Drone Studies

Bringing together various elements, including 32 works on paper and a sound sculpture, KH-21, evokes a heightened awareness of mechanisms of surveillance and the civilians’ role in an ever-growing vertical occupation.

Titled in code,  KH-21 makes reference to the recently declassified HEXAGON Program whereby 20 photographic reconnaissance satellites were launched between 1971-1986.  The installation builds upon a previous work by the artist, Architectural Studies 1-17 (2011) in which cut-out details of spy planes accompany floor plans of historic mosques.  Collected data gains new relevance as Waheed’s images become the catalyst for reclaiming marginalized histories.

Moving through the installation, a story emerges about an estranged ex-flight engineer who has dragged something in, something lost from the sky.  Unable to decipher fact from fiction, viewers find themselves in a space where the real merges with the imagined.  The artist’s practice involves extensive research which is evident through her use of materials – original associated press photographs, news clippings, technical reconnaissance manuals and government reports are cut, spliced and reconstructed to clarify this character’s involvement.

Taking into consideration the artist’s impetus for these works, KH-21 follows suite in her preoccupation with undisclosed documents and a distinct minimalist formal aesthetic.  Compositions are often sparse and centred with images and text arranged as if in code. Driven by a tendency to catalog, categorize and re-organize selected fragments into multiple works within a series, her re-appropriation of found material, specifically photographs, enables her to expose details that would have otherwise been lost.

The work features a sound sculpture: an intermedia object that transmits the reverberation of it’s own flight path. Suggestive of space-debris, this large spherical presence relays its own story.  Individual viewers have access through a customized mono-pod headphone.  A collaborative effort with musician Laurel Sprengelmeyer, the sound component is suggestive of the intimacy often created by the artist vis-a-vis her work and the viewer.  It is as if we are looking back, yet the inquiries that surface are presently as important as ever: surveillance and civilian data collection, high altitude occupation and activity, and our current global reality of decades of space-debris now descending upon us.  While grounded in historical fact, the installation calls for an examination of ways in which the past and future collide by excavating the life of a collective memory, while simultaneously projecting its relevancy onto an altered future.


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