an immersive aerial installation simulating a flock of starlings

Franchise Freedom is a performative artwork consisting of a flock of hundreds of luminous drones, mimicking the natural flight behaviour of starlings. The live aerial installation explores the relationship between man, nature and technology and the freedom of the individual.

December 2017, Miami - Photo: James Harris

December 2017, Miami - Photo: James Harris

December 2017, Miami - Photo: James Harris

New York Times render by Charles Castermans.

August 2018, Amsterdam - Photo: Ossip van Duivenbode

September 2018, Burning Man - Photo: Rahi Rezvani

September 2018, Burning Man - Photo: Rahi Rezvani

July 2019, NASA’s Kennedy Space Center - Photo: Ossip van Duivenbode

July 2019, NASA’s Kennedy Space Center - Photo: Ossip van Duivenbode

Franchise Freedom by Studio Drift is created as a tribute to their fascination with nature’s grandeur and complexity. It invites the viewer to see a poetic side of technical innovation and connect back with nature. An autonomous flying swarm of hundreds of drones, Franchise Freedom exposes the tension between individual freedom and safety in numbers. 

The artwork translates into a poetic illustration of how we, as humans, strive to live autonomously within societies defined by rules and conventions. Although the patterns appear random, and the impression of such a swarm may remind us of freedom, the behavior of these birds is completely orchestrated and subject to many rules and survival instincts. There is a tremendous beauty in watching these sudden decisions of thousands of individuals and their reactions to one another. If every bird were to operate on its own, complete chaos would be the result. Just like birds, people find safety in a group, while at the same time they are forced to act according to a set of rules on which society functions. One who chooses complete individual freedom above these rules is forced to operate outside of society. What is the perfect balance between the two? Is freedom an illusion?

To create Franchise Freedom, Studio Drift studied the natural flight patterns of starlings and translated them into software that has been specially developed and embedded in Intel® drones. This research started in 2007 with the launch of the work Flylight, whereby non pre-programmed flight patterns are generated by an algorithm that reacts in ways similar to starling murmuration. Together with their unique movements, light plays an equally important role in Franchise Freedom. Each drone has a light source, and its intensity and color is influenced by the distance between it and other drones, emphasizing the density of the group.

The parameters in the algorithm used in Franchise Freedom are choreographed by the artists Lonneke Gordijn and Ralph Nauta in order to channel the emotional impact of the performance, but they can never exactly predict or determine how the drones will behave. Their technology is based on ongoing university research on flocking behavior, as the principles of self-organization have become more and more relevant in our ever changing world.

Franchise Freedom premiered at Art Basel Miami 2017, followed by Amsterdam above the IJ in August 2018, Burning Man Festival in September 2018 and at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in 2019 – and will be shown in various cities across the globe.

 Credit partners

Drone technology by Intel

Drone specialist: Lucas van Oostrum

Algorithm specialist: Wilco Vlenterie

Music composed and performed by Joep Beving (NASA edition: music by Duran Duran)

Represented by Pace Gallery and Therme Art Program

Miami edition made possible by BMW

Amsterdam edition made possible by BMW, Rabobank, Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam, Gemeente Amsterdam, RAI, Stichting NDSM-werf

Burning Man Festival edition made possible by BMW, Therme Art Program

NASA edition made possible by Intel, Pace Gallery, Therme Art Program

Read more: In Miami, It’s a Bird. It’s a Plane. It’s ... a Flock of Drones?, | Studio Drift are advancing AI technology in the arts by simulating nature, | Studio Drift: dream big and think of the improbable, | A Swarm of Drones Is Performing a High-Tech Version of the Flight of the Starlings at Art Basel,