Arts, Culture & Media

Artists look skyward and find inspiration in drones



Alex Rivera and Angel Nevarez/

The LowDrone

Drones are the coolest and/or the scariest topic in technology today.

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Americans are ambivalent about them: two-thirds of us, according to a Gallup poll, approve of drone strikes on suspected terrorists overseas, but just 13 percent of people surveyed approve of strikes against terrorists suspect at home.

Movies and TV are incorporating unmanned aerial vehicles, as they're properly called, as plot devices in shows like The Bourne Legacy and Homeland, for example. But some fine artists are also trying to enter the national conversation as well.Adam Harvey designs burqas and hijabs that make the wearer invisible to drone cameras by altering the body’s heat signature. He calls his line of Stealth Wear the “armor” of the information age.

Filmmaker Alex Rivera and his collaborator Angel Nevarez were ahead of the curve. Working on the US-Mexico border, they were aware of drones before most of us.

Their LowDrone, from 2005, is a quadcopter tricked out to look like a flying Low Rider, with gold flake metallic paint. It doesn’t want to spy or kill — it just wants to have fun, hopping and dancing across the militarized, contested border.

And one group of professional dancers took an interest in drones. Pilobolus, a dance company in New York, approached MIT engineer Danny Soltero to choreograph a piece between dancers and machines.

“We started out by saying ‘What do they do?’,” recalled Itamar Kubovy, who runs the dance company. “Could you land it on our head, could you land it on the floor, could you land it on our nose? Before too long, the choreographers were making engineering suggestions, and the engineers were making choreographic suggestions as to how to tell the story.”

The show they made is called Seraph, about two species that discover each other: one metal, the other flesh.

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    Adam Harvey /

    Artist Adam Harvey’s “Stealth Wear” collection is designed to interfere with drone surveillance by masking the body’s thermal signature. The ‘Anti-Drone’ scarf, made of metallized fabric and lined with silk, was inspired by the traditional hijab.

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    Adam Harvey /

    Infrared image of a model wearing Adam Harvey’s ‘Anti-Drone’ scarf.

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    Adam Harvey /

    Artist Adam Harvey’s ‘Anti-Drone’ burqa, also shown in infrared imaging.

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    Adam Harvey /

    Artist Adam Harvey’s ‘Anti-Drone’ hoodie.