Earlier in 2017, Lady Gaga’s drone-backed Super Bowl halftime show left audiences in awe, many of them marveling at the state of the technology and wondering where the future was headed. But while Gaga’s aerial performance was a first in the public’s eye, it was clear it wouldn’t be the last. Drones are entertaining, and they are here to stay.
Now, Dutch artists Lonneke Gordijn and Ralph Nauta, who head the Amsterdam-based Studio Drift, have teamed up with BMW to bring a drone-based performance piece to Miami Beach during Art Basel, one of the world’s premier art fairs. Called Franchise Freedom, the airborne sculpture will consist of hundreds of illuminated drones in what will be one of the largest demonstrations of its kind.
As good art tends to do, Franchise Freedom is meant to ask questions, rather than provide a mere spectacle for bougie beachgoers. Gordijn and Nauta wonder whether freedom and individuality can exist in our age of technology and hyper-connectivity. And they arrived at this question by observing the natural world.
“Our fascination started with the starlings and the beauty of their swarm behavior and then the questions that came up,” the artists told Digital Trends. “Why are these birds behaving like this, what is driving them? We see birds as a symbol for freedom, but while spending more time looking at these swarms of starlings, we started wondering if they are really free. Each bird will have to react to the movements of all their neighbors instantly, to function within the swarm. At the same time, every individual is trying to get to the middle of the group.”
The drone performance is designed to imitate these starlings in flight and, if all goes as planned, it’s sure to stand out from other pieces at the fair, not least because its staged in the sky.
But what will make Franchise Freedom stand out from other drone performances like Gaga’s, which featured drones flying in a programmed formation? It’s all in the algorithm.
“Our drones fly with autonomous behavior, like a swarm of starlings will do,” the artists said. “Every show is unique, as our murmuration algorithm creates a different flight path for our individual drones. It is the first time that a natural phenomenon will be imitated by machines working with decentralized algorithms at this scale.”
The performance is set to take place in the skies over Miami Beach on December 6 at 9 p.m.