Ars Electronica Garden Melbourne

The Experimenta Garden – A Drone Opera (2015 – 2020)

Experimenta (AU)

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The Experimenta Garden features the multi-platform work A Drone Opera (2015 – 2020)

A Drone Opera (2015 – 2020)

The ideas behind A Drone Opera formed in 2014, when artist Matthew Sleeth saw footage of US drone strikes in the Middle East circulating online. This coincided with his participation in a fleeting community of underground drone racers, meeting in deserted Melbourne suburban shopping centre carparks. From these starting points, a project was conceived to explore society’s drift towards the acceptance of total surveillance, an increased presence of military systems in non-military settings, and our fear and fetishization of new technologies.

As producing partner, Experimenta and Artistic Director Jonathan Parsons have collaborated with Matthew to develop and present a performance, a film, and an installation over a five-year period. This iterative model traversed different presentation conventions and audiences, using hybrid practices that incorporate drone operators, opera singers, moving image, laser light and sound. At the heart of the work is an artist’s exploration into the growing interdependence between the analogue and digital worlds. Since the initial 2015 performance presentation, the work’s key themes have come into sharp relief. “Our hubris with technology; constant government surveillance; and the idea that we are often distracted by the bright shiny lights, and are worried about the wrong things” (Sleeth 2015) have been further accelerated by this global pandemic.




Project Credits / Acknowledgements

A Drone Opera
By Matthew Sleeth
Producer: Kate Richards
Executive producer: Jonathan Parsons
Writers: Matthew Sleeth, Kate Richards
Composer and librettist: Susan Frykberg
Laser Set Designer: Robin Fox
Sound Designer: Philip Samartzis
Lighting Designer: Bosco Shaw
Cinematographer: David McKinnar
Soprano: Judith Dodsworth
Countertenor: Hamish Gould
Bass-Baritone: Paul Hughes
Commissioned by Experimenta, Australia’s preeminent media arts organisation
Hub created by Craig Bowler, Art Director at Visitor