Do-it-yourself (DIY) aerial photography using kites and balloons is as old as photography itself and despite the drone boom we are currently witnessing, it has never lost its relevance. Balloons and kites are used by activists around the world for collecting information and producing testimonies around contested environmental and political issues in diverse places such as Brazil, U.S., Spain, Uganda, Iraq, Gaza - and the list goes on. Why go through the effort of creating a self-built aerial instrument that is liable to fail as much as to prevail, when satellite imagery, digital GIS and commercial drones are becoming increasingly affordable and accessible? Why take the long way if you can simplify and take the shortcut? The persistence of DIY techniques testifies to the need for devising counter-dominant technologies; it tells us that the question at stake is rather: who owns the skies?
In this talk I share research and visual work from Israel/Palestine and beyond which experiments with the possibilities and limitations of aerial vision in contexts of conflict and ongoing colonization. As I will show, within the spatial, political and religious particularities of Jerusalem’s contested urban space, a flight with a drone can sketch out aerial walls and forms of corporate and governmental control that are otherwise invisible. In these techno-political configurations, DIY aerial photography can become a valuable tool – not simply for bypassing restrictions over the aerial space, but rather for producing near real-time aerial testimonies that are created and mediated by the abused rather than by distant experts.