Whiplash Transition, 2014: Artist Gallery at SENSOR Fotofest, Houston, USA with David Birkin, Trevor Paglan, James Bridle, Mahwish Tristy, Pitch Interactive

Lisa Barnard (Photographer)

Research output: Non-textual formExhibition


The first major combat use of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs, commonly known as drones) was during the Vietnam War. The 1991 Gulf War renewed operation of UAVs and, by the beginning of the Balkans conflict, military intelligence were integrating UAV Intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance data into their analyses. UAVs are now the norm in warfare and are deployed both in-theatre and remotely. Ms. Barnard explores the use of UAV by the United States military in three series from her larger project Whiplash Transition.

In Too Thin, Too Blue, US military UAV operators maneuver aircraft remotely to attack targets thousands of miles away over vast mountainous regions of South Waziristan, Pakistan. The aerial images, from a “drones-eye” view, show the vast and sublime landscape of Waziristan, a place deemed a threat on the basis of intelligence alone. The accompanying statistical data is a dense stream of information that shows just how difficult the justifications, and the results, of strikes are to understand.

Primitive Pieces show mangled fragments from Hellfire missiles found in the mountains of Waziristan. The fragments were collected as evidence by families of the alleged victims of drone strikes, and by Waziri-based photojournalist Noor Behram. The fragments have been used as evidence contradicting the CIA claim that no ‘non-militant’ had been killed in drone strikes.

Mapping the Territory incorporates ambiguous landscape photographs from both Pakistan and the USA, appropriated photos from the first Jane’s Pocket Book of Unmanned Vehicle Systems and diagrams of drone holding patterns. The mosaic offers a constructed battlefield, referencing aerial mapping used by air forces since early in the 20th century. The piece touches on the larger idea that those who own the skies, owns the territory.
The overarching project, Whiplash Transition, investigates our understanding of the consequences for perception, and hence for engaged image making, of the technologies underpinning the use of RPAs/UAVs. It addresses these, using a variety of media, both from within and outside the military network, and the psychological, economic, geographical, political and legal environment of their use.

Lisa Barnard, adapted from the artist’s statements and an interview with Darren Campion (Paper Journal, January 2015)
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 26 Mar 2015
EventSENSOR Fotofest - FotoFest at Silver Street Studios , Houston, United States
Duration: 26 Mar 20159 May 2015


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