The Colourful Drones of Mahwish Chishty

Mahwish Chishty’s painting “MQ-9/Guardian.” [Source].

In the past few years, drones have emerged from virtually been unknown to becoming a symbol of modern warfare. Almost simultaneously, artists have subverted drones by turning them into art in a rising subculture: from the drone cinema that features films shot from hexacopters, and the Drones of New York and quadrocopters fly-dancing in Austria, to David Shook’s “Poetry Drone” project, which aims at raising $10,000 to buy a flying drone that will cruise over cities, raining down antiwar poems on the people below.

Mahwish Chishty is one painter who has joined the drone-as-art subculture. Trained in painting miniatures in  the National College of Arts, Lahore, Pakistan, Chishty has emerged as a notable conceptual artist. Her work was featured in “Perspective: Women, Art and Islam” at the Museum of Contemporary African Diasporan Arts, Brooklyn, New York in 2009.

In 2011, Chishty returned from the United States to Lahore to meet friends and family who talked non-stop about the drone war raging along the Afghan-Pakistan border. For about ten years, military drones powered by the United States have maintained a presence in the region in order to target “terrorists.” Drone strikes have killed more than 2000 people in Pakistan, a significant number of them civilians. Curiosity about all the propaganda behind the drone war inspired Chishty to re-imagine drones by painting them in the tradition of Pakistan’s truck art. Painting trucks is a local art form created by truck drivers who paint their vehicles in bright colours and floral patterns, often showing artistic depiction of heroes and sometimes with calligraphy in order to beautify them. Chishty juxtaposes silhouettes of drones with truck art imagery, taking the shapes of different kinds of drones and covering them in decoration, like the drivers who decorate their trucks. [Read more...]