James Bridle is a UK based artist, writer and technologist. His practice involves exposing and picking apart various mechanisms of state surveillance.
James Bridle’s work Dronestagram is an Instagram feed of aerial views of actual drone strike locations. He sources the images from Google maps and posts them together with details of the strike and any casualties. The records of the drone strikes are sourced from independent not-for-profit organisation The Bureau of Investigative Journalism.
In 2013 James Bridle was invited to install a work, Drone Shadow, in Brisbane at the Queensland State Library as part of the Brisbane Writers Festival. He had proposed to draw the shadow of a type of drone called a Global Hawk in the courtyard of the library, to make it seem that it was flying overhead. Bridle had already made similar works in Istanbul, Turkey, and Washington DC, USA, right next to the White House. In the end, the work was stopped from being installed. This was a disappointment both to the artist and organisers, and Bridle wrote extensively about it on his blog and website. He felt that the removal of the work from the program censored public debate around the issues of drones and warfare.
Bridle’s work A Quiet Disposition consists of a series of heavy, black-bound books on a shelf, one on a plinth, and a computer monitor displaying schematic graphics. The work is based on the ‘Disposition Matrix’, a system used by the US Government to aggregate and make sense of all US intelligence data. The system collects intelligence data from a number of sources, and analyses it together in order to gain more detailed profiles and more specific information, which is used to identify people for further tracking.
A Quiet Disposition turns this system around onto itself. James Bridle has created a system that searches the internet for information about surveillance and other intelligence gathering programs that are normally kept secret. This information is then kept in the books you see in this work. The monitor shows this program working away. Sometimes it shows up connections between government officials and organisations that are linked to keeping these intelligence systems secret.
- Find out some more information about James Bridle at the Brisbane Writers Festival. Why do you think the work might have been recalled from the program? Do you think it should have been removed?
- Find out about Australia’s drone program. Does the information you find surprise you? Do you think this type of information should be more available to the public?
James Bridle writes about his experience proposing a Drone Shadow project in Australia. From his blog, booktwo.org
Take a look at James Bridle’s Dronestagram project here