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Drone Vision: Warfare, Surveillance, Protest

Director of Research

Dr Sarah Tuck
E-mail: sarah.tuck@akademinvaland.gu.se


The two year (2016-2018) research project Drone Vision: Warfare, Surveillance, Protest considers how drone technologies impact on photography and human rights, opening up questions about the vertical dimensions of surveillance, warfare and protest. Utilising an expanded comprehension of photography as image and data, the research will explore the impact of drone vision on human rights and the construction of public space and publics.

Conceived as two distinct and interconnected strands of public engagement, the project draws on curation as a research method. One strand, a series of public research events will bring together researchers and activists from across disciplines and sectors to facilitate a multidisciplinary enquiry into the distributed modes of seeing and being seen in real time that drones activate. The second and interconnected strand will explore the range of contemporary visual artists’ response to drone vision – where drones are both the object of the artwork, a thing to be looked at and a viewing machine, a subject to be looked with.

In bringing together researchers, artists and activists, the research will consider the new visuality emerging with drone technologies and the visual and material consequences of images from above as part of a strategy that redefines warfare, surveillance and the infrastructure for protest.

Drone Vision

The research project Drone Vision (2016-2018), a collaborative initiative between Valand Academy and Hasselblad Foundation explores the affects and implications of drone technologies on warfare, surveillance and protest. Of particular interest is how drone technologies impact on conceptualisations of human rights and the ways in which the affective meanings of drone vision are marked by emotional, ethical, political and social mediations, not least the lived experience and effects of conflict, and the proximity and physical distance to drone warfare. As such it is an attempt to bring critical debates on drone technologies more fully into line with the proliferating verticalities of urban development and surveillance, and the corollary of US led drone warfare that targets the ‘Muslim’ body and is co-extensive with the increased Islamophobia in the cultures of everyday life in the West.

In order to avoid any totalising logic of sovereign politics or the affective meaning of seeing without being seen, a series of roundtables with international photo based artists, critical theorists, and activists will be hosted in Gothenburg in 2017 to consider drone vision in the dual dimension of colonial use and decolonial potential. The material from the three roundtables will be published on the partner websites in Sweden, Cyprus and Pakistan as part of a shared research process that will culminate in a triptytch of exhibitions in 2018 at the Hasselblad Center, Gothenburg, Sweden, Nicosia Municipal Arts Centre, Nicosia, Cyprus and the Zahoor Ul Akhlaq Gallery in Lahore, Pakistan.

While the curatorial research led by Hasselblad Center, Nicosia Municipal Arts Centre and the Zahoor Ul Akhlaq Gallery is shaped by the same questioning of the colonial use and the decolonial potential of drone technology, the resultant exhibitions in each gallery will be informed by the artists commissioned and the complex realpolitik and histories of place. In this way the curated research will look to explore if and how drone vision can be mobilised as part of a pedagogical political culture of being in common that has effects on political and artistic praxis and counters the vertical cartographies of imperial expansion and drone warfare.

About Sarah Tuck

Dr Sarah Tuck (BA English and Drama 1986, MA in Theatre 1989, PhD 2015) is a curator and researcher. Her research and practice is based within the area of socially engaged practice, curation and theory. Her work in this area has included leading CREATE, the national development agency for collaborative arts in Ireland, to the publishing and dissemination of ideas on the “public sphere”, agonism and the “curatorial” as a mode of enquiry, cultural production and critical research practice.

She is the author of After the Agreement – Contemporary Photography in Northern Ireland (Black Dog Publishing 2015) a curated research project which explores the affective meanings of images and the socio-political context of post Agreement.

Research projects and exhibitions include: eighth edition of UUFAD (Ulster University Festival of Art and Design) 2016 ; exhibition of Malcolm Craig Gilbert’s Post Traumatic Exorcism and Flashbacks: Irrational Fears of the Ordinary exploring the effects of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and the histories of the Troubles in Northern Ireland, Work Gallery, London 2015; research director Cultural Diversity and the Arts: Towards the development of an Arts Council policy and action plan, a 2 year research project funded by the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform for the Arts Council of Ireland, 2008-2009; and the strategic development of the LIFT Enquiry (London International Festival of Theatre) that aimed to critically locate, historicise, and reformulate the biennial festival model and, in the process critically assess LIFT’s past, its potential for continued relevance, and its future for the production and presentation of contemporary art 2001-2005.

In 2015 Sarah was appointed a Practitioner Fellow with the Crick Centre at the University of Sheffield to support public understanding of politics (broadly defined) in a manner that cultivates engagement and debate.

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