Therme Art Program

Franchise Freedom Performs First 2020 Flight in Al Ula

Supported through the ongoing partnership of Therme Art, Pace and Studio Drift, Franchise Freedom, the artwork by Studio Drift, was flown for the first time in 2020 at the historic cultural site of Al-Hijr in Al Ula, Saudi Arabia.

 

In February, the Al Ula region’s Winter at Tantora Festival brought together art, culture and technology. One highlight of the annual event was Franchise Freedom, the artwork by Amsterdam-based pioneers Studio Drift. Consisting of an autonomously flying swarm of Intel Shooting Star drones, the work premiered at Art Basel Miami in 2017.

Sitting at the intersection of technology, science, and art, the artwork is founded in scientific research undertaken by the University of Groningen, which culminated in a decentralised algorithm mimicking the unique flight patterns of starlings. Called murmurations, these fluid flight formations respond to their surrounding environment, resulting in a flying sculpture that uses the sky as its canvas.

At its core, Franchise Freedom highlights the delicate harmony between humans and their environment, encouraging a healthy and global social dialogue that questions social constructs and conceptions of freedom. With each performance, the artwork inspires curiosity around the natural tension between individual freedom and safety in numbers.

 

Franchise Freedom performance at Al-Hijr in Al Ula, Saudi Arabia

Franchise Freedom, February 2020, Al Ula

Art has always played a pivotal role in connecting people across cultures. With its performance at Al- Hijir, a UNESCO World Heritage Site once home to the ancient Nabataean civilisation, Franchise Freedom emphasises and supports Saudi Arabia’s emergence as an leading cultural force. In recent years, the Al Ula region has been restored, conserved and made accessible as a cultural tourism destination for the first time in Saudi Arabia’s history, bringing modern Saudi Arabia in dialogue with its rich cultural past.

The Al Ula region highlights the cultural achievements of the Nabataean civilisation, which thrived in the region’s unique desert environment. Here, the early Nabataean society was forced to adapt to its harsh environmental surroundings in order to survive, constructing the monumental tombs and water wells of Al-Hijir across the striking landscape.

Much like Franchise Freedom, Al-Hijir is an explicit celebration of mankind in full harmony with the natural world. A millennia-old story has been revisited, revealing the ancient region as one the world’s most complex and adorned archaeological wonders.

 

Franchise Freedom performance at Al-Hijr in Al Ula, Saudi Arabia

Franchise Freedom, February 2020, Al Ula

 

Franchise Freedom performance at Al-Hijr in Al Ula, Saudi Arabia

Franchise Freedom, February 2020, Al Ula