13 December 2013

We Annihilate Remotely

The subject of military espionage, drones, surveillance and the like has captured the attention of a number of real life artists, most interestingly Harun Farocki, whose 2011 one-person exhibition at MoMA explored the military apparatus in a fascinatingly detached way. In Second Life, the Galerie Artemis now presents Nino Vichan's We Annihilate Remotely (the title letters forming the acrostic WAR), an impressive visual environment of motion and sound on two levels, Control Room and Killing Fields. The notecard accompanying the exhibition suggests that society improperly endorses drone warfare as moral, adding, "Individuals who choose moral action are popularly held to possess 'moral fiber', whereas those who indulge in immoral behavior may be labeled as socially degenerate."

Photographs will do little to capture the very active movement in either of these spaces—in the first, with its circuit board references and rows of dizzyingly fast moving 0s and 1s (top and bottom images), or in the second, darker space, with its red digits and flying ships, somewhat hidden against the blackness, that send searchlight beams out toward visitors (middle image). It's a lot to look at, and technically superb, but, like Inara Pey, who wrote a thoughtful piece on her blog, I'm not strongly convinced that the artwork makes a tangible connection to its intended subject. (In fact, if I hadn't know the subject was drones, I probably wouldn't have made the link, although the Killing Fields level does suggest surveillance.) Still, it's visually captivating and I recommend a visit.

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