1xRun Thru Interview
NYC Drones Project by ESSAM
1xRun: Tell us a little bit about the NYC Drones Project? How did it come about?
ESSAM: The drone project was born out of what I saw as a need for a conversation on the subject of drone use both internationally and domestically.
1xRUN: Tell us a bit about the original pieces that you created? What materials were they printed on and drawn with? Where were they placed?
ESSAM: The originals were printed in the same manner commercial advertising is printed for phone booths in NYC. UV cured inkjet on styrene, a very durable plastic. And they all went up in phone booth ad space around the city. I designed the piece in June of 2012 and it didn’t hit the streets until September. The debut was timed with the general assembly of the UN, which may have something to do with my current predicament.1xRun: Tell us how the idea & execution came about for these, how long did these pieces take?
ESSAM: I’m not sure it is wise for me to disclose too much given my current legal standing. To put up the installation took about 16 hrs over 2 consecutive nights.
1xRun: What is unique about this piece?
ESSAM: It’s unique for me in that it is street art. Most of my work has been photographic in nature until the drone projects. It has really changed the way I operate and think of approaching an artistic endeavor.
1xRun: What has happened since the pieces went up?
ESSAM: Well…I was arrested for one, and have had to retain legal council that I can’t afford. Animal New York threw a fundraiser on the 14th of March to help raise money. I can’t thank them enough for their help.1xRun: Why should people buy these prints?
ESSAM: I hope people buy it to support the cause and help continue the conversation, I also think it serves as a reminder that we all have a duty to stay informed and participate in our society.
1xRun: Describe these pieces in one gut reaction word.
1xRun: When did you first start making art? What was your first piece?
ESSAM: Does elementary school count? It has always played a role in my life for as long as I can remember. Who knows really, but the first piece that made me realize art was what I wanted to be doing with my life was a Bas Relief I made when I was about 14. It was of a hammer and chisel cracking a computer screen carved out of wood. I used liquid light to expose a photograph on the screen of Nosferatu.
1xRun: What artists inspired you early on? What artists inspire you now?
ESSAM: I loved sculpture when I was younger and loved the work of Henry Moore and Richard Serra. I’m fascinated with context now and how that informs human understanding. My inspiration now comes from artists of the surrealist movement. Marcel Duchamp, Max Ernst and Rene Magritte.
1xRun: Do you listen to music while you work?
ESSAM: I occasionally listen to music, but more often I am listening to audio books or podcasts. Always non-fiction and always political in nature, I love information. If I am listening to music though it’s most probably blues.
1xRun: If you could collaborate with any living artist who would it be and why? Any deceased artists?
ESSAM: That’s a tough one. Taryn Simon and Dan Witz. These are people that use their work to engage their audience in conversation and create awareness, and both do it in incredibly unique ways. For the latter, Mark Lombardi! This was a man who saw reality through the veil. He made work that beautifully mapped the intricate political landscape we all live in. He knew so much the FBI used his work while investigating 9-11, and the circumstances behind his death are curious to say the least.
1xRun: What was the first piece of art that you bought? Do you still have it? The last?
ESSAM: While at SVA I bought a piece from a graduating student. Cerberus, A black and white photograph of commotion in a busy pedestrian thoroughfare that looks like the guardian at the gates of the underworld. Yes I still have it; it hangs proudly in my living room. The last would be a Ralph Steadman print of Hunter S. Thompson.
According to court documents (People v. ESSAM Adam Attia, #M12702238-J, New York County Criminal Court), ESSAM has been charged with grand larceny, criminal possession of stolen property and 56 counts of possession of a forged instrument. It’s estimated that the legal fees associated with defending ESSAM against these charges will be in excess of $25,000, an amount the artist hopes to raise at the recent Free ESSAM art auction and with the sale of limited edition prints available at 1xRUN.
Items up for bid at the auction included original artwork from ESSAM’s NYPD Drone Ad Campaign; a contribution by Tanyth Berekeley, who currently has her art featured in MOMA’s permanent collection; Clay Patrick McBride photographs of Kanye West and Jay-Z, and many other one-of-a-kind pieces from well-known NYC artists.
“For me it’s really about creating a conversation about the possibility of the NYPD authorizing drones to fly in the skies domestically,” says ESSAM. “We have to remember that these devices are, right now, internationally being used to kill people.”
A recent study by New York University’s School of Law and Stanford Law School determined that in Pakistan, U.S. drone strikes kill, maim and traumatize too many civilians and have been largely ineffective. The study, entitled “Living Under Drones”, said that only around 2% of the people killed in drone strikes were “high-level” targets.
These drones aren’t as accurate as some government officials might like you to believe. The Bureau of Investigative Journalism reported that from June 2004 to September of 2012, drone strikes killed as many as 3,325 people in Pakistan – including 176 children. These figures do not include the individuals who are injured, which adds another 1,228-1,326 civilians whose lives were significantly damaged by U.S. drone use.
So far, the Obama administration hasn’t ruled out using drone strikes against U.S. citizens on American soil – and there have already been some shocking casualties. On October 14, 2011 a 16-year-old boy who was born in Denver, Colorado was killed by a drone because he should’ve had a “more responsible father” – this according to former White House spokesperson Robert Gibbs.
“We see this trend throughout history of military technology always coming to the civilian world,” says ESSAM. “It’s the age-old philosophy of fear controls people. They’re able to do whatever they want as long as we’re afraid.”
Find out more at FreeEssam.com –