Virtual Design Festival

Studio Drift uses drones to create beating heart above Rotterdam in tribute to healthcare workers

Studio Drift created the image of a red heart in the sky above Rotterdam as part of its Franchise Freedom drone performance dedicated to healthcare workers, which Dezeen streamed live as part of our VDF x Studio Drift collaboration.

The performance took place above Rotterdam on the 75th anniversary of Liberation Day, a public holiday marking the end of Nazi occupation in the Netherlands.

The location was kept secret in advance of the performance so that people did not flout social distancing regulations to watch it in person.

Studio Drift Franchise Freedom performance over Rotterdam
Franchise Freedom comprises 300 illuminated drones programmed to mimic a flock of birds

First unveiled in Miami in 2017, Franchise Freedom comprises 300 illuminated drones that have been programmed to mimic the behaviour of a murmuration of starlings in the sky.

This latest performance in Rotterdam, which was supported by arts organisation Mothership, featured similar swirling patterns of light in the sky as previous performances of the artwork.

But at the end of the 15-minute show, the flock of drones came together to form a bright red three-dimensional heart shape in the air, which pulsed with light, as if it was beating.

"We're flying Franchise Freedom for the healthcare workers and the people who are suffering from the virus," Studio Drift co-founder Ralph Nauta said. "Unfortunately, art cannot be the solution, but it can create comfort during desperate times."

"We have seen during our previous performances that when people see the artwork together, it unites them," added fellow Studio Drift co-founder Lonneke Gordijn. "They are all looking at the same thing, and feel a part of a collective experience."

The artwork has previously been performed at Burning Man and at the Kennedy Space Center to mark the 50th anniversary of the moon landing.

Studio Drift portrait
Studio Drift was founded in 2007 by Lonneke Gordijn and Ralph Nauta

Studio Drift, which Nauta and Gordijn founded in 2007, produces experiential sculptures, installations and performances, which often use technology to explore natural phenomena and humans' relationship to nature.

Earlier today, the duo spoke to Dezeen's editor-in-chief Marcus Fairs about their work in one of our live Screentime conversations as part of VDF.

Virtual Design Festival is the world's first online design festival, taking place from 15 April to 30 June. For more information, or to be added to the mailing list, contact us at [email protected].