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To See Without Being Seen: Contemporary Art and Drone Warfare

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We are in the dawn of the drone age, a turning point in history when the United States and other countries are increasingly using unmanned aerial vehicles to monitor behavior, collect data, conduct surveillance, and wage wars. As the ubiquitous vision and remote engagement of drones redefine contemporary policing and warfare, their impact is filtering into art and visual c We are in the dawn of the drone age, a turning point in history when the United States and other countries are increasingly using unmanned aerial vehicles to monitor behavior, collect data, conduct surveillance, and wage wars. As the ubiquitous vision and remote engagement of drones redefine contemporary policing and warfare, their impact is filtering into art and visual culture, generating new investigations into issues of visibility, technology, and fear. Considering an international array of video, sculpture, installation, photography, and web-based projects, this volume, the catalog for a recent exhibition at the Mildred Lane Kemper Art Museum, reveals the unique potential of art to further our understanding of, and give visual form to, modern drone warfare and digital surveillance. These essays illuminate how the drone embodies a far-reaching discussion about the rapidly shifting conditions of perception—of seeing, and of being seen—made possible by advanced technology. What is the relation of machine vision to human vision? And how do visual technologies affect our understanding of the agency of images, and of ourselves? Featuring scholarly essays along with texts by contributing artists Trevor Paglen and Hito Steyerl, To See Without Being Seen is a perceptive contribution to the emerging literature on contemporary artistic practice, war, surveillance, and technology.


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We are in the dawn of the drone age, a turning point in history when the United States and other countries are increasingly using unmanned aerial vehicles to monitor behavior, collect data, conduct surveillance, and wage wars. As the ubiquitous vision and remote engagement of drones redefine contemporary policing and warfare, their impact is filtering into art and visual c We are in the dawn of the drone age, a turning point in history when the United States and other countries are increasingly using unmanned aerial vehicles to monitor behavior, collect data, conduct surveillance, and wage wars. As the ubiquitous vision and remote engagement of drones redefine contemporary policing and warfare, their impact is filtering into art and visual culture, generating new investigations into issues of visibility, technology, and fear. Considering an international array of video, sculpture, installation, photography, and web-based projects, this volume, the catalog for a recent exhibition at the Mildred Lane Kemper Art Museum, reveals the unique potential of art to further our understanding of, and give visual form to, modern drone warfare and digital surveillance. These essays illuminate how the drone embodies a far-reaching discussion about the rapidly shifting conditions of perception—of seeing, and of being seen—made possible by advanced technology. What is the relation of machine vision to human vision? And how do visual technologies affect our understanding of the agency of images, and of ourselves? Featuring scholarly essays along with texts by contributing artists Trevor Paglen and Hito Steyerl, To See Without Being Seen is a perceptive contribution to the emerging literature on contemporary artistic practice, war, surveillance, and technology.

10 review for To See Without Being Seen: Contemporary Art and Drone Warfare

  1. 5 out of 5

    Joseph Hirsch

    "To see without being seen" combines essays on a society accustomed to constant surveillance with photos from complimentary exhibits and multimedia projects. The Bräunert essay is the best of the bunch, marshaling everything from an Intercept article to the theories of Carl Schmitt to make its point. The weakest essay was the one (predictably) equating the permanent surveillance with the residual gaze of the "dead white males" whose lingering (boogeyman) specter looms large over every element of "To see without being seen" combines essays on a society accustomed to constant surveillance with photos from complimentary exhibits and multimedia projects. The Bräunert essay is the best of the bunch, marshaling everything from an Intercept article to the theories of Carl Schmitt to make its point. The weakest essay was the one (predictably) equating the permanent surveillance with the residual gaze of the "dead white males" whose lingering (boogeyman) specter looms large over every element of postmodern academic discourse in the humanities. Those who've followed the leaks by Snowden, Assange, et. al, know that "post-racial" Nobel-laureate Obama has actually extended the scope and death toll of the drone program, making the latter essay smack of cant and scapegoating. That quibble aside, though, the rest of the writing was thoughtful and astute. A rumination on how drone photography and our perception of constantly being under the drone's gaze might lead to a radical shift in our collective perception (drawing comparison to Uccello's revolutionary work with perspective in Art) was also fascinating. While the focus is on installation art/media/photography, some collateral discussion of the psychic effects of engaging in drone warfare also did come up. Guerrilla (but legal) tactics for thwarting observation and recognition by drones was also given in the text, tinging the theory with a welcome and unexpected practical element. On the whole, this was a fascinating, well-thought out and handsomely designed excursion into a new field of aesthetic inquiry. Recommended.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Zev Carter

  3. 4 out of 5

    Finn

  4. 5 out of 5

    Maysam

  5. 4 out of 5

    Sarah

  6. 5 out of 5

    Mikhail Domozhilov

  7. 4 out of 5

    Kaleb Lyda

  8. 5 out of 5

    maria

  9. 4 out of 5

    Kim

  10. 4 out of 5

    Merowero

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