8-10 December 2020
UNSW Media Futures Hub

Symposium Exhibition

Tuesday, November 8

Kate Richards

A Drone Opera

A Drone Opera is a poetic and visceral expression of the contemporary abstraction of unmanned flight and our new reality of constant surveillance. This cinematic installation presents a uniquely seductive world featuring custom built drones with live video feeds, laser set-design, opera singers and an original libretto that combine to explore our broader love affair with technology. Loosely structured around the myth of Icarus, A Drone Opera provides a lens through which to view the promise of new technology and our hubris about its potential, while fragments from Ovid’s The Fall of Icarus are sung at key moments to drive a loose narrative of desire, fear and destruction.


Directed by Matt Sleeth; Produced by Kate Richards; Written and Edited by Sleeth and Richards. 

Kate Richards is a Sydney-based new media artist, producer and academic. Her media art works have widely leveraged most new media platforms and channels, from generative software to interactive projections and VR. She has exhibited at the Australian Centre for the Moving Image, The Performance Space, Carriageworks, the Blake Prize Director’s Cut, The Australian Centre for Photography, The Centre for Contemporary Photography Melbourne, the International Symposium for Electronic Art Sydney, Belfast and Helsinki, Experimenta, the Art Gallery of NSW and the Sydney Opera House amongst others. As a new media dramaturge, Kate has brought her considerable experience to theatre groups such as Sydney’s Urban Theatre Projects and Stalker. Kate has also produced multimedia projects for a variety of clients including Badanami Centre for Indigenous Education, Sydney Harbour Foreshore Authority, Sydney Olympic Park, The Australian War Memorial, Landini Associates, the Museum of Sydney and the Justice and Police Museum. Kate’s recent projects include a WebGL environment for Badanami Centre for Indigenous Education; a 5 min VR using archival hand tinted images of Sydney’s The Rocks; consulting on a VIVE VR project for Urban Theatre Projects and designing/producing a drum simulation environment for Paramedics.

Wednesday, November 9

Anne Scott Wilson

'X' Marks the Spot

Seeing Not Looking

‘X Marks the Spot’ and ‘Seeing Not Looking’ are art works that explore tensions between Artificial and Human Intelligence.  Using an inverted game technology, in which the performers become active participants ‘seen’ by an automated drone camera, power relationships rise to the surface over time. Problems inherent in the notion of AI thought of as communicative, are challenged, raising questions about what is it to be human when measured or surveill-ed by drone technology.  By presenting video excerpts of both works I would like to talk to these problems through an analysis of the artistic decisions made in each work and what is revealed through practice led research.

​Anne Scott Wilson is a Lecturer in Art and Performance at Deakin University, member of the Art and Architecture research group #VacantGeelong. She sustains a solo art practice, curates and devises projects with colleagues at various Universities. Anne is a Committee Member of the Wyndham Council’s Art and Heritage Portfolio in 2018/19. She is a recipient in 2018 of an Australia Council for the Arts Development Grant which has facilitated research with ARS Electronica and has received grants and residencies from Government Funding bodies, and philanthropic organisations. She received her PhD from Monash University in 2009 titled ‘Memory, Motion and imagination: an investigation into the subjective experience of studio practice.’ 'X' Marks the Spot is in collaboration with Shelley Hannigan and Cameron Bishop.

Anna Munster and Michele Barker

Ecologies of Duration

Ecologies of Duration is comprised of several infinitely looped moving image works, using up to three monitors, that have emerged from experimentation with drones: filming in close proximity to trace geoformations; developing techniques in which the moving image appears to both zoom in and recede from its ‘target’; and filming in visually obscured natural circumstances such as fog or mist. Each ‘ecology’ (each pair of monitors) presents a doubled view ‘from below’ or alongside nonhuman ‘natural’ landscapes’. These ‘ecologies’ try to imagine a nonhuman nonaerial drone scape and together ask: how else might drones see? In the panel presentation, we will discuss the making of these works in the context of the above problems posed by an ongoing aesthetics of the aerialised earth.

A/ Prof Anna Munster

Anna Munster has been at UNSW Art and Design since 2001 on a full-time tenured basis. She is an active researcher with two sole published books: An Aesthesia of Networks (MIT Press, 2013), and  Materializing New Media  (Dartmouth College Press 2006). She also edited Immediation I and II ( OHP Press 2019). Her current research interests are: statistical visuality and radical empiricism, the politics and aesthetics of machine learning, more-than-human perception, new pragmatist approaches to media and art, new media art environments and ecologies; time, movement and sonicity.

Anna is the lead CI and partnered with Adrian Mackenzie (Australian National University) on a 3-year ARC Discovery Project: 'Re-imaging the empirical: statistical visualisation in art and science'. She is also currently a CI on the ARCDP 'The Geopolitics of Automation'. led by Ned Rossiter out of Western Sydney UNiversity. She was a partner in a large international project, Immediations, hosted by Concordia University, Montreal and funded by the Social Science and Humanities Research Council, Canada. She has held two ARC Discovery research grants in new media and art: 'The Body-Machine Interface in New Media Art from 1984 to the Present, 2003–5' and 'Dynamic Media: Innovative social and artistic uses of dynamic media in Australia, Britain, Canada and Scandinavia since 1990'.  She was also an investigator on an ARC Linkage project, 'Australian Media Arts Database', which resulted in the Scanlines national media arts database.

She is a founding member of the online peer-reviewed journal The Fibreculture Journal and has co-edited two special issues on Distributed Aesthetics and Web 2.0. and on the editorial advisory board of LeonardoBooks (MIT Press), Inflexions, CTheory, Convergence, Scan and Screen Bodies


Dr Michele Barker works in the field of new media arts, exhibiting extensively both in Australia and overseas. Barker has contributed to the field of new media arts extensively via her engagement as a research-oriented practitioner. Her artwork addresses issues of perception, subjectivity, genetics and neuroscience, and her research has focused on the relationship between digital technologies, medical and scientific applications, and end-user responses.

Michele Barker and Anna Munster have been working in multi-channel audiovisual environments exploring the relations between perception, movement and media. Their most recent work was the solo show, all the time in the world, 2019 for Ideas Platform, Artspace, Sydney. In 2017, they were commissioned for a multichannel audiovisual environment, pull, for Experimenta Media Arts: Make Sense, 2017–2020. They have been awarded New Work Grants, in 2012 and 2010 from the Australia Council for the Arts to realise their work. Other  projects include: évasion (2014), HokusPokus (2011). Duchenne’s smile (2-channel DV installation, 2009), Struck (3-channel DV installation, 2007).

Kathryn Brimblecombe-Fox

Imaginational Metaveillance: Aesthetic Defiance in the Drone Age

Although the airborne militarised drone is a visible and material harbinger of 21st century surveillance and targeting technology, its enabling signals, transmitted to and from land-based, sky-based and space-based assets, are immaterial and invisible. I argue that the invisibility of signals represents a stealthy techno-colonisation of landscape and extended environment, a volumetric occupation that heralds new modes of empire and power. In this presentation I discuss paintings where I depict airborne weaponised drones, nets of signals and parodies of screen-based orienting and targeting graphics. Viewers of my paintings are invited to ‘fly’, in imagination, into cosmic scapes where techno-colonising forces are revealed. Untethered, viewers can ‘fly’ around and beyond drones, their enabling signals, their land-based and space-based support infrastructure, and their surveillance or attack targets. I call this multilayered oversight or witnessing an act of imaginational metaveillance, a ‘veillance’ that does not operatively rely upon digital or cyber systems and platforms, but can keep them and their enabled hardware firmly in 'sight'.  What kinds of anomalies, futures, power structures and empires are revealed when human vision in its fullest – not only seeing with eyeball and pupil, but also in imagination, dreams, daydreaming and visionary thinking - is critically engaged?


Kathryn Brimblecombe-Fox is a Brisbane-based visual artist and researcher. She has exhibited her paintings in Australia and overseas. Kathryn has also presented talks about her paintings and research at various conferences in Australia and internationally. She completed a Master of Philosophy (Cultural Studies and Art History) at the University of Queensland in 2017. Her research included extensive studies of airborne militarised drones, persistent surveillance and increasingly autonomous systems. This focus came out of a long-term interest in existential risk posed by emerging technologies. Kathryn is currently an Honorary Research Fellow in the School of Communication and Arts, University of Queensland.

David Chesworth


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

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 in sound, David is currently an Associate Investigator with the ARC Centre of Excellence for Biodiversity and Heritage, based at University of Wollongong.

Thursday, November 10

David Beesley

Flying Underground: an ethnographic view of the Melbourne personal drone scene, 2014

Today personal drones, also termed as remotely piloted aircraft systems under two kilograms gross weight, are a rapidly maturing technology that can be considered ‘mainstream’, but, as recently as five years ago, such technologies were deemed nascent, as was the regulatory environment governing conditions of use, hence creating an underground subculture. This presentation, using case study, video documentary and reflections on personal practice, undertakes an auto-ethnographic examination of the Melbourne personal drone scene in 2014 and investigates the challenges faced by the then fledgling and emerging drone communities that were using personal drones for recreational purposes. ‘Recreational purposes’ is a term used by CASA, Australia’s civil aviation safety and regulatory authority, that encompasses remotely piloted aircraft usage that is not deemed military or commercial. In the civilian realm this encompasses sport, recreation, and creative applications where flying is increasingly of secondary concern.


David Beesley is a media professional, documentary film maker, and technical services manager with the School of Media and Communication at RMIT University. He is presently completing his PhD ‘Head in the Clouds: documenting the rise of drone culture’, which is a project-based longitudinal ethnographic documentary looking at the significance of personal drone cultures in Melbourne, Australia.


an interdisciplinary


Vaughan Wozniak-O'Connor

Drone Studies: Fused Geospatial and Emotional Response data visualisations.

This paper focusses on practice-based research conducted as part of an artist residency at Holocenter, New York in 2017. In this residency, a prosumer DJI Mavic drone was used to navigate Governor’s Island. While piloting, Wozniak-O'Connor's emotional response was recorded via Galvanic Skin Response, correlated to individual flights.


Instead of mapping emotional cartographies, my practice-led research uses biofeedback to complicate geospatial data. This suggests an expanded idea of drawing, which parallels the transcriptive associations of gestural drawing. In gestural drawing, the body’s emotional state is transcribed through the hand affect the drawn mark. This configuration of civilian drone tracking and biofeedback data works to a similar extent; using embodied data to intervene into the legibility of geospatial tracking data recorded during drone flights. In doing so, this paper attempts to reemphasize the role of the body within geospatial data, which is largely absent in pervasive geospatial interfaces such as Google Maps. In drone piloting, the body actively produces geospatial route data, which is registered in Keyhole Markup Language as innumerable controller inputs and button toggles. However, the traces of the body are ghosted by the data visualisations, to which Wozniak O'Connor's practice-based research intervenes. By examining practice-experimentation, this paper outline expanded drawing practices that emphasize the presence of the body within emerging drone technologies.

Vaughan Wozniak- O’Connor is an artist and digital holographer based in Sydney.

In particular, his work has explored artist-led approaches to terrain visualisation and geospatial tracking technologies. Recent research has explored the technical and theoretical convergence of terrain and biometric mapping technologies, combining GPS with data from wearable devices such as the Fitbit. Vaughan has exhibited extensively locally at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Carriageworks, C3 Contemporary, Firstdraft Gallery and Casula Powerhouse. International exhibitions and residencies include Holocenter (USA), BKZ Studios (Germany) and Museu da Cidade de Aveiro (Portugal), with grants from Parramatta City Council and MGNSW. He is currently undertaking a PhD Media Art at UNSW Art and Design/Built Environment.

Andrew Yip

Drones and Deep mapping for Heritage Visualisation

This paper explores the use of 3D drone mapping as part of the complex visualisation workflow of an archaeological site in Serbia. It explores not only the application of photogrammetric and orthophotographic techniques to the development of site data and interpretation of the site, but the logistical and cultural challenges faced in deploying a drone in a politically sensitive area.


Andrew Yip's research explores applications for immersive visualisation and experimental digital technologies to the preservation and interpretation of important cultural heritage sites, collections and museums. His is interested in how we can use new media platforms to create new, embodied sensory experiences that allow us to understand heritage in innovative ways. I'm also interested in the mechanics of immersive design.

Andrew works closely with the GLAM sector on digital conservation, exhibition design and interaction design projects. His 2018 exhibition Henry VR at the AGNSW was the Gallery’s first virtual reality and conservation science exhibition, which used VR technologies to not only communicate complicated scientific data to large audiences, but to enable conservators to analyse and interpret cultural material in new ways. Similarly, his 2017 exhibition Sidney Nolan’s Ned Kelly Unmasked: Virtual Reality allowed Heide Museum of Modern Art to communicate the social history of the Heide site and the significance of Nolan’s practice to Australian identity and mythology through the experimental installation.

 Drone Cultures
Virtual Symposium
8 - 10 December 2020