiers use miniatures to practice telling war machines apart during a conflict. With Bridle’s version, we might be able to spot different drones from the ground, and gain some purchase over the encroaching tide of drones occupying our airspace. What makes this piece particularly pointed is the shift in scale from massive, unknowably distant machine in the sky to handheld model — Bridle lets us take more ownership over these mysterious machines.
Through his recent art practice, which is more object — and installation — than blog-based, Bridle has been making drones and their iconography more physically apparent. His “Under the Shadow of the Drone” installation consists of drawing out life-sized silhouettes of drones in urban spaces, in a white line that brings to mind the trace around a corpse in a crime scene.
Bridle’s “Dronestagram” likewise makes the impact of drones more apparent in our daily lives. Sneaking his imagery through an Instagram account, he posts satellite shots of the locations of drone strikes as they occur, making the attacks “a little more real,” he writes. As military and technological phenomena become increasingly abstract, it should be one of artists’ goals to provide just that dose of reality.