“Drones are at once a symptom and a realization of the empire’s end. But they are also a regime of figuration, a way of seeing, and, therefore, a modality of thought.”
-Nathan K. Hensley
It could be said that the vantage point of the sublime has shifted from looking out into the unknown, to looking down upon our own limitlessness. I believe that our (The Western World’s) collective consciousness today is an extension of Manifest Destiny’s lingering ideological momentum. This is proven in the way that we vote for, support, and unquestioningly trust our political leaders who in turn conquer, control, and monitor with their unquestioned assumption that they (or we) have the God-given right to do so.
For example, the legality and morality of drones—particularly as sued by the U.S. military. Information regarding the efficacy and transparency of U.S. Drone strikes has been withheld from public knowledge, and speculations as to the long term effects of how drone warfare could change the methods and functions of war do not sit well with many.
If I were to attempt to expand the sublime as a Western discourse, drone warfare images seem to naturally fall into that progression. Their existence reflects an assumed “right” to be there; to occupy and dominate that airspace and the land below it. Not only do these images represent contemporary Western domination, they evoke an idea of greatness, or dominance, that in turn results in a subliminal anxiety.
In watching drone strike footage, I noticed that the edges of the frame seemed to possess the most tension. I believe this is because when operating a drone, there is no way to see what is going on outside of the frame because the pilot is nowhere near the site. Therefore, these attacks are carried out with very little knowledge of what is happening outside of the frame, which would seem to create an emotional distance between the soldier and his or her target. With my iPhone, I filmed the edges of the footage and found that by extracting the primary information from the footage and focusing on the incidental landscapes, more tension was created in a way that radiates power and fear. As in the series From Sky, Without Boundary, I am asking questions about the implications of the vantage point from above.