As Above, So Below


Ilse van der Spoel


Published on/by



Accompanying text

Video Essay as part of course Thinking the Moving Image, as well as my Cultural Analysis Research Project, University of Amsterdam.

For study purposes only.

In this video essay, I take what I signal as a recent development of drones and drone cinematography ‘seeping in’ to moving image practices as a way to think about the bird’s-eye viewpoint and vertical perspectives in general. Hito Steyerl also pointed to a spatial and temporal orientation that is increasingly ‘vertical’, in her essay “In Free Fall: A Thought Experiment on Vertical Perspective”. By thinking Steyerl’s argument through Paula Amad’s exploration of early aerial photography practices, particularly her notions of the utopian (the liberation of the body in flight, a floating observer) and dystopian side (the idea of a threat and the body reduced to a fragile target) of the aerial perspective and its invoked artificiality, I try to (media archaeologically) see aerial cinematography in a wider history of aerial vision and dispute Steyerl’s notion that the vertical perspective is solely one of recent years. As Hito Steyerl also argued, the vertical perspective does not create a new paradigm of vision, but rather a radicalisation of linear perspective, with an imaginary floating observer and an imaginary stable ground, like the linear perspective created an imaginary stable observer and an imaginary stable horizon. Though drones and drone cinematography then do not necessarily entail a perspective that was not available through previous technologies, it does enable us to rethink previous forms of aerial vision in relation to newer forms. The question then remains: what does drone cinematography bring in as new or different to moving image practices?