During the first half of December 2023, six Guinness World Records were broken during the critically acclaimed light festival Noor Riyadh. Among the impressive performances was Desert Storm by Dutch design studio DRIFT. In its largest performance ever, the studio used 3,000 drones to mimic the movements of a bird swarm.
This poetic blend of art and technology was inspired by starling murmurations. In fact, it took 10 years of research into these avian formations for a complex algorithm to be developed in a way that would capture the choreography perfectly. The end result was an impressive installation that created the illusion of a flock of birds dancing across the city sky.
The performance broke two Guinness World Records. One individually as the largest drone bird swarm ever flown, and the other as part of Noor Riyadh. The festival launched the most drones in a week, with 21,000 used in the more than 120 light artworks that were created for the event.
Noor Riyadh is part of a 10-year project to transform the Saudi Arabian capital into a creative canvas that matches the energy of its young and rapidly growing population. In addition to DRIFT, acclaimed artists such as Janet Echelman, Miguel Chevalier, and Vhils also created installations for the event. While the installations have finished, an exhibition, Refracted Identities, Shared Futures, and a series of workshops and public talks continue until March 2, 2024. The show, which features artworks from over 30 artists, delves deeper into themes of mythology, astrophysics, and the multifaceted properties of light.