This book investigates drone technology from a humanities point of view by exploring how civilian and military drones are represented in visual arts and literature. It opens up a new aesthetic ‘drone imaginary’, a prism of cultural and critical knowledge, through which the complex interplay between drone technology and human communities is explored, and from which its historical, cultural and political dimensions can be assessed. The contributors to this volume offer diverse approaches to this interdisciplinary field of aesthetic drone imaginaries. Sprouting from art history, literature, photography, feminism, postcolonialism and cultural studies, the chapters provide new insights to the rapidly evolving field of drone studies. They include historical perspectives on early unmanned aviation and aerial modes of vision; they explore aesthetic configurations of drone swarming, robotics and automation; and they engage in current debates on how drone technology alters the human body, upsets available categories, and creates new political imaginaries.
Lisa Parks and Caren Kaplan, a work that does indeed span the breadth of humanities disciplines to include historical, colonial, gendered and networked perceptions of drones. While the contributions to Parks’s and Kaplan’s volume engage with non-Western representations of drone war, this perspective is even more thoroughly unfolded in Ronak K. Kapadia’s recent book Insurgent Aesthetics: Security and the Queer Life of the Forever War (2019), which conceptualises the world-making power of contemporary art responses to US militarism in the Middle East. There is no
This book offers a unique and timely reading of the early Frankfurt School in response to the recent 'affective turn' within the arts and humanities. It revisits some of the founding tenets of critical theory in the context of the establishment of the Institute for Social Research in the early twentieth century. The book focuses on the work of Walter Benjamin, whose varied engagements with the subject of melancholia prove to be far more mobile and complex than traditional accounts. It also looks at how an affective politics underpins critical theory's engagement with the world of objects, exploring the affective politics of hope. Situating the affective turn and the new materialisms within a wider context of the 'post-critical', it explains how critical theory, in its originary form, is primarily associated with the work of the Frankfurt School. The book presents an analysis of Theodor Adorno's form of social critique and 'conscious unhappiness', that is, a wilful rejection of any privatized or individualized notion of happiness in favour of a militant and political discontent. A note on the timely reconstruction of early critical theory's own engagements with the object world via aesthetics and mimesis follows. The post-Cold War triumphalism of many on the right, accompanied by claims of the 'end of history', created a sense of fearlessness, righteousness, and unfettered optimism. The book notes how political realism has become the dominant paradigm, banishing utopian impulses and diminishing political hopes to the most myopic of visions.
turning the aesthetic gaze back on the medium of representation and its means of production, drones betray a modernist rather than a postmodernist aesthetic. 15 Crucial in this regard is the foregrounding of the grid, the ultimate modernist schema, which, as Rosalind E. Krauss argues, ‘states the autonomy of the realm of art. Flattened, geometricised, ordered, it is antinatural, antimimetic, antireal’. 16 In a tribute to Kracauer’s aesthetics or the planar networks of de Stijl, Mondrian, or Malevich, the American news weekly Time commemorated its 11 June, 2018
, ‘Necropolitics’, 40.
63 L. Parks, ‘Vertical mediation and the US drone war in the Horn of Africa’, in Parks and Kaplan (eds), Life in the Age of Drone Warfare , 145.
64 Mbembe, ‘Necropolitics’, 21.
65 J. Butler, Precarious Life: The Powers of Mourning and Violence (London: Verso, 2004) , 91.
66 Stubblefield, Drone Art , 33.
67 P. Adey, ‘Making the drone strange: The politics, aesthetics and surrealism of levitation’, Geographica Helvetica 71 (2016) : 320.
68 Adey, ‘Making the drone strange’, 321.
69 Haraway, ‘Promises of monsters’, 300.
beings and their sad belongings, the photos thus uncover a changed Europe and address an inconvenient truth about how we as Europeans protect our Western communities against immigration. Through its clean aesthetics and distanced gaze, the drone captures this tension by mirroring the governmental view from above, which sees no individuals, only faceless numbers.
Andreas Immanuel Graae and Rasmus Degnbol first became acquainted in 2016 when they both spoke at a drone conference at the H. C. Andersen Airport in Odense, Denmark. Since then they have developed a
Nineteenth-century hot air balloons as early drones
the physiological mechanisms of the human eye: the windows as an eye’s lens, the basket as the eye’s posterior chamber, and the ropes as its optic nerve. Depending on the balloon’s position and the surrounding atmospheric conditions, the lens can adjust its visual acuity. Sometimes, the view is crystal clear against the blue sky; at other times, in clouds and fog, visibility is low. 13 Giannozzo, as the balloon’s captain, seems to be a part of this balloon eye. The text names him as the black head with green coat. 14 Translating this image into the aesthetics of
Repellent Fence and trans-Indigenous time-space at the US–Mexico border
excess of immediacy’. 67 Balloons produce as well as move through atmospheres, opening elemental spaces to new forms of perception. Difficult to control, floating serenely away from their launch site or fighting against their tether as the wind attempts to move them, balloons inspire both delight and unease.
Due to these inherent properties, conceptual artists, especially in the late 1960s, explored the relationship between gaseous bodies, atmospheres, and materiality by working with balloons. Linked to the protest aesthetics of the era, balloons offered artist
exists beyond representation that can give justice to the demand to be seen and recognised by (one) another.
1 E. Weizman, ‘Introduction, part II: Matter against memory’, in S. Sheikh, Forensis: The Architecture of Public Truth (Berlin: Sternberg Press, 2014) , 372.
2 W. J. T. Mitchell, ‘Foundational sites and occupied spaces’, in: W. J. T. Mitchell, Image Science: Iconology, Visual Culture, and Media Aesthetics (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2015) , 160.
3 For a selection of operators’ testimonies see B. Bryant, ‘Letter from a sensor
Topographies of terror: photography and the
post-Celtic Tiger landscape
The title of this chapter is a sort of homage to Luke Gibbons’s examination of eighteenth-century landscape aesthetics and Romanticism in
Ireland (Gibbons 1996). In the essay from which the title is borrowed,
and in several other subsequent publications, Gibbons has examined
those moments when the collision of cultures brought about by the violence of colonialism has stimulated the complex intersection of aesthetics and politics in philosophical thought, literature and the