The military term, ‘beyond visual range,’ is employed to designate objects that exceed the range of sight of a fighter pilot – such as cruise missiles and torpedoes, guided from a safe distance. With the series, missiles, artist Sebastian Schmidt calls attention to the problematic phenomenon of so-called invisible warfare, confronting viewers with their own apathy in the face of the all-too-familiar reports of conflict in the media. The artist’s combination of size with hyperrealism focuses our attention on a modern weapons technology that seems to elude all comprehension of war and force. In global digitalised warfare, hand-to-hand combat with firearms is being replaced with these forms of weapons, deployed over immense distances. Targets are destroyed ‘autonomously,’ and the result – for one side, at least – is becoming more and more abstract.
The impact of these works however goes even further. In the view of art historian Lusia Seipp, Sebastian Schmidt addresses with them “mankind’s critical relationship with weapons, in which, despite all enlightenment and education, a widespread latent admiration for these archaic symbols of power still lurks.” With their visual purity and clarity, the missiles and torpedoes seem at first glance to be quite perfect – almost innocent. Upon closer inspection, though, this no longer appears to be the case, as the objects actually exhibit hair-thin scratches and signs of wear – imperfections that not only convey a high degree of realism, but also contrast sharply with what had seemed so perfect.
At the same time, powerful associations come to mind. Only upon reflection does the gnawing dimension of these projectiles become clear. Cruise missiles are symbols of the threat of war, frequently used to project a country’s might in the event of international conflict, but are simultaneously a modern symbol for suffering and death. The design of each ‘missile’ and ‘torpedo’ was based on an existing model. Their signage, colours and graphics were, on the other hand, based on free interpretation, so that, in place of national symbols, they display the names of ancient goddesses who not infrequently stood for both love and war.