Graffiti drone takes street art to new heights

Graffiti drone
Graffiti drone

Not quite ready to replace Banksy

Katsu and The Hole

Katsu, like many graffiti artists, has a preoccupation with
leaving his mark in hard-to-reach places. A few years back he
developed an especially clever tool for the job, modifying a fire
extinguisher to spray larger-than-life tags across entire walls.
(One high-profile
: the side of the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los
Angeles in 2012, just as it was opening a hugely publicised
exhibition of graffiti art. The wall was promptly buffed

The artist’s latest innovation has the potential to extend his
reach even further. It’s a spray-paint-wielding drone.

Katsu, who gained graffiti fame in the 1990s in New York City,
showed a series of paintings created by the flying machine at the
Silicon Valley Contemporary art fair last weekend. The splotchy
canvasses wouldn’t necessary stop you in your tracks, but the
process by which they were created is entirely new. Katsu pilots
the craft remotely, but every movement is translated through the
machine’s need to keep itself aloft. 

“It’s like 50 per cent me having control and 50 per cent the
drone kind of like saying, ‘I need to turn this way to accomplish
what you want me to do but still maintain myself so I don’t just
fly into the wall and explode.’ Which it does, all the time,” Katsu told
Arthur Holland Michel, of Bard College’s Centre for the Study of
the Drone
. In a sense, the works are co-authored by Katsu and
the drone itself.

Indeed, part of Katsu’s aim with his drone is simply to raise
questions about the transformative effect the machines might have
on art. 

Do it

How to create light graffiti

“What does it mean that I’m able to be throwing these strokes up
and across a canvas that is 30 feet wide and is suspended 25 feet
in the air?,” he asks. “Painting in these ways just wasn’t
previously possible.” Much in the way that smartphones have become
an extension of our minds, Katsu wonders if drones could someday
serve as a commonplace way to extend our physical selves. Of
course, in that sort of drone-filled future, you’d have to imagine
that cops would have their own drones, too — anti-graffiti UAVs
that chase rogue robot artists through alleyways and across
rooftops, or else just clean-up quadcopters that scan walls for
illegal art and clean them autonomously with high-powered water

Graffiti drone
Graffiti drone

Not quite ready to replace Banksy

Katsu and The Hole

Katsu plans to make the design for his drone open source, so
other artists can experiment with its possibilities. Still, that
doesn’t mean he doesn’t let himself daydream about how his creation
could help him achieve urban ubiquity.

“I do have this little videogame-inspired fantasy of lying in my
bed, sending my drones out my bedroom window, having them render my
tags all over the city and then flying back home to me, like, in my
bed,” he says.

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