After Dazzling Miami Beach and Amsterdam, Studio Drift’s Amazing Luminous Drone Swarm Will Take Flight Over Burning Man

With 'Franchise Freedom,' the art and design duo is taking its statement about the limits of freedom to the Blackrock Desert.

Studio Drift, Franchise Freedom, Amsterdam, 2018, Photo by Ossip van Duivenbode.

After 300 luminous drones took flight in a showstopping performance over Amsterdam this past weekend, the Dutch art and design duo behind it all has revealed to artnet News that they have their sights set on a next stop for the show-stopping project: Burning Man.

Speaking to artnet News, Studio Drift‘s Ralph Nauta and Lonneke Gordijn explained the genesis of their pioneering airborne sculpture, Franchise Freedom, which had its breathtaking debut at Art Basel Miami Beach last year. After developing an interest in group behavior, the FuturePace artist duo found themselves struck by the flight patterns of starlings, which they say are “endlessly fascinating to look at.” Starling swarms appear to move effortlessly as a whole despite each individual following a set path, a natural phenomenon called murmuration. This formed the genesis of the project that fuses art, nature, and technology.

“It perfectly visualizes the illusion of freedom of being inside a group,” the duo explains to artnet News. 

Based on these observations, the duo developed a special algorithm with which to choreograph the movements for a swarm of drones, offering a vision of a new hybrid life of nature and technology. The lit-up drones dive and soar in patterns mimicking the way the birds fly. 

Thanks to the unprecedented interest in the Studio Drift retrospective at the Stedelijk Museum (on view till August 26), the flock had its European debut this past weekend in Amsterdam in collaboration with the City of Amsterdam, BMW, Rabobank, RAI, and NDSM. At sunset on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday (August 10 through 12) the amazing spectacle took place over the river IJ. Unlike the performance for fairgoers in Miami, this outing was visible from many different angles in the city.

The duo told artnet News this was a beautiful addition to the experience of the work. “People came by boats and were watching in buildings along the IJ. After the show there was a loud applause that could be heard from all over the water. It was very special,” they said.

A new challenge for the Amsterdam performance, the duo explains, was the hard-to-come-by nature of drone permits, because the proximity of the performance to Amsterdam Schiphol airport. “No one has ever gotten a permit to fly a drone at night and we flew 300! Initially it looked like an impossible mission. Everyone who knows how difficult this is to arrange was surprised we made it happen.”

But the duo are planning their biggest drone performance so far at Burning Man, the art-filled festival running in Nevada’s Black Rock Desert between August 26 and September 4.

We did a very successful project there last year, the Tree of Tenere, and it has been our long time goal to host Franchise Freedom there,” they explain. “As the work tells a story on the inevitable rules that come with functioning within a group versus individual freedom, we feel this concept fits Burning Man very well.”

The pair say they can’t yet reveal the exact details of the Nevada performance, but promise one thing: “It’s going to be spectacular.”

Studio Drift: Coded Nature” is on view at the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam until August 26.

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