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Remote Control: Surveying Drones and Culture Today

February 9 – 11, 2022
Location

Online via Zoom

High Line Art, the Vera List Center for Art and Politics at The New School, and writer and researcher Arthur Holland Michel present Remote Control: Surveying Drones and Culture Today, a symposium examining contemporary intersections of drones and drone warfare, arts, and culture. The symposium takes place online and in person, featuring performances and conversations with artists, leading experts, activists, academics, and practitioners across diverse disciplines. The symposium is hosted in concert with Sam Durant’s High Line Plinth commission Untitled (drone), a large-scale art commission that intends to increase visibility around intentionally obscured drone warfare and surveillance perpetuated by the US.

Event Details and Recordings

Soundscapes of Conflict
Wednesday, February 9, 6 – 7pm ET
Online via Zoom
Panel discussion featuring Guillermo Galindo, composer and artist; and Raven Chacon, artist, composer; moderated by Christoph Cox, philosopher, critic, and curator.

People living in conflict zones rarely see the drones that pose a perpetual aerial threat to their safety, but they hear them constantly. A menacing sound coming from the sky is often cited as a principal facet of the embodied experience of drone warfare. This sonic awareness stands in direct contrast to the visual experience of those piloting the drone, who engage with their “targets” through a completely soundless aerial view. This panel will explore these tensions and intersections and the ways they illuminate the human costs of living under warfare.

* POSTPONED *
Performance: Guillermo Galindo, Remote Control
Remote Control is a sonic representation of an alternative reality. Just like a video game, the performance is a virtual rendition of a video war game. The work is performed by a string quartet accompanied by a digital soundtrack played by members of the audience through their cell phones, tablets, or any other audio or audiovisual playback devices available. This piece was commissioned for Fifty for the Future: The Kronos Learning Repertoire, a project of the Kronos Performing Arts Association. The score and parts are available for free online at kronosquartet.org. Co-presented in partnership with The Clemente , Remote Control is performed by a student quartet from The New School.

Imaging War: Drones from the Ground
Thursday, February 10, 12–1:30pm ET
Online via Zoom
Panel discussion featuring Hajra Waheed, artist; Aziz Hazara, artist; Saks Afridi and Ali Rez, artists and collaborators; moderated by Muheb Esmat, writer and curator.

Depictions of drone warfare in Western and American media diverge widely, sometimes diametrically, from the imagery used by artists to describe life under drone warfare, creating a stark duality of image experience. The medium and presentation of these images, whether analog or digital, capture and express the fractured perspectives on the subject.

Aerial Empowerment: Drones for Art, Activism, and Collective Journalism
Thursday, February 10, 3–4:30 pm ET

Online via Zoom
Panel discussion featuring activist and Women’s Indigenous Media director Brooke Waukau, Syrian activist Monther Etaky, and filmmaker & artist Alon Sicherman; moderated by artist Sean Vegezzi

While the military and surveillant uses drones can have a profoundly disempowering effect on those at ground level, a growing community of activists, artists and journalists has been using consumer-level drones to record government and corporate activities that would be too difficult or dangerous to unmask by other means. Join three artists and activists in a discussion of the empowering possibilities of these novel aerial instruments and their implications for the broader discourse on technology, power and surveillance.

Algorithms and Warfare
Thursday, February 10, 6–7:30 pm ET
Online via Zoom
Panel discussion featuring Lucy Suchman, Professor Emerita, Anthropology of Science and Technology, Lancaster University, UK; and Erik Lin-Greenberg, Assistant Professor, Political Science, Massachusetts Institute of Technology; and international human rights advocate Taniel Yusef; moderated by Arthur Holland Michel, writer and researcher

Militaries around the globe are investing heavily in artificial intelligence and related technologies to automate the conduct of war, heralding a new age of drone warfare that further removes the human decision maker from the effects of their actions. Tracking these developments into the future, this discussion will explore the contested ethical implications of algorithmic warfighting, and what it means for peace, security, and the fundamental right to life.

Artist Talk with Sam Durant and Omer Fast
Friday, February 11, 12 pm ET
Online via Zoom
Panel discussion featuring artist Sam Durant; and artist Omer Fast moderated by Melanie Kress, High Line Art Associate Curator

Join artist Sam Durant, whose High Line Plinth commission Untitled (drone) has inspired this symposium, alongside Omer Fast, whose 2011 work 5,000 Feet is Best has been a touchstone for artworks addressing drone warfare for over ten years.

Surfacing the War on Terror Today
Friday, February 11, 3–4:30 pm ET
Online via Zoom
Panel discussion featuring Hina Shamsi, Director, ACLU National Security Project; Chantal Meloni, International Crimes and Accountability, European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights (ECCHR); Spencer Ackerman, journalist and author; and filmmaker & journalist Sonia Kennebeck; moderated by Madiha Tahir, journalist and filmmaker

Two decades after the United States launched its “War on Terror,” this global campaign of surveillance and violence continues to disproportionately target certain ethno-religious groups domestically and abroad, through instruments operating outside the channels of government accountability, all in the name of domestic security. Charting the evolution of this largely invisible war and the central role that drones have played in enabling its international reach, this panel will lay out the state of counterterrorism policy today under the presidency of Joe Biden and look towards upcoming legal challenges in the US and in Europe, an oft-overlooked player in the realm of drone warfare.



Closing Speaker: activist Kathy Kelly

Friday, February 11, 4:30 pm ET
Online via Zoom

Kathy Kelly’s peace activism has led her to war zones and prisons over the past 35 years. She lived in Baghdad throughout the 2003 Shock and Awe bombing, and in Gaza during the 2009 Operation Cast Lead. With Voices for Creative Nonviolence, she has visited Pakistan to interview victims of U.S. drone attacks and, from 2010–2019, traveled 25 times to Afghanistan, where she and her companions learned from ordinary people about casualties of U.S. war and occupation. She served three months in prison, in 2016, for attempting to deliver a letter and a loaf of bread to the commander of Whiteman Air Force Base regarding drone attacks against Afghan civilians. She co-coordinates the Ban Killer Drones campaign, bankillerdrones.org.


Support

Partners

Remote Control: Surveying Drones and Culture Today is organized by High Line Art and the Vera List Center for Art and Politics at The New School, in collaboration with writer and researcher Arthur Holland Michel. The symposium is convened by High Line Art in the context of artist Sam Durant‘s High Line Plinth commission Untitled (drone) and the Vera List Center’s As for Protocols Focus Theme and was preceded by As for Protocols Seminar 7: Drones and the Bird’s-Eye View, September 20, 2021.
Vera List Center for Art and Politics at The New School
The Vera List Center for Art and Politics is a research center and a public forum for art, culture, and politics. It was established at The New School in 1992—a time of rousing debates about freedom of speech, identity politics, and society’s investment in the arts. A pioneer in the field, the center is a nonprofit that serves a critical mission: to foster a vibrant and diverse community of artists, scholars, and policymakers who take creative, intellectual, and political risks to bring about positive change.
The Clemente
The Clemente
The Clemente Soto Vélez Cultural and Educational Center, aka The Clemente, is a Puerto Rican and Latinx cultural space rooted in the Lower East Side. We connect and co-create with contemporary artists, cultural workers and small arts organizations by offering subsidized studios, exhibition, rehearsal, office and venue spaces; and produce our own programming in a spirit of responsiveness, heritage conversation and provocative collaboration.

Arthur Holland Michel
Arthur Holland Michel is a Peruvian-born writer and researcher whose work investigates the implications of artificial intelligence, uninhabited systems, and advanced surveillance technologies. His first book, EYES IN THE SKY, was published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt in 2019. Arthur is a founder of the Center for the Study of the Drone, a research institute at Bard College in New York State where he served as co-director from 2012 to 2020.

Support

The Vera List Center’s participation in Remote Control is made possible, in part, by The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, the Ford Foundation, and the Kettering Fund as well as the members of the Vera List Center Board and The New School.

Lead support for High Line Art comes from Amanda and Don Mullen. Major support is provided by Shelley Fox Aarons and Philip E. Aarons, The Brown Foundation, Inc. of Houston, and Charina Endowment Fund. Additional support is provided by The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts. High Line Art is supported in part, with a grant from the National Endowment of the Arts and with public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the New York City Council, under the leadership of Speaker Corey Johnson.

Major support for the High Line Plinth is provided by members of the High Line Plinth Committee and contemporary art leaders committed to realizing major commissions and engaging in the public success of the Plinth: Shelley Fox Aarons and Philip E. Aarons, Jennifer and Jonathan Allan Soros, Elizabeth Belfer, Suzanne Deal Booth, Fairfax Dorn, Steve Ells, Kerianne Flynn, Andy and Christine Hall, Hermine Riegerl Heller and David B. Heller, J. Tomilson and Janine Hill, The Holly Peterson Foundation, Annie Hubbard and Harvey Schwartz, Miyoung Lee and Neil Simpkins, Dorothy Lichtenstein, Amanda and Don Mullen, Douglas Oliver and Sherry Brous, Mario Palumbo and Stefan Gargiulo, Susan and Stephen Scherr, Susan and David Viniar, and Anonymous.