Theatre review: TCDS’ Art

Friendships are akin to art: they help fill the voids within us

Theatre review: TCDS’ <i>Art</i>

Rating: 3/5 stars

Last weekend, the Trinity College Dramatic Society (TCDS) performed Yasmina Reza’s award-winning play, Art. The play, set in Paris and written in French, premiered in 1994 and was quickly adapted and translated, before making its way across the Atlantic and onto Broadway in 1998.

Performed at Trinity College’s George Ignatieff Theatre, curator Liana Ernszt made a conscious effort to integrate the performance with a gallery of boundary-pushing student artwork, providing an altogether more interactive experience.

By presenting opportunities for more direct engagement, Ernszt encouraged audiences to step outside of their comfort zones and provided a more visceral account of the play’s major themes: drifting friendships, weak bonds, senses of taste, and identity. This challenged audiences to consider the value and purpose of art and greatly enhanced the communication of Reza’s message in art.

Art follows three friends, Serge (Ezera Beyene), Marc (Kody McCann), and Yvan (Brendan Rush), who’ve unwittingly grown apart and suddenly find their friendship under considerable tension. Catalyzing the end of their friendship is Serge’s wildly exorbitant purchase of a painting that, rather humorously, is just a completely white canvas with white lines.

Marc disparages the painting, and it is this disagreement in taste between Marc and Serge that forces Yvan in the middle. Naturally, this devolves into a no-holds-barred contest of mockery, cynicism, and disillusionment, ultimately spiralling out of control and into referendums on taste, character assassinations, and a pervasive mood of indifference. Just when it’s most important for them to pull together, they instead push themselves even further apart.

The play, directed by Ryan Falconer, brought out a unified and true-to-form communication of Reza’s Art. The production was well-orchestrated with timely, effective lighting and use of the stage to entwine the audience in an intimate affair of theatre and drama. The band, with Shreya Jha on keyboard and Mira Riselli on bass, helped execute seamless transitions of scenes, building and releasing tension to complement the mood of the cast.

The cast succeeded in captivating the audience by effectively conveying the emotional rifts between their characters. Beyene’s performance of Serge as an eccentric art connoisseur left the impression of a focused approach to his role, by projecting his emotions not impulsively but sincerely. This was nicely juxtaposed by McCann’s performance of Marc, whose condescending demeanour and language really broadcast a sort of austerity that reached beyond the confines of the stage and into the minds of the audience. This contrast worked especially well in heightening the tension between the two characters. Rush’s performance of Yvan was ambitious and intense, though certainly not lost because his character was the most difficult to portray. Rush successfully supported the unfolding interactions between Serge and Marc, which would unravel even more to crash down like a game of Jenga.

The more salient point in Art and the blank canvas is not the trivial senses of taste, but the understanding that friendships are to be nurtured and not taken for granted. As with anything that is abandoned or neglected, if we lose sight, we also stand to lose clarity and, ultimately, the confidence of our friendships.

Friends are a sort of artwork in themselves; like art, friends help us overcome times of adversity and suffering by making light of dark situations. They fill the voids within us to cure our emptiness.

Ultimately, I wish to congratulate Falconer and the TCDS on a great show and laud their commitment and passionate dedication to storytelling, art, and the audience.

Decolonizing Art History

What do Kent Monkman’s paintings reveal about Canada’s history?

Decolonizing Art History

At first glance, the Winter Garden Theatre is gorgeous. There are hundreds of tiny lights dotted around the ceiling, interspersed with a thick foliage of colourful leaves and twisting vines that make up the underside of the only operating two-tiered Edwardian theatre in the world.

On the night of November 14, the theatre was packed with people eager to see Kent Monkman, renowned Cree painter and artist, and the mastermind behind the Shame and Prejudice: A Story of Resilience exhibition.

First showcased in the University of Toronto Art Museum for Canada 150, Shame and Prejudice was just a portion of Monkman’s prolific output, charting the trajectory of Canadian art history itself.

And that is what we had all gathered for: Monkman’s lecture, titled “Decolonizing Art History.”

Throughout the lecture, Monkman displayed an array of images from photographs to paintings, and sculpture to film stills and etchings. He began with several introductory images of the works of early settler-colonial painters, whose vast, lush paintings depict rich green forests and towering mountains that stretch into the distance.

Often the sun is shown bursting up from behind these mountains, denoting “biblical subjects transposed to North America,” as Monkman explained. The greenery and golden glow of the sun was not entirely at odds with the beautiful interior of the theatre — yet it was there that Monkman shattered the beauty of these early settler-colonial paintings.

The vast, gorgeous landscapes were barren of people, except for the European settlers who ‘discovered’ the land.

Many of Monkman’s earlier works were direct responses to these pieces, and inspired his transition from abstract to representational.

The first painting Monkman discussed was William Ranney’s “Boone’s First View of Kentucky,” which shows a sweeping skyline, with a small band of European settlers in the foreground, surveying the land before them. This use of nature as a vast empty space to conquer effectively painted over the very real Indigenous people who lived in these places before white settlers arrived.

Monkman admitted that he “rejected everything that [he] learned in college because [he] thought that representational artmaking was actually passé.” But he noted that it was upon learning more about celebrated early Canadian artists, such as George Catlin, that he became frustrated with the confining nature of his art. So, he turned to representational art.

Tracing Canada’s growth as a nation, his two-spirited identity, Miss Chief Share Eagle Testickle, sauntered her way through several of the paintings that Monkman deconstructed for the audience.

Miss Chief, as Monkman refers to her, is the iconic look for which Monkman is most well-known. Clothed in red, Miss Chief’s first appearance was in the painting “Artist and Model,” towering in platform heels and scantily clad in a fluttering pink loincloth and enormous, body-length feather headdress.

If you’re looking for an explanation, you’ll find one in her origin story, which Monkman promises can be read in his upcoming novel: The Memoirs of Miss Chief Eagle Testickle.

My first experience with Miss Chief and Monkman himself was through his short film, The Group of Seven Inches. A short black-and-white, the film opens with Miss Chief riding a horse to the McMichael Collection and dismounting beside the replica Tom Thompson shack. She enters the shack to find two white men with whom she proceeds to dress and fondle with a kind of reckless abandon that one can only have, apparently, in a log cabin outside of one of Ontario’s most beloved art collections.

Monkman proceeded to note that this was shot entirely on a weekend when the gallery was closed, although that did not prevent a family with young children from peering through the windows of the cabin to be pleasantly surprised.

Monkman does not invoke Miss Chief merely to draw humour from Canadian art history, though. Rather, Miss Chief is his way of critiquing the way that queer and Indigenous narratives were and are erased from Canadian history through the medium of painting.

In turning our eye toward the history that we have been taught, Monkman’s lecture and his career of decolonization through art causes us to think about the structures that we inhabit and their compliance in upholding history and 150 years of colonization — no matter how beautiful they may be.

The Blackwood Gallery: Miruna Dragan’s When Either But Not Both Are True

Chaos in harmony: a search for truth in representation

The Blackwood Gallery: Miruna Dragan’s When Either But Not Both Are True

The Blackwood Gallery in Mississauga is currently hosting Miruna Dragan’s When Either But Not Both Are True. The exhibition reflects an artist’s exploration of the relations we hold with the world around us, as well as the way our beliefs shape these relations.

Dragan explores the limits of knowledge vis-à-vis the unknown with allusions to spirituality and logic systems, addressing fundamental questions of harmony, representation, and epistemology.

Entering Dragan’s display is a sensory overload — bright hues of reds and blues advance to meet the viewer against a churning backdrop of grey. The traditional blending with the contemporary, sharp lines beside soft contours; juxtaposition upon juxtaposition, opposition followed by opposition; all in all, a seemingly chaotic mess.

Once viewers recover from the initial confusion, accept the lack of understanding of the objects in the surroundings, and gather the courage to approach the display and consider what’s before the eyes one entity at a time, then the initial discord will slowly begin to fade.

The individual pieces greet the viewer by presenting a landscape of their own. From afar, as the viewer takes in the space as a whole, they cannot help but feel the presence of a great emptiness, that of alienation from theenvironment, as humans maintain their distance and consider it from a rational, or perhaps theoretical, perspective.

On the far left, a glimmering box rests on the floor before a tapestry, upon which four blue petals embedded with logic symbols find themselves surrounded by Suminagashi patterns inked on rice paper; all of this isagainst a softly textured salt wall. The allusion to the natural world is obvious. However, the underlying presence of the supernatural, reflected by Eastern symbolism, light, and water, highlights the presence of an additional dimension to perception; this can only be achieved by rekindling our relationship with our environment.

A few steps to the right, there is a more pronounced contrast between the vivid geometric patterns and the soft backdrop, further establishing the lack of harmony between reason and spirituality. Yet this also hints that our understanding of both the physical and the metaphysical are ultimately part of a whole, despite superficial disparity.

When Either But Not Both Are True seems to reflect a return to the tradition of Romanticism, through its focus on the lack of unity and spirituality in contemporary society, as well as the emphasis pon the importance of our environment. Likewise, its appeal to Eastern philosophy, which challenges what we know of conventional, Western logic, encourages an acceptance of chaos as a part of a greater whole.

The infinitely expandable rhizomatic tree resting in a corner attests to the above. The rhizome can be understood as a symbol of resistance from traditional linear organizational structures; there is no beginning or end and everything is united. This addresses our current framework of knowledge and understanding, according to structured hierarchies, and considers the natural world through a network of multiplicities.

Ultimately, we are asked to re-evaluate not only our relation to nature, but to question the very foundation of our beliefs.

Addressing financial illiteracy through art

UTM adjunct professor Radha Maharaj’s campaign seeks to improve student financial literacy

Addressing financial illiteracy through art

Financial illiteracy can be a recurring issue for many university students, so Dr. Radha Maharaj of UTM’s Communication, Culture, Information and Technology department wants to tackle the issue through a campaign called Elly. Maharaj’s financial literacy campaign involves a study, a survey, an artistic competition, and a series of interviews, all of which aim to improve financial literacy.

The study aims to assess the level of financial literacy among students and the extent to which students are affected by debt and other financial issues.

The survey, which runs from September to March, is an opportunity for all UTM students to take stock of where they are financially while also voicing any concerns and issues that they may have about personal finance.

The competition aspect, entitled “Elly in Action,” involves students submitting a creative presentation — be it song, dance, art, or a short film — that has a financial theme. The campaign encourages students to artistically explore topics such as being burdened with student debt or getting finances in order. The submission period for the competition ends on November 15.

Finally, the interview component is meant for students to ask questions, receive advice, and share their concerns regarding personal finance management.

Maharaj wrote in an email to The Varsity, “There is a taboo around talking about money. This is a generational problem. It’s simply a topic that we have not discussed about openly in the past and it continues today.” She added that students “are usually overwhelmed and apprehensive by the topic itself, because finance has a reputation of being complicated and boring.”

The use of music, dance, and art therefore aims to connect with finance in a way that students can more easily engage with. According to Maharaj, though art and finance are seemingly juxtaposed to each other, they “are in fact essential and complementary to our daily existence. Elly is the start of the movement to make this connection.” Maharaj is also in the process of designing “immersive personal finance courses” that will incorporate creative works.

Engaging with students through a seemingly non-traditional manner is key for Maharaj, who is also eager to improve the program and determine the best way to deliver the appropriate material to students who need assistance and are interested in learning more. “We do a good job of preparing students for the world of work and making money,” Maharaj said, “but we hardly spend the time teaching them how to manage that money in their personal life.”

Becoming Banksy asks the age-old question: who really is Banksy?

The up-and-coming comedy provides a commentary on society’s relationship with the world’s most well-known graffiti artist

<i> Becoming Banksy </i>asks the age-old question: who really is Banksy?

The Varsity sat down with Caitlin Driscoll, Daniel Pagett, Imogen Wilson, Elan Farbiarz, and Anurag Choudhury, who make up the cast and crew of Becoming Banksy. Becoming Banksy is a comedy that explores what happens when a confused tourist is mistaken for the world’s most famous artist.

The Varsity: There is quite a difference between the way that visual art and theatrical art portray their message. The visual component is very different; you convey time and expression a lot more fluidly, more dynamically as actors. Since Banksy is known for movement and attention-grabbing hooks, did you struggle to convey that same sort of ‘hook?’

Elan Farbiarz: Everyone has a different viewpoint on the art itself, graffiti, Banksy, what have you. It is pretty cool — it’s completely anonymous and people will just show up and gawk at it and care. The anonymity is so exciting for everyone to see. If we knew who Banksy was, I don’t know if people would care.

Imogen Wilson: Banksy is quite unique in the way that it has this anonymity where you could venture to what it could be, like Batman, these individuals that exist in the zeitgeist, but exist where you can’t see them.

Daniel Pagett: They represent the idea, not just themselves.

EF: Some of Banksy’s most prolific works are his installation pieces, which bridge the gap between the theatrical and artist. You’re expected as an observer to contribute — see, touch, manipulate. Your relationship to the space and time you’re in takes your experience. Much like here, a very powerful part of theatre is the ‘now.’ What if we were to expose Banksy?

TV: Banksy’s work is sometimes satirical, but most of the time political. Do you feel a comedy suits Banksy better than a tragedy?

Caitlin Driscoll: When does the artist become the art? It’s about him. Like, the humour that surrounds him as a person — you gotta be able to laugh. His stuff, it’s political, incendiary in some way, but at the same time, the way people get caught up in the fame — it diminishes the messages. It’s interesting to do a comedy about that.

EF: There’s something [ominous] about the rise of our collective zeitgeist and the rise of this artist, which is making very poignant comments on this relationship, between our lives, corporations, privacy.

IW: There’s a quote that Banksy has, it’s, “People only cared about what I had to say when they didn’t know who I was,” which I think is quite cool and quite telling.

DP: Social media carries his art to a larger audience. It carries a similarity with graffiti in that they are both ‘local’ [accessible] mediums. They exist in one place, at one time. I would argue that theatre is more ‘local’ now because of the internet, but with graffiti you can see a picture of it and it kind of works.

EF: But it changes all the time; like theatre, a month later it could be faded, a few weeks later it could be gone. It happens under the cover of night. One morning you could wake up and just be like, ‘Oh what’s that, another piece?’ on your way to work.


TV: Did making this ‘local’ theatrical experience have anything to do with the fact that there is a Banksy exhibition happening right now?

IW: I’m from Toronto originally and I always wanted to come back and do something here, and once I saw that Banksy was coming here, it was like, ‘Of course, Toronto.’ You never know how many people ‘know’ Banksy, though. In New York, London, LA, there’s a good base that understands it. All [of a] sudden, people are going to be like, ‘Oh what’s Banksy like?’ The exhibit was great for people who know nothing about Banksy. Our show gives you more depth to what it’s actually all about, the phenomenon. How we talk, the questions, the people who don’t like the work. It’s one of those things where we ask those questions and we give you more than what the exhibit could give you.

EF: I’m a bit of a self-proclaimed renegade. I always loved those stories of people existing outside of convention, and being bold, and making strong choices, you know, Banksy, Batman, Robin Hood, these unsung heroes. On an artistic level, I like his work. It’s clever, well-executed. The stencil work is great. I think his exhibition pieces are his best work.

DP: In terms of the comedy of the show, Banksy uses satire and political messages, and that’s always been a big thing for me as an actor. If I have a message to [the piece], or dramatic catharsis, there should be an equal amount of comedy and accessibility for audiences. A spoonful of sugar is missing from a lot of art. I think that’s one thing that’s really important. Some artists want their voice to be heard, but if it’s not accessible, or if no one wants to listen, then you’re really just shouting into the void.

CD: I’ve always been a big fan of Banksy as a ‘moment in time.’ He’s like, all the things. Banksy is the ultimate stand-up comic. He can do his whole set — no one needs to look it over. He’s there.

TV: If there was one thing you could impress upon Banksy, what would it be?

CD: That’s a big one. My main thing would be, I don’t want to know who you are. I want you to remain anonymous. I like the choices being made. I don’t want to meet you, I don’t need to meet you.

DP: Because I think of Banksy as more of an idea than a person, it’s hard to say what I’d say to him necessarily — I’ve already said a bunch of things ‘to’ him. It’s harder to say something to an idea than to a person. I’d just say thanks.

EF: I’d ask him where the treasure is buried. I mean in the same way, it’s my belief that it’s bigger than one person. If I were to meet someone from ‘Banksy Inc.,’ I’d probably want to participate. What’s the secret code? How can I join?

IW: Obviously Banksy has all this money now. I’d want to know what, or how much he profits off his works and his projects and exhibitions. How much do you control, what power do you have, and how do you earn all of this? It’s a big corporation.

Anurag Choudhury: I find it strange to ask people about their professions, so I’d probably just ask for a pint and then ask about his politics.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

Becoming Banksy opened on September 28 and will run until October 14. Tickets are available at

An afternoon with Emily Carr and co.

Exploring rare Canadian post-war and contemporary art

An afternoon with Emily Carr and co.

Earlier this month, Heffel Fine Art Auction House presented the public with a free preview of its Fine Canadian Art and Post-War & Contemporary Art Auction, which opens in Vancouver on May 25. The preview allowed for patrons to explore historic paintings that are rich with Canadian sentiment and private artworks that have rarely been displayed.

It was a dreary Saturday afternoon when I approached the Heffel Fine Art Auction House, located in the heart of Yorkville. The possibility of an unprecedented look at the works of painter Emily Carr presided in my mind, and urged me to brave the weather.

The auction house’s narrow interior was intimate: white walls created an impressive negative space, tightly wrapping its close quarters. The magnificent art hanging in various shapes and sizes on each and every wall created an organized mosaic. It was a warm place for collectors, savants, artists and just regular folk interested in a historical trip through art.

Carr is arguably Canada’s foremost female artist. She often chose to illustrate the livelihood of First Nations people and the vast landscape of British Columbia.

Carr is arguably Canada’s foremost female artist. She often chose to illustrate the livelihood of First Nations people and the vast landscape of British Columbia. The auction house itself is no stranger to Carr’s work. Last May, Carr’s mature period painting Forest Light sold for $1.53 million, far above its presale estimate value of $400,000–$600,000.

Five of Carr’s pieces are up for auction, including Woodland Interior, a lustrous oil painting also from her mature period.

Her 1927 watercolor Gitwangak is my personal favourite. It depicts a row of large totem poles on the edge of the coast, with a forest and rolling mountains in the background. The watercolor blends light and dark browns to capture the warm image of an Indigenous child playing with dogs central to the foreground. Gitwangak is expected to sell for between $200,000–$300,000 but may draw in far more.

Carr’s work is easy to praise and feels like a tribute to the beauty of nature, a sentiment she captured well throughout her career. Gitwangak specifically serves as an unfiltered look at the Pacific Northwest and its First Nations culture, a perspective that isn’t explored enough today.

However, the auction house included more than just Carr’s work. Throughout the adjacent buildings were examples of two distinct styles: post-war and contemporary art.

Legendary Québécois artist Jean Paul Lemieux, known for depicting desolate, boundless spaces, also has several pieces up for auction. Fellow French-Canadian artist Marc-Aurèle de Foy Suzor-Coté’s painting La vieille église de Sherbrooke-Est par temps de neige is a painting commissioned to the Saint-Jean-Baptiste Church in Sherbrooke. Initially a gift from Suzor-Coté in 1913 to pastor Father Joseph-Arthur Laporte, the piece is set to be auctioned for the first time.

Group of Seven painter Lawren Harris’ 1913–14 oil painting Laurentian Landscape is another notable artwork. Harris created it prior to the group’s formation, yet it reflects the ideals of natural landscapes that the group would later seek to present in their work. The oil painting is estimated to receive between $1.2 million–$1.6 million, a huge leap from its original purchase price of $8,400 in 1966.

Celebrated Canadian artist Alex Colville’s Swimming Dog and Canoe may be the highlight of the post-war and contemporary section. An acrylic masterpiece of Colville’s signature detailed dot style, the piece is an exceptional composition about an everyday event. Colville, who regularly used animals as subjects, depicted a black dog in contrast to the green water and tree line, while a pair of paddlers in a canoe observe the scene in the background.

A virtual tour is available on the Heffel Fine Art Auction House website: see the works before they are auctioned off and enter back into obscurity on May 25.

Time flies at the Power Plant Gallery

Les Temps Inachevés explores concepts of time

Time flies at the Power Plant Gallery

Visual art has the ability to capture moments in time. In “Les Temps Inachevés” (French for ‘unfinished times’) — on display at The Power Plant Gallery — artist Patrick Bernatchez tackles the notion of time with ironically surreal artwork. The contemporary exhibit unites two separate projects, “Chrysalides” and “Lost in Time,” and explores the parameters and power of time through a fusion of photography, light, and sound installations, along with live sculptures and short films.

Stepping into the exhibit hall, where natural sunlight mixes with sharp fluorescence to intensify the monochrome décor, “Lost in Time” is the first exhibit I encounter. A photographic light installation introduces two masked characters suspended in a snowy scene. The piece presents the idea of being trapped in time.

Everything about the exhibit’s space gives you the sense that you’re participating in a distinctly ‘contemporary’ experience. The pieces are cryptic and minimalist, spaced widely apart, and evoke a sense of emptiness. The theme is communicated to us only through the sound of a ticking clock bouncing off every corner of the room.

A rookie in the modern art scene would likely feel intimidated by the abstract nature of, for instance, spools of thread revolving around a speaker. I quickly find myself struggling to derive meaning, and in doing so, finding that the ticking overhead of a clock becomes increasingly pronounced and increasingly aggravating. Having given up on finding meaning, I lose myself in the rhythmic palpitation of the spools of thread coming from the speaker it is wrapped around. I realized much later that I stopped noticing the buzzing clock. Despite the emphasis on time, the artwork created a hypnotic effect.

The lack of publicity around the event seems to have deterred the crowds, adding a sense of exclusivity and intimacy to the exhibit. It feels as though the artwork is speaking to you and you alone — giving you its undivided attention.

The array of black and white photos scattered throughout the exhibit without an evident pattern feel like they were left for you to stumble upon. They belong to “Fashion Plaza Nights,” a subproject in “Chrysalides” inspired by the declining textile factories within the plaza. The Montreal-based artist recorded the changing rhythm of these factories, most notably the “activité nocturne” (or, nocturnal activity).

A bench and a set of headphones allow you to take a break from the visuals and listen to a catalogue of soothing music. Classical pieces by Bach and Debussy are reworked with a blend of original music to create a fusion of alternating sounds and meters reflecting Bernatchez’s impressions of the plaza’s transformation. The subtle shifts in the music’s pulse reflect the building’s gradual changes while quickening rhythms seem to echo more severe transformations.

The Power Plant gallery compliments “Chrysalides” themes of age, disintegration, and transformation. From the outside, the gallery’s structure is industrial — a brick bulk with a jutting tower. Until 1980, the building served as a completely functional power plant before being converted into a space to display art, evocative of the story behind “Fashion Plaza Nights.”

Although each artifact leaves you mystified and impressed, one piece will render you awe-struck. 14 years in the making, “BW” is a simple black wristwatch. Yet, under a single spotlight, it emits an exceedingly ominous presence. The wristwatch sits alone in a room, reminiscent of an altar. As you approach it, you notice that any standard markings of minutes or hours are absent, and the single, lingering hand is programmed to take an entire millennium to complete. The piece forces you to think of time’s infinite existence, and your undeniable disappearance by the time the hand has fully revolved.

If art should immerse you in a timeless moment, Bernatchez’s project does more. It stretches time, to the point where the outside world feels like a whole other universe after stepping out of the gallery. I find myself on the frost-ridden Harbourfront, a haze of ice and snow making the lake an infinite white. Suddenly, I’m pulled back into Lost in Time, the real-life scene before me resounding its vivid colours and lingering message.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

An artist’s tool

Once Is Nothing explores the relationship between visual art and drones

An artist’s tool

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