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2015 Exhibitions


March 26 - May 9, 2015

FotoFest at Silver Street Studios
2000 Edwards Street, Houston, Texas 77007

James Bridle, Drone Shadow 007: The Lavender Hill Drone, 2014. Installed by James Bridle and Grace Jones. Courtesy of the artist



Lisa Barnard (UK)
David Birkin (UK/USA)
James Bridle (UK)
Mahwish Chisty (Pakistan/USA)
Trevor Paglen (USA)
Pitch Interactive (USA) 

Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs, or more colloquially, “drones”) are a controversial technology. Though the earliest versions (remote operated aircraft) originated during WW I, and saw important and deadly innovation through WW II and the Vietnam War, they only came to greater widespread public knowledge within the last decade and a half, as the post 9/11 wars on terror expanded in Afghanistan and Iraq, and drones strikes reach into Pakistan, Yemen, and now Syria.

Used for both surveillance and weapons delivery, they are an integrated part of modern warfare and intelligence gathering. UAVs are prized for their efficiency, efficacy, and safety, and praised for creating a more “humane war”. They are airborne for days at a time, over conflict zones, controlled by pilots sitting safely at their screens, 8,000 miles away in air-conditioned trailers outside of Las Vegas, Nevada.

Many Pakistanis understand that their government lacks the capability to suppress the Taliban, and therefore accept CIA drone strikes as a temporary, if unsavory necessity. In the West, as the public’s awareness of drone usage increases, questions are being raised about the ethics and implementation of the technology. Concerns about the distance, both geographically and psychologically, between the operators and the targets; between the justifications and the decision makers; and between the all-seeing eye of the drone camera and real cultural understanding, are also being raised. This international group of artists, engineers, writers and activists are among those asking those questions and expressing those concerns. They are all searching for greater accountability.

Lisa Barnard works with victims of missile attacks, drone pilots and psychologists, trying to uncover the secrecies surrounding the use of drones by Western governments. Trevor Palgen’s hacked drone video, Drone Vision reveals a “drone-eye” view and questions information security between operators and the machines they pilot.

David Birkin’s Severe Clear ask viewers to rethink notions of justice and responsibility during the “war on terror”. Mahwish Chishty‘s paintings open a dialogue between drones and folk-art truck painting, juxtaposing traditional Pakistani culture with contemporary, 21st Century concerns.

Technology writer and artist James Bridle, and interactive designers Pitch Interactive, examine the unknown and virtual spaces within contemporary war. Both are interested in bringing us closer to understanding the realities and consequences of the technology we use.

Pakistani lawyer Mirza Shahzad Akbar has spent the last decade collecting photographic-evidence and testimony about drone-targeting errors and bringing lawsuits against the Pakistani government and the CIA. He, like these artists, believes that the United States should hold itself to a higher standard. “This is not about taking the Taliban side or the American side,” says Mr. Akbar in a recent New Yorker article.* “Our work has been about the fact that there is no transparency or accountability”

Jennifer Ward, Curator

* Steve Coll. “The Unblinking Stare.” The New Yorker Nov. 2014

Lisa Barnard, Ellipses, 2014. From the project Mapping the Territory, project Whiplash Transition. Courtesy of the artist


Saturday Matinée Artist and Curator Tour
Saturday, March 28, 2pm
FotoFest at Silver Street Studios, 2000 Edwards Street
with artists David Birkin and Mahwish Chisty, and curator Jennifer Ward

Sunday Conversation
Sunday, April 12, 12 noon
FotoFest at Silver Street Studios, 2000 Edwards Street
with artist Lisa Barnard and renowned documentary photographer and educator Donna De Cesare

Mahwish Chisty, Untitled, 2014. Courtesy of the artist

FotoFest welcomes schools and community groups (youth to adult) to connect with the issues and art of our global landscape. Led by FotoFest staff members, these tours are catered to meet the needs of your individual group and feature a guided experience up to one hour. Student tours may include activities connecting writing, visual literacy, creative thinking and more. Tours are free with pre-registration. Please call Glenn Bailey at 713.223.5522 x 11 or email
HOST AN ARTIST IN YOUR CLASSROOM FotoFest makes artists available to teachers and students for a limited number of in-classroom or on-site visits during their stays in Houston. Classroom visits feature a visual presentation of artwork, opportunities for the students to ask questions and engage in open dialogue around culture and the issues addressed in the artists' work. Artist visits are free with pre-registration. To arrange a school visit, please call Glenn Bailey at 713.223.5522 x 11 or email
FotoFest relies on the generous participation of volunteers. Opportunities exist for volunteering at FotoFest exhibitions and events throughout the week - on both weekdays and weekends. If you are available and willing to donate your time and enthusiasm to FotoFest, please contact Meg Patch at


David Birkin, The Shadow of a Doubt, 2014. From the project Severe Clear, Aerial banner over Liberty Island, Veterans Day 2014. Courtesy of the artist

Steven Evans and David Klonkowski; John and Carola Herrin; Gregory and Lisa Spier; Eliane Thweatt
Refreshments provided by Karbach Brewing Co.

Houston Endowment Inc; City of Houston through the Houston Arts Alliance; National Endowment for the Arts; Texas Commission on the Arts; The Wortham Foundation; FotoFest Board of Directors; Judith and Gamble Baldwin; Robert Gerry III; William and Rosalie Hitchcock; HexaGroup; Houston Public Media; and iLand Internet Solutions; and Silver Street Studios

Special thanks to supporters of FotoFest’s inaugural Annual Appeal, including lead donors Christiane Olsen; John S. Parsley; Thomas Damsgaard; William E. Joor III; The Chaney Foundation; John E. Parkerson; Gregory and Lisa Spier; A.D. Stuart and Robin Stuart; and the Erla & Harry Zuber Fund



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