An exhibit seeks to raise public awareness of the anonymous killing machines.
At the High Line, a popular tourist attraction in New York City, visitors to the west side of Lower Manhattan ascend above street level to what was once an elevated freight train line and is now a tranquil and architecturally intriguing promenade. Here walkers enjoy a park-like openness where they can experience urban beauty, art, and the wonder of comradeship.
In late May, a Predator drone replica, appearing suddenly above the High Line promenade at 30th Street, might seem to scrutinize people below. The "gaze" of the sleek, white sculpture by Sam Durant, called "Untitled (drone)," in the shape of the U.S. military's Predator killer drone, will sweep unpredictably over the people below, rotating atop its 25-foot-high steel pole, its direction guided by the wind.
Unlike the real Predator, it won't carry two Hellfire missiles and a surveillance camera. The drone's death-delivering features are omitted from Durant's sculpture. Nevertheless, he hopes it will generate discussion.
"Untitled (drone)" is meant to animate questions "about the use of drones, surveillance, and targeted killings in places far and near," said Durant in a statement "and whether as a society we agree with and want to continue these practices."
Durant regards art as a place for exploring possibilities and alternatives.
In 2007, a similar desire to raise questions about remote killing motivated New York artist Wafaa Bilal, now a professor at NYU's Tisch Gallery, to lock himself in a cubicle where, for a month, and at any hour of the day, he could be remotely targeted by a paint-ball gun blast. Anyone on the Internet who chose to could shoot at him.
He was shot at more than 60,000 times by people from 128 different countries. Bilal called the project "Domestic Tension." In a resulting book, Shoot an Iraqi: Art Life and Resistance Under the Gun, Bilal and co-author Kary Lydersen chronicled the remarkable outcome of the "Domestic Tension" project.
Along with descriptions of constant paint-ball attacks against Bilal, they wrote of the Internet participants who instead wrestled with the controls to keep Bilal from being shot. And they described the death of Bilal's brother, Hajj, who was killed by a U.S. air to ground missile in 2004.
Grappling with the terrible vulnerability to sudden death felt by people all across Iraq, Bilal, who grew up in Iraq, with this exhibit chose to partly experience the pervasive fear of being suddenly, and without warning, attacked remotely. He made himself vulnerable to people who might wish him harm.
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