Still from Gorgon Stare by Morgan Skinner. Courtesy of the artist.

The InterAccess gallery at Ossington and Queen was bustling with people last Wednesday for the opening of Once is Nothing: A Drone Art Exhibit. Drones, it seems, are an intriguing subject. 

According to the exhibition card, Once is Nothing is the first exhibition in Canada to focus specifically on drones, “as a subject, material, and tool of artistic production.” Indeed, the gallery covers drones through all sorts of mixed media. From 3D printing to drone filmography, eight international artists delve into “the cultural space and aesthetics of drones.”

Upon stepping inside, it became apparent that the exhibit doesn’t abide by any specific order. This was probably a good thing, though, seeing as patrons squeezed past each other to see each of the works. While not the most aesthetically stimulating exhibit — with the exception of Millard’s lovely window video work visible from the street — the pieces were certainly thought provoking.

Lawrence Bird’s Parallel 3 demonstrates the political aspects of daily life through his ‘drone surveillance tour.’ Even in the “mapping” of the earth, there are discrepancies of satellite footage based on economic and political differences. In Bird’s video, different ideas of borders, surveillance, identity, and place are thoroughly examined.

IOCOSE, a collective of four European artists, submitted a project to the exhibit that contemplates the role of drones during times of peace. They have two pieces on display: Drone+ and Drone Selfies. The video of a drone competing in a 100m race and the prints of vain drones doing as humans do were silly and off-putting.

With the exception of perhaps one item, there are practically no human figures presented in any of the artwork. This was especially surprising, since half the gallery included pieces looking at the impacts that drones have on human life. Will we integrate these machines into our lives?

Mona Kamal’s Drones in Waziristan – dated as “2015-?” — initially resembles a picture of a galaxy laid out on a carpet. Its real focus, however, is on the perpetual loss of human life that drone warfare causes.

The consistency also invites its viewers to consider different perspectives on what qualifies as art. Many of the screenshots taken from videos of drones overlooking rural spaces hold artistic value. Even further, the artists themselves make use of drones for their own purpose. The artists explore how a drone can be both a killing machine and an artist’s tool.

Other notable pieces include Morgan Skinner’s Gorgon Stare, which mixes footage of drone strikes with game footage from Battlefield 4. That, along with Joe Ford’s Dead Pixels emphasizes the desensitization of society through the digital world. The artists make it clear that the juxtaposition of how humans see drones compared to how drones see humans is something worth thinking about.

Once Is Nothing: A Drone Art Exhibit runs at InterAccess Gallery until April 2

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