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8-10 December 2020
UNSW Media Futures Hub

David Chesworth


Drone warfare adumbrations in Robert Smithson’s Site/Nonsite artworks


Earthwork will screen on Wednesday 11am (AEDT) as part of the Drone Arts Screening Session. The paper, Drone warfare adumbrations will be presented during the Drone Arts Panel.

Robert Smithson was a seminal American artist and writer known for pioneering the Land Art movement in the 1960s and early 70s. This presentation will explore the parallels between Robert Smithson’s famous Site/Nonsite dialectic and the methodology of drone warfare.

This paper's analysis of Smithson’s Nonsite artwork, Gravel Mirrors with Cracks and Dust, investigates why it was encountered by Chesworth as a reification of drone warfare. To this end, this paper compares Smithson’s 'Nonsite' framing concepts with ‘systems’ processes, in which alternative concepts of site exist in cybernetic oscillation, whereby a site is ‘understood’ through a virtual site (a Nonsite). I assert that systems processes inform Smithson’s Nonsites but that the artist deliberately introduces experiential and conceptual paradoxes, which systems methodology normally seeks to eliminate.

Earthwork’s two images of site: one framed within the other, can be thought of as alluding to systemised relations between Site/Nonsite. Earthwork attempts this by representing relationships between actual and virtual sites similar to those encountered in a theatre of war. In this artwork, the actual site is represented by a destroyed Western suburban landscape (supplanting the location of the Iraq desert), and the virtual site is represented by the smaller nested image of data sets and mappings that allude to representations and conceptions of the actual site based on collected data.

David Chesworth is an artist and composer who creates installations, artworks, and music in a wide range of contexts. His video artworks with Sonia Leber are speculative and archaeological, responding to architectural, social, and technological settings. Their artworks have been exhibited at the Venice and Sydney Biennales, Art Gallery of NSW, Australian Centre for Contemporary Art and the National Gallery of Victoria. They recently had a major survey of their practice that toured to galleries in Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane.


In 2018, David received a doctorate from Monash University for research into ontologies of engagement. David is currently a Vice-Chancellor’s Postdoctoral Fellow in the School of Art, RMIT University. 


an interdisciplinary


Drone Cultures
Virtual Symposium
8 - 10 December 2020
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