Drones, or unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV), are becoming more and more frequent in conflict zones. For many people around the world, UAVs are a far-flung reality. Drone Shadows, a lifesize replica artwork by the writer, publisher, artist, and technologist James Bridle, is an interesting way in which to bring the subject to the public’s attention and create a conversation around drones.
The drawings have appeared around the world, from Brighton to Washington and, now, Dublin, as part of the exhibition DESIGN AND VIOLENCE. Drones have the potential to create mass casualties, and it is important to feature these unmanned spy machines in an area of the world where they aren’t an everyday sight.
Installing these simplistic looking drawings wasn’t without logistical challenges. Our first hurdle was deciding where to draw out the Drone Shadows, as they needed to able to be viewed from a height. Some proposed sites included Dublin Airport, Grand Canal Theatre and Three Arena. From a brain-stormed list of fifteen sites, we picked three areas: Smithfield Square, Store Street and Meeting House Square.
Next, we pitched the idea and proposed sites to Dublin City Council. Now, you may also be hesitant at the thoughts of letting 20-somethings run around the city and spray paint military drones on their streets; the local authorities understandably were. We let them know that we would use semi-permanent chalk spray paint that would wash off after a few weeks, and they were very understanding and accommodating. That brings us to our next obstacle: obtaining semi-permanent chalk spray paint, not your everyday item that could be bought from the corner shop. After running around and calling to all manner of hardware stores and paint suppliers, we eventually located our much-desired paint in an aerosol can just before we needed to set out to construct our Smithfield Square drone.
Right, so we had Dublin City Council approval, we had all our equipment, we had our build team… now, we needed to figure out how to create this mammoth unmanned vehicle on the ground. We had a small straight-line stencil and a tarp stencil that was cut out into the shape of the head and tail of the beast, but we needed to connect them all together. This involved a lot of secondary-school maths, including Pythagoras’s theorem — I know, we never thought we’d use that in the real world, but there you go.
You might be thinking there’s one missing factor that may have impeded our swift completion of these drawings; something every Irish person must battle with… the weather! After the completion of the Smithfield Square drone, the weather began to turn. Winter had arrived. Build days were pushed back because of sudden snow and rain. Thankfully, our patience paid off and we were gifted a one-day window of no rain after weeks of bad weather. We set off for Store Street, dealing with delayed taxis, lugging around large equipment by hand and answering queries from inquisitive Gardaí, wondering why we were constructing an outline of a massive drone outside their station.
Finally, the last drone was completed in Meeting House Square as the light was fading and the unanticipated rain started to fall. We finished the drawing and quickly scampered around frantically to fill in rain-washed areas of the drone, while wildly sprinting around and sheltering freshly painted areas with the stencil — all to get the perfect photograph, which you can see below.