As sensorial machine-human assemblages, drones are involved with cultural affects, technological materialities, and political discourses. Hence drones are not just technical instruments; they are interconnected with discourse. This talk will trace the world-making powers of drone technology in order to address how the sensorium of the drone can work as a model for imagining communities. The military drone is often characterized as shaping communities based on exclusion. This lecture, however, focuses on the civilian drone. Although the boundaries between the war drone and the ‘good drone’ are always blurred, artistic negotiations with the civilian drone can unleash the creative and speculative potential of this surveillance technology. By disrupting the predictive and networked operations of the drone, artworks about drones can break, reuse, and recycle the drone’s community-modelling powers in the contexts of social activism, eco-criticism, and post-humanism. Examples of contemporary aesthetic drone imaginaries that are connected with planetary, pandemic, and swarm-like communities will be discussed.


Kathrin Maurer (PhD; Dr. Phil.) is Professor of Humanities and Technology at the University of Southern Denmark (Odense, DK). Her research focuses on bio-machines, surveillance technology, drones, and visual culture. She is the PI of the projects ‘The Aesthetics of Bio-Machines and the Question of Life’ (The Velux Foundation, 2023–2027) and ‘Drone Imaginaries and Communities’ (Independent Research Foundation Denmark, 2020–2023) as well as the leader of the University of Southern Denmark’s Center for Culture and Technology. She is the author of the monograph The Sensorium of the Drone and Communities (MIT Press, 2023) and she co-edited the collected volumes Drone Imaginaries: The Power of Remote Vision (Manchester University Press, 2020) and Visualizing War: Emotions, Technologies, Communities (Routledge, 2018). She has a background in German Studies and has published on nineteenth-century visual culture, historical prose, and travel literature.

In English
Organized by

ICI Berlin


Kathrin Maurer

Moderated by Christoph Holzhey

ICI Lecture Series Models 2023-24

A model can be an object of admiration, a miniature or a prototype, an abstracted phenomenon or applied theory, a literary text — practically anything from a human body on a catwalk to a mathematical description of a system. It can elicit desire, provide understanding, guide action or thought. Despite the polysemy of the term, models across disciplines and fields share a fundamental characteristic: their effect depends on a specific relational quality. A model is always a model of or for something else, and the relation is reductive insofar as it is selective and considers only certain aspects of both object and model. Critical discussions of models often revolve around their restrictive function. And yet models are less prescriptive and more ambiguous than codified rules or norms. What is the critical purchase of models and how does their generative potential relate to their constitutive reduction? What are the stakes in decreasing or increasing, altering or proliferating the reductiveness of models? How can one work with and on models in a creative, productive manner without disavowing power asymmetries and their exclusionary or limiting effects?

KV Maurer