Drone Art

Feature

Friday, September 27, 2013

Drones are the coolest and/or the scariest topic in technology today. Americans are ambivalent about them: two thirds of us approve of drone strikes on suspected terrorists overseas, according to a Gallup poll, but just 13% of people surveyed approve of strikes against suspect terrorists at home.

Movies and TV are absorbing unmanned aerial vehicles (as they are properly called) as plot devices in The Bourne Legacy and Homeland, for example. But some fine artists are also trying to sway this national conversation. Adam Harvey designs burqas and hijabs that make the wearer invisible to drone cameras by altering the body’s heat signature; he calls his line of Stealth Wear the “armor” of the information age.

Filmmaker Alex Rivera and his collaborator Angel Nevarez were ahead of the curve; working on the US-Mexico border, they were aware of drones before most of us. Their LowDrone, from 2005, is a quadcopter tricked out to look like a flying Low Rider, with gold flake metallic paint. It doesn’t want to spy or kill — it just wants to have fun, hopping and dancing across the militarized, contested border.

And one group of professional dancers took an interest in drones. Pilobolus, a dance company in New York, approached MIT engineer Danny Soltero to choreograph a piece between dancers and machines. “We started out by saying ‘What do they do?’,” recalls Itamar Kubovy, who runs the dance company. “Could you land it on our head, could you land it on the floor, could you land it on our nose? Before too long, the choreographers were making engineering suggestions, and the engineers were making choreographic suggestions as to how to tell the story.” The show they made is called Seraph, about two species that discover each other: one metal, the other flesh.

→ Watch Phoenix's music video for the song "Entertainment," which was shot from a drone

 

Video: Dancing with Robots


Slideshow: Stealth Wear and Creative Drones

Adam Harvey's 'Anti-Drone' scarf, from his
Adam Harvey / ahprojects.com

Artist Adam Harvey’s “Stealth Wear” collection is designed to interfere with drone surveillance by masking the body’s thermal signature. The ‘Anti-Drone’ scarf, made of metallized fabric and lined with silk, was inspired by the traditional hijab.

Infrared image of a model wearing Adam Harvey’s ‘Anti-Drone’ scarf.
Adam Harvey / ahprojects.com

Infrared image of a model wearing Adam Harvey’s ‘Anti-Drone’ scarf.

Artist Adam Harvey’s ‘Anti-Drone’ burqa, also shown in infrared imaging.
Adam Harvey / ahprojects.com

Artist Adam Harvey’s ‘Anti-Drone’ burqa, also shown in infrared imaging.

Artist Adam Harvey’s ‘Anti-Drone’ hoodie.
Adam Harvey / ahprojects.com

Artist Adam Harvey’s ‘Anti-Drone’ hoodie.

Filmmaker Alex Rivera and his collaborator Angel Nevarez designed the LowDrone, a device that melds the functionality of the drone with the style of a Low Rider.
LowDrone.com / Alex Rivera and Angel Nevarez

Filmmaker Alex Rivera and his collaborator Angel Nevarez designed the LowDrone, a device that melds the functionality of the drone with the style of a Low Rider.

Here the LowDrone flies along the US-Mexico border.
LowDrone.com / Alex Rivera and Angel Nevarez

Here the LowDrone flies along the US-Mexico border.

Engineer Daniel Soltero flies a drone in the Distributed Robotics Lab at MIT.
Eric Molinsky

Engineer Danny Soltero flies a drone in the Distributed Robotics Lab at MIT.

Seraphy, Pilobolus, Distributed Robotics Lab at MIT
Courtesy of the Distributed Robotics Lab at CSAIL, MIT, and Pilobolus

A quadrotor platform (also known as quadcopter) with lights is piloted during a rehearsal of the dance piece Seraph, a collaboration between the Distributed Robotics Lab at MIT and the dance company Pilobolus.

    Music Playlist
  1. Drone Zone
    Artist: Siouxsie
    Album: Mantaray
    Label: W14 Music
    Purchase: Amazon
  2. Satin Drone
    Artist: Pantha Du Prince
    Album: Diamond Daze
    Label: Dial
    Purchase: Amazon
  3. So Flows The Current
    Artist: Patrick O'Hearn
    Album: So Flows the Current
    Label: Patrickohearn.Com Music
    Purchase: Amazon
  4. ae
    Artist: Fourcolor
    Album: Air Curtain
    Label: 12K
    Purchase: Amazon

Produced by:

Eric Molinsky

Comments [1]

Reed Olson from Bemidji, MN

I believe it was your guest, Angel Nevarez, that said Americans are irrationally fearful of drones as compared to their cell phones; that cell phones represent a much greater threat to their privacy or independence than any drone.
So far as I know, the ringtone of my cell phone strikes no fear in people in lands I'll never visit. So far as I know, my cell phone has killed no innocents while summarily executing foreign enemies.
I believe we have a well earned fear of drones, for we know the havoc they have wreaked abroad and we brace ourselves for what may be in store for us here at home.
Cell phones and drones are apples and oranges(oranges with guided missiles).
Love your show,
Reed Olson
Bemidji, MN

Sep. 28 2013 11:20 PM

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