Diane Arbus said: “A picture is a secret about a secret, the more it tells you the less you know.” If I Ms. Arbus had a drone instead of Rolleiflex camera, I think the sentiment would have still applied. I find there is something that is quite mysterious (uncanny) in having a flying camera, it touches something in people it looks at us from above and with its one alien eye and I suppose, to it, we all look a little bit like freaks.
This past week I brought these tiny little yellow toys with me to a dance class at the other TISCH in Rashaun Mitchell’s introduction to Improvisation Dance Class for undergraduate dance majors. These were essentially little smiley face toys, which are drones now because everything that flies is a drone now. Also they have some keen infrared sensors on their bellies and heads and they are also remarkably fun to dance with. Myself and Kristina Budalis are creating a drone dance project for our Big Screen’s class and drones have actually taken up a large portion of my waking and dream life, I’m even going to be a drone for halloween, so I suppose I have become a little obsessed.
There were about 20 students who interacted with these tiny things and unsurprisingly the first half hour of class was spent listening to the students shreek and bat them and throw them against the walls and the ‘dancing’ looked more like people freaking out because well they were freaking out. But then the teacher Rashaun, stopped everyone.
He turned off the lights and gave them a meditation style of talk, about moving slowly, with expressive purpose, about looking into the eyes of the people you were dancing with not controlling the drone, knowing it would come back to you, allowing it to touch you and to just be. After this the dancers began to make something beautiful and expressive happen with their little yellow flying object. It also gave me a lot to think about with drones. Afterall they make a lot of people freak out, for good reason. Even when we know they are not for killing we know they are for spying, privacy makes us freak out. The RC community is super fascinating, while I was exploring the available hacks and mods out there I noticed the general aesthetic tends toward the military replica. Coding the AR drones is fascinating- today while I was eating soup and talking to a friend about coding a drone for facial recognition -he asked me if I thought they would be used in modern gang warfare soon, perhaps they already are. What does all of this have to do with drone journalism you may ask? Sounds like we are dancing with drones right now and we are all freaking out.
From the moment that the film camera was invented – the way we represented truth shifted forever- in the way we wrote and talked about events, in the way we observed the past-yet for as much as it changed our world it did not provide us with a singular truth. There is spin in every photograph and story and looking back at events like the Rodney King Trial, where we have video of an event we still were not able as a country (let alone a world) to decide what to do about it, and today unfortunately as a country we are still having many of those same conversations in the media today, should cops wear video cameras? But what if we had a video? What would we do, how would our ‘truth’ change. So this camera, the video camera, the drone camera, are tools but we allow how we feel about the tool itself to color how we can take in its ‘truth’. Can we use them in protests to take our own ariel photographs? Yes, can we use them to see things we cannot see in normal circumstances? Yes, but when we talk about them if we are still seeing a loss of privacy, military campaigns and replicas and if we are still freaking out, it should be noted that it is also part of the ‘journalism’ at the moment. So perhaps the beginning of drone journalism would be to step away from the drone for a moment before we begin, to simply be, and then to pick it back up and begin to dance.