Drone Aviaries & Field Guides – A Conversation with Superflux

Superflux are a design and foresight consultancy and bespoke R&D lab based in London. Founded by Anab Jain and Jon Ardern in 2009, the studio produces prototypes, research, and films that are simultaneously savvy, prescient, and playful—and now they can add ‘magazine publisher’ to that list of outputs. A few weeks ago the studio announced the first edition of Superflux, a Warren Ellis-edited periodical that would mutate in medium from issue-to-issue and archive and disseminate their research. The first issue is a handsome A1 poster expanding on their recent work with drones and—intrigued by both form and content—an email discussion ensued and the duo shared a PDF of the poster for CAN to inspect.

Superflux Issue 1 is quite a pristine artifact; drawing on the correlation between a colour-coded isometric diagram on one side, and an illustrated ‘field guide’ on the other, it tasks the reader with unpacking the dense airspace of a drone-filled near future. Warren Ellis wryly frames the ascent of drones and contributor Tim Maughan zooms-in and provides nuanced backstories for ten specific models. With tales of market-driven opportunism, infrastructure, surveillance and data collection, each of these micro-narratives is a plausible sketch of how drones might inflect social interactions and culture while buzzing across cityscapes. Given the pervasive handwaving about drones in both theory and media art circles, it’s refreshing to read something delivered in a matter-of-fact tone that is invested in interrogating their potential (as a medium) rather than exploiting their quasi-alien aesthetic or fixating on quasi-legal contemporary military applications.

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