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Sunday, June 30, 2013

Drone art at the Corcoran

Drones at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum/Patricia Leslie

An art exhibit on drones closes July 7.
At the Corcoran Gallery of Art recently, about 100 turned out to hear Londoner James Bridle, artist, writer, and humanist, deliver a talk, “A Quiet Disposition,” about his self education on drones.  It was the launch for Mr. Bridle's exhibit on "unmanned aerial vehicles," which, among other things, are used to kill, herd livestock, help with land surveys, and assist in fire and crime prevention.
Five research-based projects form the basis of the show which include digital installations and training tools to identify drones.  Mr. Bridle, 33, coined the term new aesthetic.

With its proximity to the White House, the Corcoran makes an excellent drone art site at the corner of 17th and E where Mr. Bridle, with the aid of Corcoran staff, outlined a drone's silhouette. He is replicating drone sizes and educating people about them around the world. 
At the Corcoran's corner at 17th and E streets with a drone shadow outlined on the sidewalk.  Across the street and to the left are White House grounds/Corcoran Gallery of Art

A drone's shadow in Istanbul, 2012/James Bridle
In his talk Mr. Bridle presented drone images and information, part of his expanding knowledge about them, all of which he obtained from public sources.  
James Bridle speaking at the Corcoran Gallery of Art with a photograph he created. Public photographs of drones firing weapons are not available...unless, unless...Mr. Snowden?/Patricia Leslie
Rather than an angry mob burning an effigy at the stake, Pakistanis were pictured burning a drone in a photograph Mr. Bridle put up on the screen along with a headline from the Washington Post about America's "kill lists." [One estimate numbers drone attacks in Pakistan over nine+ years to be more than 350.  The number of deaths range from about 2,000 to 3,300.]
A lack of visual sense of what drones do is unsettling, Mr. Bridle said, whereas battlefield engagements are photographed and can be widely available.  This is "not a local issue," he said. "These are everywhere." 
The Smithsonian label says this one, the "Predator," flew 196 reconnaissance and attack missions over Afghanistan.  Designed for combat, it also "served" over Iraq and the Balkans/Patricia Leslie
[In the U.S. 42 state legislatures have debated their use, and six states have enacted drone laws. Click here for a report by the ACLU.]  
Before his talk Mr. Bridle visited the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum to check out its drones, a visit which he found “a deeply strange experience.” 
This drone, now an "antique," retired in 1999.  It's the RQ-3A "DarkStar," reminiscent of a giant stingray in the sky/Patricia Leslie
Mr. Bridle has initiated what he terms “dronestagrams” to record drone locations and strikes.  The results are not perfect but fairly close to reality, he said.
When the military considered honoring drone operators with a medal to be ranked higher than the Purple Heart, veterans objected.  After all, the operators guide their strikes from inside air-conditioned trailers hundreds or thousands of miles away from battlefields where troops fight, die, and are maimed.  However, Mr. Bridle said drone operators experience higher levels of stress. 
This is the X-45A, the first modern UAV, which flew 40 sorties, now at the Air and Space Museum.  Overheard at the museum:  A man said to his wife:  "Honey, come and look.  Here's what they spying on us with."/Patricia Leslie

The X-45A has two weapons bays/Patricia Leslie
Looking up at the X-45A/Patricia Leslie

“What interests the public is not necessarily in the interest of the public,” said Mr. Bridle. 
After Mr. Bridle's talk he answered questions from the audience, and then everyone walked over to a lovely reception in Gallery 31, the drone site at the Corcoran. It is not a huge show, but an enlightening one where you’ll learn something about drones. It sent me straight to the Air and Space Museum and scared me out of my wits.  What's left.
After a lapse of several years of dormancy while it debated mission and location, it is exciting to see the Corcoran come to life again, with an invigorated staff and events and to know it’s staying put, not to be converted to a hotel or drone landing pad at the White House.  
Welcome, Corcoran, to the new Drone World!  While you were napping, strange things were happening, and even stranger things now.  Please stand by.
Also at the Corcoran through September 29: War/Photography:  Images of Armed Conflict and Its Aftermath.
What:  A Quiet Disposition
When:  Through July 7, Wednesday - Sunday, 10 a.m. - 5 p.m., with a late closing on Wednesday night at 9 p.m.
Where: Corcoran College of Art and Design and Gallery of Art, 500 17th Street, N.W. Washington, D.C. 20006
How much:  Gallery 31 is free, and the Corcoran's Gallery of Art is free on Saturday (in the summer) and on other days (the Corcoran is closed on Monday and Tuesday) admission is $10.75 for students and seniors, and $12.75 for adults via Ticketmaster
For more information: 202-639-1700
Metro stations:  Farragut North or Farragut West

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