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Art installation brings drone killings to life

It can often be hard to grasp what numbers really represent. The thousands of deaths caused by drone strikes in Pakistan, Yemen, and elsewhere over the years are easily obscured when they're communicated simply as black print in a newspaper.

A new installation by Los Angeles artist Jonathan Fletcher Moore seeks to make drone killings a bit less abstract. It's called Artificial Killing Machine, and, as he writes, the goal of the project "is to make visible the invisible or that which is too concealed to perceive."

jonathan moore artificial killing machine

The installation is made up of an array of 15 digitally actuated toy cap guns dangling from the ceiling. A small receiver unit controls the guns autonomously. The toy guns sit dormant until a message comes over the wire from The Bureau of Investigative Journalism, which collects data on drone strikes. When a strike occurs, the guns abruptly pop into action, and a thermal printer clinically records the strike onto a ledger that dangles to the floor.

It's a very smart way to simulate the reality of drone strikes. The impending danger silently floats above. The killing is performed by a "toy" that's controlled remotely. And the killings are soullessly recorded. One can even sit under the installation for the full experience.

jonathan moore artificial killing machine

Moore calls the installation a "data visualization project," adding that it explores the ideas of "people as statistics" and "the concept of game and childhood-play to express the uncertainty of war, technology, and social progress." More generally, Moore tells The Verge that the piece is comments on the modern human condition in which "it seems these people [do] not expect their virtual actions to affect their physical lives."

Artificial Killing Machine was on display earlier this year in Los Angeles, but thankfully there's a excellent video (above) of the installation in case you missed it. For more on the project, visit Moore's website.