The Taranis trilogy is a Paper Tiger collaboration, currently in development at Ovalhouse by Omar El-Khairy, Afsaneh Gray and Tanya Singh.
‘Pilots’ sitting in front of banks of screens thousands of miles away from the source of the images they are viewing, clutching joystick controls based on those used with Xbox consoles. Military training in fake villages populated by amputee actors. The treatment of veterans' PTSD with 3D computer simulations that re-expose and aim to desensitize the traumatic event. These aren't scenarios from science fiction, but the reality of contemporary 'war at a distance'.
Taranis is the name of a BAE Systems’ simulation programme currently in development, designed to enable UK soldiers to fly Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (aka drones) from home soil. This programme is in turn named after a Celtic deity, the personification of thunder. With the Taranis trilogy, we have been thinking about ancient technology and cutting-edge myths, about hyper-real simulations and bloody realities, and about the uncertain gap between 'over there' and 'over here'.
So far, we have explored, abandoned, and expanded on the following:
Call of Duty; Modern Warfare 3; World of Warcraft; American Army 3; Guy Debord & Alice Becker-Ho; mock Middle Eastern villages; Davos refugee simulations; 'Real Life Training'; fake fake currency; P.W. Singer; Paul Virilio; Wasps, Cicadas, Tempests, Predators, Reapers, Avengers, Global Hawks, Ravens; Future Force Warrior; Modular Advanced Armed Robotic System; X-box joysticks; Micro Aviary; AeroVironment; Unmanned; PTSD; Virtual Reality Therapy; Harun Farocki; devalorisation; the military-entertainment complex; the opium trade; the history of aerial bombing; CCTV; Olympics security; GPS; Iraqi hackers; Russian spy planes; the occucopter; the Gorgon Stare; point and click; always the hunter never the hunted; paintball; Man-Machine Interaction; gaming theory; Second Life; the uncanny valley; Kriegsspiel; choose your own adventure; Baudrillard, simulacra; UAVs; Google Earth; taking the man out of the loop; brain-machine interface; eye in the sky; kill chain; sensor operator; rules of engagement.
Whether drone technology is seen as a paradigm shift in contemporary experience, or as the latest stage in ever-increasing geographical and emotional distance on the battlefield, one thing is for sure: beneath the clinical façade of the drone machines are flesh and blood bodies being blown up, real people suffering nightmares. We want to use the theatrical qualities of proximity, liveness and character-led narrative, to counteract the distance, virtuality and depersonalisation inherent to remote warfare. We want to to tell the stories that persist beyond the withdrawal of 'boots on the ground', the stories that linger and repeat, of the human and the inhuman.
As part of Paper Tiger's residency as Associate Artists at Ovalhouse in 2013, we will develop first drafts of three scripts that together do justice to the complexity of these stories. For information on our first public event, at Ovalhouse on 1st June 2013, click here.