By Jim Waterson (BuzzFeed)
The piece was installed in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KPK) province, close to Pakistan’s northwest border with Afghanistan, by an art collective that includes Pakistanis, Americans and others associated with the French artist JR.
The collective says it produced the work in the hope that U.S. drone operators will see the human face of their victims in a region that has been the target of frequent strikes.
The artists titled their work “#NotABugSplat”, a reference to the alleged nickname drone pilots have for their victims.
“Bug splat” is the term used by U.S. drone pilots to describe the death of an individual as seen on a drone camera because “viewing the body through a grainy video image gives the sense of an insect being crushed”.
The artists say that the purpose of “#NotABugSplat” is to make those human blips seem more real to the pilots based thousands of miles away: “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.”
A spokesman for the group told BuzzFeed that the artwork would eventually be reused by the locals.
“The piece was left there for as long as people decided 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,” says Saks Afridi, a New York-based artist and former advertising creative who is handling media enquiries on behalf of the group.
“We cannot disclose [the] exact village in order to protect the locals,” Afridi says.
He says the portrait was put on display “about two weeks ago”.
The piece was made in conjunction with human rights organisation Reprieve UK and the Foundation for Fundamental Rights, an organisation co-founded by Shahzad Akbar, a lawyer who has represented the families of victims of drone warfare in legislation against the CIA.
The artists say only that the picture is of a girl who lost both her parents and two siblings to U.S. drone strikes. But some people appear to have identified the child.
The creators hope their giant artwork will “create empathy and introspection amongst drone operators, and will create dialogue amongst policy makers, eventually leading to decisions that will save innocent lives.”