The Airspace Tribunal

News of a project dear to my research (and my heart):

Towards a new human right to protect the freedom to exist without a physical or psychological threat from above

by The Wapping Project

Doughty Street Chambers, 54 Doughty Street, London WC1N 2LS

21st September 2018, 10.00 AM – 4.30 PM

Over the last century, humans have radically transformed airspace: chemically, territorially, militarily and psychologically. Technological developments mean that this transformation is accelerating and growing in complexity. There is widening disparity in the global landscape of power, with civilians increasingly subject to expanding commercial and military exploitation of technology in airspace and outer space and to the consequences of environmental change. The associated threats are not adequately addressed by the contemporary legal framework. There is an urgent need for new thinking.[1]

The Airspace Tribunal invites representations from experts across a broad range of disciplines and lived experience, such as human rights, contemporary warfare, new media ecologies, environmental change, neuropsychology, conflict and forced migration, to discuss the challenges and consider the case for and against the recognition of a new human right to protect the freedom to exist without physical or psychological threat from above.

Speakers include:

  • Nick Grief –  member of the legal team that represented the Marshall Islands and took the UK, India and Pakistan to the International Court of Justice for violating their nuclear disarmament obligations;
  • Conor Gearty – professor of human rights law who has published extensively on terrorism, civil liberties and human rights;
  • Andrew Hoskins – media sociologist known for his work on media, memory and conflict;
  • Martin A. Conway – cognitive neuropsychologist and expert on human memory and the law;
  • Shona Illingworth –  artist whose video and sound installations investigate memory, cultural erasure and structures of power in situations of social tension and conflict;
  • Maya Mamish – psychologist researching integration and well-being of Syrian youth affected by armed conflict and displacement;
  • Melanie Klinkner – transitional justice scholar majoring in international criminal justice with a background in philosophy, anthropology and biology;
  • William Merrin, a specialist in digital media and author of ‘Digital War’.

Conceived and developed by Nick Grief and Shona Illingworth, the Airspace Tribunal’s judges will include members of the public, challenging the traditional state-centric view of how international law is created. The hearings will be recorded and transcribed to document the drafting history of this proposed new human right.

The Airspace Tribunal is part of Topologies of Air, a major new artwork by Shona Illingworth, extract above, commissioned by The Wapping Project, that will be exhibited at The Power Plant, Toronto, in 2020 (more here: scroll down).

The London hearing of the Airspace Tribunal is supported by the University of Kent, The Wapping Project and Doughty Street Chambers.

[1] See Nick Grief, Shona Illingworth, Andrew Hoskins and Martin A. Conway, Opinion, ‘The Airspace Tribunal: Towards a New Human Right to Protect the Freedom to Exist Without Physical or Psychological Threat from Above’, European Human Rights Law Review, Issue 3 (2018) , pp 201.  You can download the brief via the War & Media Network (to whom I owe all this info) here.

Space is limited and booking is essential here.

Drone imaginaries and Society

The programme for the conference on Drone Imaginaries and Society at the University of Southern Denmark in Odense has just been released:

Tuesday, June 5, 2018

9:30 Welcome and introduction: Drone Imaginaries and Society – Kathrin Maurer, Daniela Agostinho

10:00 – 12:15 Session 1: Drone Art

Thomas Stubblefield, Signature Strikes: Drone Art and World-Making
Jan Mieszkowski, Drones and the Big Data Sublime

13:00 – 15:15 Session 2: Seeing with Drones

Svea Braeunert, Forms of the Unseen: Hito Steyerl’s Documents of Drone Warfare

Rasmus Degnbol, Photographing Europe’s Border Change from Above

15:45 – 17:45 Session 3: Drones and Social Communities

Jutta Weber, Social Radar: On Drones and Data Science
Dan Gettinger and Arthur Holland, Drone Art: What it Means, Why it Matters, and Where it’s Going

Wednesday, June 6, 2018

9:15 – 11:30 Session 4: Drone Art and Surveillance 

Tomas van Houtryve, Blue Sky Days
Sarah Tuck, Drone Vision: Warfare, Surveillance and Protest

12:15 – 14:30 Session 5: Drones and Gender Politics 

Lauren Wilcox, Queering War: The Gender Politics of the Drone
Claudette Lauzon, The Objects of Drone Warfare: A Feminist Art History

14.45 – 16:00 KEYNOTE 

Derek Gregory, Sweet Target…Sweet Child: Aerial Violence and the Imaginaries of Remote Warfare

The conference is free of charge, but you need to register for it here; more information here.

‘This is too much’

“The Nameless Ones, 1914” (1916) by Albin Egger-Lienz. Painted during World War I, the artwork depicts advancing figures so bowed-down that their bodies almost blend with the earth beneath them. Credit: Heeresgeschichtliches Museum, Vienna

I trailed Joanna Bourke‘s new edited collection, War and Art: a visual history of modern conflict (Reaktion Books/University of Chicago Press) in an earlier post.  You can now download the introduction here, and read an edited version (‘Paintings, protest and propaganda’) via CNN here.

War is the most destructive activity known to humanity. Its purpose is to use violence – plunder, forced migration, wounding, starvation and slaughter – to compel opponents to submit and surrender. Looking closely at military violence can itself be painful: along with Goya, we may simply exclaim, ‘This is is too much!’

Throughout history, though, the practice and representation of war have been intertwined: the ‘art of war’ refers both to the strategic aspects of military operations and to its depiction in artistic imaginaries.

 

War and the body

The papers for the special section of Critical Studies on Security addressing ‘Visual representations of war and violence’ and focusing on embodiment, expertly edited by Linda Roland Danil, are now online.

Linda provides an introductory essay, and the papers that follow are:

Derek Gregory, ‘Eyes in the sky – bodies on the ground’

Catherine Baker, ‘A different kind of power’? Identification, stardom and embodiments of the military in Wonder Woman

Helen Berents and Brendan Keogh, ‘Virtuous, virtual but not visceral: (dis)embodied viewing in military-themed video games

Kandida Purnell and Natasha Danilova, ‘Dancing at the frontline: Rosie Kay’s 5SOLDIERS de-realises and re-secures war’

Drone Imaginaries and Society

News from Kathrin Maurer of a conference on Drone Imaginaries and Society, 5-6 June 2018, at the University of Southern Denmark (Odense).  I’ll be giving a keynote, and look forward to the whole event very much (and not only because, while I’ve visited Denmark lots of times and loved every one of them, I’ve never made it to Odense):

Drones are in the air. The production of civilian drones for rescue, transport, and leisure activity is booming. The Danish government, for example, proclaimed civilian drones a national strategy in 2016. Accordingly, many research institutions as well as the industry focus on the development, usage, and promotion of drone technology. These efforts often prioritize commercialization and engineering as well as setting-up UAV (Unmanned Arial Vehicle) test centers. As a result, urgent questions regarding how drone technology impacts our identity as humans as well as their effects on how we envision the human society are frequently underexposed in these initiatives.

Our conference aims to change this perspective. By investigating cultural representations of civilian and military drones in visual arts, film, and literature, we intend to shed light on drone technology from a humanities’ point of view. This aesthetic “drone imaginary” forms not only the empirical material of our discussions but also a prism of knowledge which provides new insights into the meaning of drone technology for society today.

Several artists, authors, film makers, and thinkers have already engaged in this drone imaginary. While some of these inquiries provide critical reflection on contemporary and future drone technologies – for instance issues such as privacy, surveillance, automation, and security – others allow for alternative ways of seeing and communicating as well as creative re-imagination of new ways of organizing human communities. The goal of the conference is to bring together these different aesthetic imaginaries to better understand the role of drone technologies in contemporary and future societies.

 The focus points of the conference are:

–     Aesthetic drone imaginaries: Which images, metaphors, ethics, emotions and affects are associated to drones through their representation in art, fiction and popular culture?

–     Drone technology and its implications for society: How do drones change our daily routines and push the balance between publicity and privacy?

–     Historical perspective on drones: In what way do drone imaginaries allow for a counter-memory that can challenge, for instance, the military implementation of drones?

–     Drones as vulnerability: Do drones make societies more resilient or more fragile, and are societies getting overly dependent on advanced technologies?

     Utopian or dystopian drone imaginaries: What dream or nightmare scenarios are provided by drone fiction and how do they allow for a (re)imagining of future societies?

–     Drones and remote sensing: In what way do drones mark a radical new way of seeing and sensing by their remotely vertical gaze and operative images?

     Drone warfare: Do drones mark a continuation or rupture of the way we understand war and conflict, and how do they change the military imaginary?

The conference is sponsored by the Drone Network (Danish Research Council) and Institute for the Study of Culture at the University of Southern Denmark.

 You can contact Kathrin at  kamau@sdu.dk

The conference website is here.

Pictures of war

An interesting CFP for a conference next spring on Pictures of war: the still image in conflict since 1945:

Manchester Metropolitan University, Manchester UK
24th & 25th May 2018
(Deadline for CFP: January 12, 2018)

A conference on the intersections of conflict and pictures from the end of WWII until today.

Since the end of World War II, the nature and depiction of geopolitical conflicts have changed in technology, scale and character. The Cold War political landscape saw many struggles for liberation and national identity becoming proxy battlegrounds for the major powers. In the aftermath of anti-colonial conflicts, refugees and migrants who had relocated to the former metropolises joined those already fighting for civil equality in these countries. Wars continue to be waged in the name of democracy and terror, and in the interests of linguistic, theological and racial worldviews. Migration and displacement as a result of conflict are again at the top of the agenda.

As the technologies of war have shifted, so have the technologies of making pictures. This conference seeks to engage with these phenomena through critically engaged approaches to the processes of visualisation, their methodologies and epistemologies that will contribute to our understanding of the ways conflicts are pictured. The intention is to expand the field of enquiry beyond localised, thematic or media-specific approaches and to encourage new perspectives on the material and visual cultures of pictures.

We invite scholars, artists and activists interested in the study of images and pictures in their own right, with their own and admittedly interdependent discourses and visual and material capacities for producing knowledge and meaning (Mitchell, 2005). We are interested in presentations that consider the temporal and physical mobility of pictures and their visual, material, affective, political and economic value from multi and interdisciplinary positions.

Full details of themes, abstracts etc here and here.

Hersey Wars

I have very nearly finished the long-form version of ‘Little Boys and Blue Skies‘ (really), and en route I’ve re-read John Hersey‘s stunning essay on Hiroshima that took up a whole issue of the New Yorker in 1946 (you can read it online here).

As so often happens, to me anyway, I was lured down all sorts of other paths while I was digging around.  One of them, which looped back to my wider work on aerial violence, led me to another essay by Hersey.  In several of my presentations on bombing I’ve used this image from Life magazine on 27 December 1943:

But what I had missed was the author of the essay wrapped around Floyd Davis‘s image: it was John Hersey.  Called ‘Experience by Battle’ it accompanied a 32-page portfolio of paintings by six American war artists of different theatres of war.  ‘Each battleground and each type of warfare has a distinctive effect on the men it involves,’ Hersey wrote.  ‘The pictures bring out the differences.  They are universal war, but they are also particular war.’

Hersey explained that he wasn’t interested in artistic technique – he probably wasn’t the person to write about that – but in a combination of memory and mood.  In his view, a painting was ‘a kind of memory – of an event, of a place, of an idea – and if it is good, it will give the person who sees it a pang quite like that of a vivid memory.’

In order the theatres and artists were:

Guadalcanal (Dwight Shepler):

Submarine warfare (Paul Sample):

Hill 609 in Tunisia (Fletcher Martin):

The saturation bombing of Hamburg (Floyd Davis; shown at the top of this post)

Rendova (Aaron Bohrod):

Sicily (Mitchell Jamieson):

Hersey was a master at conveying the experience of war – it was precisely that gift that he used to such extraordinary effect in ‘Hiroshima’, and at a time when so many American writers and artists had turned their eyes away from Japan to imagine instead ‘Hiroshima USA’….

He also had a remarkable ability to imagine military violence  from both sides.  In the text that accompanies Davis’s painting of the saturation bombing of Hamburg, Hersey had this to say:

‘It was not for our fliers to see in their minds’ eyes that Hamburg was as bad as the seventh circle of Dante’s hell, where flakes of fire fell on naked sinners.  They could not afford to spend too much time imagining the scene in the tunnel under the Elbe River, where thousands of people had taken shelter, at the moment when a bomb burst one end and the water rushed in.  As fliers with an important job to do they could not afford to have nightmares about people driven from shelters by heat into an ocean of flame outside; or about the city gradually dying – water no longer running, gas gone out of the mains, telephones silent, buses stopped, food distribution crippled – finally a city populated by people either dead or blank in the face.’

It’s a remarkable passage, conjuring up what Hersey acknowledges the aircrews could not see and dared not imagine.  He later explained that in ‘Hiroshima’ he wanted to ‘write about what happened not to buildings but to bodies’…

And the final panel of the Life portfolio returns me to my current work on wounded bodies:

In case you are wondering – you can access the full run of Life via Google Books: it is a truly excellent resource.