Eric Guazon broadens latent interest in the complex economies and geographies of war through this seventh solo exhibition Specific Target. His new series of mixed media works sustains stale iconography: silhouettes of strutting soldiers, fragments of faces and persons, maps intersecting with grids. The grid signifies order while the swarm of visual elements (the toy soldiers and this time, aircrafts, and clone troopers) convey chaos. This juxtaposition symbolizes the incoherence yet increasing sophistication of warfare in our age.
The artist inserts into this hordes of form the various shadows of drones or unmanned aircraft deployed by the US to enemy territories since 2000. Variously called RPAs or remotely piloted aircrafts, UAVs or unmanned serial vehicles, they also go by the glossier names Predator, Reaper, Global Hawk, Sentinel and Avenger. In earlier decades they were simply material of science fiction films, in our age they have become haunting realities. Shadows of these highly sophisticated weapons of war, so-called ‘wonder weapons’ loom large in the mixed media works Reaper, State of Surveillance, Predator, Heart and Mind, and Exit Plan.
It is fitting these weapons of stealth are depicted as silhouettes, shadows hovering in the skies. Reports claim people down below are forewarned of drone attacks by glinting specks in the clouds and the buzzing sound as destruction and death are delivered. Unmanned and controlled from a distance, drone warfare obscures the harrowing cost of war. These covert operations greatly dehumanize war, fluidly obliterating from the equation human suffering and death. However touted as significant deployment of technology, drones are proven flawed with cases of errant strikes and rogue RPAs caused by weather conditions, humidity, malfunctioning parts or hacked global positioning systems. The use of drones is widespread, not only in Pakistan or Somalia but also in our shores, with reported casualties in Jolo Island in Mindanao. The recently signed Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement between the Philippines and the United States while stipulating against permanent bases or nuclear weapons in the country, does not discount the use and testing of technology aided weaponry in military exercises.
The shady business of drone warfare and stealth surveillance signals the dangerous reach of empire in our times and the precarious balance of power in our world. Art and visual culture intervenes in this disquieting state in its attempts to reveal those slyly hidden from knowledge, plucking and grounding vision and feeling from the heights of unfathomable skies to sobering land, where suffering is most acute and heartfelt.
Specific Target is on exhibit until Jan. 8 at Hiraya Gallery, 530 United Nations Avenue, Ermita, Manila.