Dutch Studio Drift blends light, natures and drones

In Studio Drift's artistic practice, swarms of luminous drones and robotic kinetic installations reinterpret natural behaviors, creating unique works of art.



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Cover photo: Lonneke Gordijn and Ralph Nauta – ph. Teska Overbeeke

Reconnecting humanity and nature through technology is the mantra that resonates within Studio Drift, the creative atelier founded in 2007 by Lonneke Gordijn and Ralph Nauta in Amsterdam. This bold and inspiring goal has propelled the duo to the international stage, creating spectacular kinetic installations and interactive sculptures that showcase the wonders of the natural world through advanced technologies. Today, Studio Drift boasts over 60 collaborators from diverse disciplines, enabling Gordijn and Nauta to push their research beyond conventional boundaries. Amid poetic drone dances and plant-like moving forms, light plays a crucial role, constantly amplifying the impact of their body of work.

Luminous Drone Choreographies

Light takes center stage in Studio Drift’s numerous performances illuminating the night skies worldwide. These large-scale aerial choreographies feature hundreds of drones equipped with light sources, moving in unison to paint shapes and movements in the darkness. Among the most celebrated works of Studio Drift, these high-altitude dances occur in public spaces, making their art accessible to the audience. An example is Franchise Freedom, where the Dutch duo dominated the Miami sky during Art Basel Miami 2017. For this event, a swarm of drones performed a choreography generated by an algorithm based on the flight dynamics of starlings, thus replicating a behavior born of a slow evolutionary process through complex data processing achievable only by technology.

1. Franchise Freedom Art Basel Miami 2017 - ph. James Harris

The Connection Between Nature and Technology

Even more representative of Studio Drift’s fusion of nature and technology is the work titled Social Sacrifice. Created for the 59th Venice Art Biennale, this performance involved a group of 100 drones flying for the first time inside the church of San Lorenzo. Each evening, for about ten days, the artwork came to life above the audience, depicting with aerial acrobatics the techniques fish schools use to defend against predators, reflecting on how natural survival instincts translate into solutions for facing problems and dangers.

2. Social Sacrifice, 2022 - ph. Ossip van Duivenbode

“I am Storm”: Studio Drift’s Interactive Lighting Design Installation

The study of natural phenomena, whether macroscopic or about often imperceptible details of the surrounding world, underpins the works Studio Drift develops in museums and significant institutions.

3. Coded Coincidence, 2021 - ph. Dario Lasagni

From animals like birds and fish to the observation and analysis of wind, plants, and flowers, these natural inspirations have led to the creation of captivating kinetic installations.

4. Shylight installed on the occasion of New York City Ballet's 2023 Art Series - ph. Andy Romer

For example, Coded Coincidence (2021) uses small light sources to mimic the way elm seeds are carried by the wind in spring, while Shylight (acquired by the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam in 2014) and Meadow (presented at the Dutch Design Week in 2018) reinterpret the slow movements of flower petals through robotic fabric lamps.

5. Meadow installed at LG Arts Center of Seoul, 2022 - ph. Bae Jihun

Light in “I am Storm” by Studio Drift

Among Studio Drift’s museum pieces, I am Storm (2023) stands out. This expansive spatial installation magnifies the effect of wind on slender blades of grass, creating an immersive work with which spectators can interact. 

6. I am storm, 2023 - ph. Ronald Smits

The individual light structures, covered with nylon fabric, are programmed to respond to the presence of people detected by sensors, initiating a gentle oscillating movement in direct response to the stimulus, much like wind blowing over a grass field.

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