Monday, 21 June 2021
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    'Digital Death', Deborah Stockdale. (Photo: Martin Melaugh)
    'Digital Death', Deborah Stockdale. (Photo: Martin Melaugh)


    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

    Globally, the number of states operating armed drones or unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) has quadrupled from an initial base of three - the US, Israel and UK - since the early 2000s. Drone Wars UK predict that this figure is likely to double in the near future.

    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.

    Such creativity is testimony to the ongoing efforts of civil society groups to expose the reality of drone warfare and to resist war, in all its forms.

    Owner: Deborah Stockdale collection
    Location: Roberta Bacic, Northern Ireland
    Original / Replica: Original
    Photographer: Martin Melaugh

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