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Drone victims 'not a bug splat,' says art installation

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An aerial image of a portrait rolled out in a field to raise awareness of the causalities of drone strikes. (Inside Out Project)

The portrait of a young girl whose parents were reportedly killed in a drone strike has been unfurled in a field in Pakistan by artists behind a project called #NotABugSplat.

With the help of local residents, the artist collective unrolled the portrait in a field alongside mud huts and farms in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa region two weeks ago, according to Yahoo News. The project is inspired by French photographer JR's "Inside Out," which installs large portraits of residents in local landscapes. 

The name takes aim at the term "bug splats," which drone operators use when referring to kills because "viewing the body through a grainy video image gives the sense of an insect being crushed," the artist collective says.

The artists, from Pakistan and the United States, want to counter what they call the "insensitivity" of the term and raise awareness of the casualties of drone strikes.

"Now when viewed by a drone camera, what an operator sees on his screen is not an anonymous dot on the landscape, but an innocent child victim's face."

In an email to Yahoo! News, a representative for the artist collective, who was not named, says "although there is awareness for drone attacks, it's rarely humanized." 

"This installation is our attempt at showing that." 

The artists are supported by the Pakistan-based Foundation for Fundamental Rights and British organization Reprieve.

According to CNN, lawyer Shahzad Akbar, who is head of FFR and working with Reprieve to investigate the civilian casualties of drone warfare, provided the #NotABugSplat group with the image of the young girl. The CNN report says the photographed girl lost her parents in a 2010 drone strike in the North Waziristan village of Dande Darpa Khel. The original image was taken by North Waziristan photojournalist Noor Behram, CNN reported. 

NotABugSplat says the massive portrait was "designed to be captured by satellites in order to make it a permanent part of the landscape on online mapping sites." It is unknown whether the portrait remains in the field.

The representative told Yahoo News that locals were encouraged to "use the fabric for roofing and other useful purposes."

"The art was always meant to be utilized and not discarded after it was photographed."

The installation is generating a lot of conversation and kudos online but an expert told Newsweek that he is unsure of its effect on drone operators or on thwarting drone strikes.

"The simple fact of the matter is that people who are involved in armed conflict deal with children all the time," said Christopher Swift, a lawyer and adjunct professor of national security studies at Georgetown University. "I'm not quite sure what effects this will have on drone operators who are military professionals, just like the people we have on the ground."

What do you think of #NotABugSplat? Do you think it is an effective effort? Why or why not?

Tags: Art, Art Installation, Drones, Not A Bug Splat, Pakistan, Reaction, Social Media

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