Softkill, a University of Hertfordshire Galleries exhibition (25 November 2011 – 28 January 2012), makes visible an obscure element of modern-day warfare, posing a variety of overlapping questions around the morality of weapons development. In also references the fragility of the natural world, highlighting the importance of conservation and the preservation of biodiversity.
I collaborated with partners from academia and industry to realise Softkill, primarily Cranfield University’s Defence and Security School, where I liaised with Dr Clive Alabaster and Dr Evan Hughes. They had developed a radar unit for a large defence company designed to detect humans in unauthorised areas. I worked with them on adapting the unit to detect mammals and birds, in order to help natural history scientists detect and track wildlife.
I was keen to focus on species that are, or have been much maligned. All have enticed fear, suspicion and controversy. Historically, similarly branded species were persecuted to near extermination, or extinction; actions which are now regrettable and irreversible. The exhibition presents a surreal tableau, which merges the bizarre with the real and includes a range of taxidermied specimens including magpies, jackdaws, grey squirrels, birds of prey, a fox and badger. They are exhibited alongside bespoke radar countermeasures that if deployed could, in theory, protect them from being detected by radar. The installation also includes photography, drawings and Doppler sound recordings of various species moving through a radar beam.
Taxidermy, plywood, perspex, aluminium, cardboard, parachute fabric, cotton thread