DRIFT TBA21-Academy's Ocean Space, Venice
DRIFT will stage their first-ever indoor aerial drone performance titled Social Sacrifice in Venice alongside the 2022 Venice Art Biennale. Exploring the swarming dynamics exhibited by a school of fish encountering a predator, the work highlights the tensions that emerge between collective action and individual freedom, as well as how these change in the presence of external threats. Text by Julia Kaganskiy
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DRIFT -- Social Sacrifice

'We have a massive challenge ahead of us. If we understand how nature works in uncertain circumstances'

DRIFT Social Sacrifice
TBA21-Academy's Ocean Space, Venice

For more than 10 years, DRIFT has been working with researchers to study flocking behaviour in nature and created a biological algorithm that simulates the natural flight patterns of starlings. With the help of artificial intelligence, DRIFT reproduces these emergent feats of synchronicity visible in the movements of birds, bees, and fish and transforms them into performative installations using autonomous flying drones. 

The first work in this series, Franchise Freedom (2017), translates the pattern language of starling murmurations into mesmerising drone choreography, offering a poetic meditation on the tensions between individual autonomy and collective interdependence. In Venice, DRIFT will present a new work created with their unique swarming algorithm, their first-ever indoor aerial drone performance, called Social Sacrifice

Commissioned by Aorist, this performance will be hosted at TBA21-Academy’s Ocean Space, a Venice-based cultural centre for catalysing ocean literacy, research, and advocacy through the arts, Social Sacrifice animates a flying school of A.I. fish that will “swim” through the Church of San Lorenzo every evening. Flying overhead above the audience, the drones dance and battle one another, their movements accentuated through light and colour. Each drone has its own light source, with the “predator drones” represented in red and the school of fish represented in blue, and the intensity of these lights are influenced by the density of the group—brighter and stronger when closer together, fainter and weaker when more diffuse. 

True evolution comes from adaptation and from getting into unknown and uncomfortable situations, to learn and become better.

The new commission is inspired by the collective intelligence and cooperation exhibited by schools of fish when facing a predator and highlights the way this kind of adaptive swarming behaviour leads to successful problem solving in uncertain circumstances. For DRIFT, these insights from nature offer clues as to how we might tackle the myriad challenges we face today — from the global pandemic to climate change to geopolitical conflicts. DRIFT’s Lonneke Gordjin explains, “True evolution comes from adaptation and from getting into unknown and uncomfortable situations, to learn and become better. We have a massive challenge ahead of us. If we understand how nature works in uncertain circumstances, it will become easier to accept and embrace that we have to go step by step and constantly change and adapt to remain a part of the evolution of this earth.”

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