At the Kennedy Space Center on Merritt Island, Florida, Amsterdam–based creatives Studio Drift launched a special edition of their newish spectacle, Franchise Freedom—an aerial sculpture comprising a swarm of glowing, Intel Shooting Star drones. Implanted with finely-tuned but unpredictable algorithms, each drone acts and reacts with precision to its network, imitating a flock of starlings in flight.
As the amorphous installation set flight in front of skyward-pointing rockets and a full moon, new wave British rockers Duran Duran performed an eight-minute, orchestral rearrangement of an on-the-nose track titled "The Universe Alone," among other numbers. Band founder and keyboardist Nick Rhodes was chuffed to have been invited, having witnessed its debut in 2017 at Art Basel in nearby Miami. "I was completely enchanted by what they had created. I'd never seen technology like this be used in such an emotional way," says Rhodes.
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Lonneke Gordijn and Ralph Nauta, Drift’s creative duo, have carved a niche for themselves with grandiose works of art like these. They play at the intersection of technology and natural phenomena, making use of hard data to mechanize and imitate natural movement. Says historian William Meyers, "Their processes can be thought of as searches for the essential character, patterns, behavior, or connections as they are found in the natural or built environments, or even in the internal, personal and emotional realms."
The moveable display has now seen Amsterdam, Miami, and Burning Man—where playa-goers were given an impromptu show— but this one was a deeper reflection of humanity for the artists at Drift. "The moon landing made us think about our lives here on earth more than life on the moon. That’s what our work Franchise Freedom is about, human behavior on earth," says Gordijn.