About two weeks ago I attended the opening of the exhibition Magic and Power: of Magic Carpets and Drones at Marta Herford. As I worked there for nearly four years it will always be one of my favorite places in the world. I love the building of Frank Gehry and the very experimental exhibition program the curators create every year. I haven’t been to an opening there for a while because there’re just too many every week. This time I really needed to be there because my old team from the press office will move to Hamburg very soon and I wanted to see them again. People tend to change jobs a lot in the art world, that’s just part of the business.
I had a blast and an amazing time with them and I was pretty surprised by the exhibition. The topic of drones is of course a very actual one and it’s interesting how many artists already adapted it in their work. But what I didn’t expect was fashion. Fashion and art are highly related, I can’t state that enough, but in an exhibition about drones and surveillance I was still surprised. But let’s have a look at the exhibition theme in general first.
The exhibition shows the parallelism of magic carpets and unmanned air vehicles using contemporary artistic means: objects, drawings, photographs, videos and installations circle between fascination and horror around a historical and highly political issue.
The magic carpet is a legendary carpet that can be used to transport humans instantaneously to any destination. In Persian mythology King Salomon had such a magic craft. It became world famous through the stories from “One Thousand and One Nights” and still features not only in fairy tales but also in many fantasy books and films.
In a strange way, the now common drones continue to weave this spell. As remote-controlled flight robots they open up almost unlimited possibilities – for goods transport and the observation of hostile terrain, for new camera flights at dizzying heights or for unmanned military attacks. There is a clash here between good and evil. As all devices created by human kind they can be used for the fun stuff and for military actions. They brought a new quality to warfare and are politically highly controversial. It’s a topic of interest for all of us. Something our society has to deal with. So there are a lot of questions raised in the exhibition. I guess it’s not meant to be highly political but of course the topic is, especially when you take a look at what’s happening in the world right now.
Adam Harvey’s Stealth Wear
Adam Harvey’s Stealth Wear was what surprised me so much. It’s one of these art works which is also fashion and in this case also highly political. Together with fashion designer Johanna Bloomfield the American artist created a fashion collection made of reflective plastic-metal that prevents human body heat to be picked-up by drones’ infrared cameras. Harvey himself is quoted in the exhibition guide: “I’m not trying to make products for survivalists. I would like to introduce this idea to people: that surveillance is not bulletproof. That there are ways to interact with it and there are ways to aestheticise it.”
I am always drawn to art which is also fashion but this series fascinates me because of its political and ethical background. Adam Harvey reacts to the new way of warfare with unmanned machines which make it much easier for soldier to kill. Guiding a drone is more like a video game than actually being in the field and in front of people. They also bring a whole new dimension to the possibilities of state surveillance. A fact that makes me nervous and reminds me of books like 1984 or Kallocain. Adam Harvey shows a way very human way to answer the new drone technology and protect yourself. The pieces are even very fashionable and you can get everything from a hat to a burqa. At the same time the collection could not only be of help to innocent people but also to terrorists and agents. And there we are again with the general theme of good and evil and how every object can be one or the other depending on who uses it.
#exhibtion | Magic and Power
#museum | Marta Herford
#until | June 5, 2016