Textile Details

'Digital Death', Deborah Stockdale. (Photo: Deborah Stockdale)
'Digital Death', Deborah Stockdale. (Photo: Deborah Stockdale)


Title of Textile:Digital Death
Maker: Deborah Stockdale
Country of Origin: Republic of Ireland
Year Produced: 2014
Size (cm): 70cm x 82cm
Materials: Cotton, digital cotton prints, silk, velvet, unbleached linen and linen
Type of Textile: Arpillera

The use of drones, also known as unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVS), for surveillance purposes and direct missile and bomb strikes has escalated dramatically in recent years, particularly in Afghanistan, Iraq and Pakistan. Typically, ground crews launch drones from the conflict zone, while controllers at army bases in the US, ‘fly’ the drone, monitor cameras and sensors and maintain contact with ground troops in the war zone. The CIA programme of using drones to assassinate “terrorist leaders” has increased under the Obama administration and it is estimated that for every militant leader killed, 10 civilians have also died. http://dronewars.net/aboutdrone/

In this arpillera, Deborah Stockdale, who “feel[s] strongly that drone warfare … is soul destroying” graphically depicts the chilling reality of it. She presents an image of drone operators, in a control room monitoring the drone flight, seemingly desensitized to the carnage they wreak in a country unknown to them, side by side with areas devastated by their actions. For Deborah, the image of a child’s face “is symbolic of all the innocent civilians killed by mistake in drone strikes.”

The psychological detachment of drone operators from their actual living targets deeply concerns Deborah: “… their actions and attitudes remind me of gamers, with their controls and screens… their world seems artificially constructed and at a great remove from reality.” She continues: “Warfare has turned into nameless operatives working under remote leadership, from undisclosed locations… inured to the fact that their targets are … very often, women, children and elderly who cannot escape or take cover quickly.”

In the process of creating this arpillera, Deborah drew inspiration from the work of an artist collective in the Pukhtoonkhwa region of Pakistan, an area which has suffered high civilian drone casualties, 200 of whom were children. To combat the insensitivity of American predator drone operators who refer to civilian causalities as “bug splats” alluding to the killing of an insect, the collective installed an enormous portrait of a little girl who lost two siblings and both parents in a drone attack. https://notabugsplat.com/2014/04/06/a-giant-art-installation-targets-predator-drone-operators/

Such creative use of art by artist collectives in remote areas to highlight and challenge the reality and devastating impact of drone warfare is testimony to the powerful potential of small movements to effect change towards a society where warfare, whatever its nature, is not tolerated.

Owner: Deborah Stockdale collection
Location: c/o Roland Kostić, Hugo Valentin Centre, Uppsala University
Original / Replica: Original
Photographer: Deborah Stockdale

Textile exhibited at: SMALL Actions BIG Movements, 1/07/2014 - 11/07/2014
Chilean Arpilleras, 29/06/2016 - 29/06/2016
Stitched Voices / Lleisiau wedi eu Pwytho, 25/03/2017 - 13/05/2017
Stitched Voices: Knowing conflict through textiles, 17/11/2017 - 20/12/2017
Stitched Voices - textila berättelse om politisk våld och motstånd , 29/08/2018 - 21/04/2019
Crafting War and Conflict, 3/04/2019 - 29/04/2019

Textile Detail Image(s)