The Erotic of the Drone
Jordan Crandall at De Wereld van Witte de With

Issue no3
June - July 2020
Troebele waters

During the upcoming edition of Festival De Wereld van Witte de With in Rotterdam, Jordan Crandall will be performing Unmanned, a performance in which drones will be the main interest. These remote-controlled flying objects are best known for their espionage and air-strikes within Afghanistan and Pakistan – while being operated by a ‘pilot’ who is located behind a desktop in the United States. The performance will tell a story about the crash of a drone in a residential area, and thereby address the possibilities, pro’s and con’s of this relatively new phenomenon. During the performance several drones will be flying above the audience and around the Witte de Withstraat to supply the live footage.

Jordan Crandall provided us some insights.

—Vincent van VelsenYour writing, research and art deal with technology, armed conflicts and relations between observation and representation. Why have you developed this angle - what captured your interest?

'If the drone were self-aware, what kind of self would it think of itself having?'

—Jordan Crandall‘I was interested in desire, and then I was interested in power. And then I was interested in the dynamics between desire and power. I resolved to take this road wherever it would lead me. It led me into war. I took the primary questions which have always fascinated me - why do we look, how do we look, and how do we constitute ourselves in acts of looking? - into the battlefields, and I stood there naked, vulnerably poised, like one of David's warriors.’

—Vincent van VelsenLast time at Witte de With (the art centre) you addressed several approaches to armed conflicts and created two publications. While this was an ongoing conversation, it seemed quite theoretical. Is this visit to V2_ Institute for the Unstable Media and Festival De Wereld van Witte de With a next step - a more practical turn maybe?

—Jordan Crandall‘Yes, rather than theorizing military subjectivity, I'm now inhabiting it, running around on stage like a mad Army General!’

—Vincent van VelsenVoyeurism seems to be an important theme in your work. In your writing you suggest a paradigmatic change on this subject: the object becomes a trajectory and the voyeur is constantly being observed. Can you explain this approach?

—Jordan Crandall‘Most often, we think about acts of seeing as vectors. The observer sees from a protected enclave, a safe harbour. But that's not fully the way it is, and the world is not divided up so neatly between subjects and objects. When I see, I constitute myself seeing, and my presence is performed within other networks of observation - networks within which I am often the object or target. It's a small step between voyeurism and exhibition, observation and display.’

—Vincent van VelsenDrones embody the representation of militarism combined with visual images and the recorded technical extension of the self. In that sense, do you see the drones as a culmination of your work?

—Jordan Crandall‘I see them as a vital symbol for a world of distributed agency, in which we (humans) are no longer at the centre. If the drone were self-aware, what kind of self would it think of itself having? It would not think of itself as autonomous and centralized in the way that we do. We are stuck with our history, our myths, our fears. We can't give that up, or we will have lost our humanity. But we do have to surrender some part of ourselves, allow it to migrate. We do have to allow a new geometry of self to unfold - a configuration of selfhood that is very different from the modernist ideal.’

—Vincent van VelsenWhat will the performance provide us?

—Jordan Crandall‘A chance to dwell with the drones for awhile.’

—Vincent van VelsenWhat is your goal? To inform the public? To warn the public maybe?

—Jordan Crandall‘To inform, yes, but not in a didactic way. I want to tell stories, bundled with a reflection on how those stories came to be, how they stabilized and propagated. I am doing a performative theater that is part entertainment, part philosophy, and part political allegory. I offer many dimensions for thinking about the phenomenon of drones, but I don't give an argument for a point of view. There are many aspects to consider, some good, some bad. There is an erotic of the drone, you know. You might decide that they're certainly menacing, but they're also kind of cute.’

Festival De Wereld van Witte de With
14-16 september
Rotterdam, Witte de Withstraat

Performance Jordan Crandall - Unmanned
Location: V2_Institute for the unstable media, Eendrachtsstraat 10
Entrance: €5
Saturday 15th September: 22:30 - 23:30 (after The Big Drone Show)
Sunday 16th September: 15:00 - 16:00

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Metropolis M Magazine for contemporary art No 3 — 2020