The SCA's Claudette Lauzon will be presenting a talk, titled Drones Gone Wild, and Other Unruly Bodies of War: A Contemporary Art History, as part of the Vancouver Institute for Social Research's (VISR) Fall 2016 Term, which is dedicated to the theme "On Civil War and Resistance."
"In one of the opening scenes of Christopher Nolan’s 2014 film Interstellar, set in 2067, the protagonist Cooper is driving through a rural landscape with his children when his pickup truck gets a flat tire. Suddenly a drone appears—Cooper identifies it as a solar-powered Indian Air Force drone—and they set about chasing it through cornfields. It never becomes clear why a decommissioned drone is flying over the American mid-west; however, it’s suggested in the narrative that it may have been forgotten in the drawdown after a global resources war and thus left to its own devices, flying aimlessly around the world for ten years until Cooper manages to wrangle it with his digital lariat. This presentation is largely inspired by this wandering drone, which provokes the question: What happens when drones fly off course? Lose their way? Reject or fail their mission? Specifically, I am interested in art and cultural practices of the past few years that feature drones behaving randomly and unpredictably. How might such art practices—from the likes of Wafaa Bilal, Roman Signer and Laurent Grasso, among others—be understood to inform and complicate mainstream narratives regarding the presumed virtuality and virtuosity of drone warfare? I suggest that certain contemporary art practices call attention to the fictions that sustain drone technology as a so-called precise, virtual and decorporealized site of military engagement, and challenge these fictions by concretizing the bodies and spaces of war in all its messy, unruly materiality."