Exclusive: Katsu's Graffiti Drone: video by Katsu / The Hole, New York City
Published in conjunction with the Center for the Study of the Drone.
KATSU is an artist and a vandal and a clever hacker too. His work pushes our idea of what can be achieved with the graffiti artist's limited tool-set. Having established himself as one of New York City's most prolific and imaginative taggers in the 1990s, he garnered admiration from the arts community (and condemnation from the authorities) when he pioneered the fire extinguisher spray can, which has permitted him to expand the scale of his art by orders of magnitude. He famously demoed it at "Art in the Streets," a 2012 show at the the Los Angeles Museum of Contemporary Art, when, without invitation, he left his multi-story calling card on the side of the museum.
Just as autonomous drone technology in the military sphere will challenge structures of accountability and responsibility, KATSU’s graffiti drone, which he hopes will soon be capable of autonomously creating its own artworks, challenges our notions of authorship, creativity and power: Who's the artist, the human or the machine? Likewise, just as the drone has expanded the physical and surveillant reach of militaries and governments, what will it mean in the hands of the citizen and the artist? In the cities where artists constantly seek to place their artwork in the most unreachable places, the drone could become a powerful tool of art and vandalism.
Metropolitan police departments everywhere may have another reason to be anxious about Katsu's graffiti drone: he says he intends to develop the machine as an open source technology so that artists everywhere can make their own. They'll use it on canvas, as KATSU has. But they'll likely find many other uses too: this weekend Katsu hopes to test the drone, unannounced, on other surfaces around Silicon Valley.