James Bridle, Under the Shadow of the Drone (2013)

It is one of the most frightening scenarios you can imagine: up to six armed drone aircraft circling your neighbourhood, preparing to strike and strike they do.

Numbers are what surprised me most from reading James Bridle’s blog about unmanned aerial vehicles, or drones. If six Reapers above your village doesn’t amount to terrorism, nothing does.

So in a laudable attempt to bring the long war home, the artist has arranged for an UAV outline to be painted on Brighton seafront, yards away from the pier and other amusements.

It is electric green, a shade which might be to the 21st century what lapis lazuli was to the 15th. Just as they treasured their azure Madonna blue, we may fetishise our virtual, chroma key green.

An accompanying film makes clear the drone was put in place by road painters from Hi-Way Services. And indeed you might mistake the wing outlines for some obscure parking regulation.

But note the masterful way the paint slips down the kerbs between the promenade and the road. It has all the fluid movement and stealth you might well fear from an unfriendly UAV.

Perhaps this is also fitting, but people don’t seem to be taking much notice. Joggers jog past. Coach parties drive past. Bridle’s work is about our ignorance as much as anything else.

You would have to collar every passerby in turn and say, look, just yesterday two men were killed on a motorbike in the Yemen. Did you even know we were at war there already!?

This fact is true at time of writing, gleaned from the Bureau of Investigative Journalism and posted along with the satellite view on the aforementioned blog, dubbed with cruel irony Dronestagram.

Drones may be invisible, but we allow them to be. None of these strikes make the evening news. In the past eight years almost 3,500 people have been killed thus in Pakistan alone.

The campaign is remote in every sense. Our hands are kept so clean that, weather permitting, we can even sunbathe nearby. Thank god the victims can’t see us, even if we can see them.

Under the Shadow of the Drone was commissioned by Lighthouse, Brighton, and can be viewed on Madeira Drive, until May 26.

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