#NotABugSplat, an Art Project Designed to Be Seen by Drones

An art project designed to be seen by drone pilots notabugsplat.com

In the heavily targeted Khyber Pakhtunkhwa area of northwest Pakistan, a child’s expressionless face stares up from a giant field.

It is a 90-by-60-foot poster, a politically charged art installation intended to attach a face to the civilian casualties of regular drone attacks—and, ideally, shame the drone operators who come across it.

The vinyl poster is large enough to be spotted from landscape satellites. The female child’s parents and two siblings were reportedly killed in an attack by the unmanned aerial weapons.

“Although there is awareness for drone attacks, it’s rarely humanized,” a member of the artist collective explained to Yahoo News. “This installation is our attempt at showing that.”

Between 400 and 900 civilians have been killed in such attacks over the past decade. A U.N. expert said last month that drone use has gone down in Pakistan in recent months but is on the rise in Afghanistan and Yemen.

A post on the project’s Web site, #NotABugSplat—named after drone operators’ tendency to refer to human kills as “bug splats”—explains the installation in further depth and provides more images.

“The group of artists traveled inside [Khyber Pakhtunkhwa] province and, with the assistance of highly enthusiastic locals, unrolled the poster amongst mud huts and farms,” the post explains. “It is their hope that this will create empathy and introspection amongst drone operators.”

But however optimistic the sentiment, some experts doubt the image will accomplish much in halting the deadly strikes.

“The simple fact of the matter is that people who are involved in armed conflict deal with children all the time,” Christopher Swift, a lawyer and adjunct professor of national security studies at Georgetown University, told Newsweek. “I’m not quite sure what effects this will have on drone operators who are military professionals, just like the people we have on the ground.”

Swift argued that the installation might more interestingly shed insight on Pakistani domestic politics—including the gulf between public condemnation and private enablement of frequent drone attacks.

“The meme is nice,” he said. “But the reality on the ground—it’s far more complicated.”