While everyone’s attention this week seems to have been captured by Pitch Interactive’s remarkable graphic of US drone strikes in Pakistan, Out of sight, Out of mind, Elspeth Van Veeren provides a timely reminder that there are other ways to visualise done warfare – all the more important given the central role that visual feeds play in the ‘dwell-detect-destroy’ assemblage.
In a succinct and helpful online review she brings together several of the art projects I’ve written about in previous posts, including Omar Fast‘s video Five Thousand Feet Is The Best, Noor Behram‘s photographs from Waziristan and James Bridle‘s Dronestagram, and provides a suggestive argument about the visual politics involved:
If drones are to be understood and debated, we need to pay attention to the ways in which visual politics plays into these debates. How are drones visualized? How are the politics of drone warfare made sensible? Drones as things enter into our world through the ways in which they are talked about, but also the way they are represented, repeated and circulated. They become objects and images through which we think. Their different perspectives – drone thing, drone vision, dronestream, and droneshadow – offer different and in some ways competing imaginaries of drones….
Paying closer attention to these visual practices, to the sensible politics of drone warfare, offers a way to think through the many ways in which security and insecurity are produced. These drone imaginaries make drones visible and sensible, and in so doing they also tune us into the different people and identities that are connected with this technology. Imagining a drone also means imagining a viewpoint and there is more than one way to imagine a drone.
Elspeth develops her argument about visualization and politics in depth and detail in a paper she is presenting in a panel on Visualizing insecurity at the ISA Convention in San Francisco next month, ‘Drone imaginaries: There is more than one way to imagine a drone’, and you can download a working draft here (registration required). She also has a book in the works from Routledge, Security collisions.