Thursday, July 18, 2019


Stay Alert: Says the Tree Gouache on paper 56 x 76 cm 2019

For information on my forthcoming exhibition 

Occupied Landscapes: Evidence on Drones

please visit my post HERE


Stay Alert: Says The Tree

I was thinking about a painting from 2017, Forever Watched  [below]. It is one of only a few paintings where I depict human figures. In the painting a group of people are encircled. But, are they performers encircled by a spotlight on a stage, or something more sinister? Or, maybe the stage is contemporary life, one where everything we all do is monitored, surveilled, watched. 

I was thinking about Forever Watched when I was painting Stay Alert: Says the Tree [above]. In this new painting I have replaced the people with a symbolic reference to humanity and life, the tree-of-life. Regular readers will know that the tree-of-life is often depicted in my paintings. The radiating lines indicate some kind of surveillance emanating from a single point, maybe an airborne drone, a satellite...? Maybe the single point indicates control, rather than a particular device.

The split surveillance could mean a few things, increasing persistence and dominance by surveillance systems, intrusion at global and intimate levels, dispersed targeting and more. The replacement of the human figures with the trees-of-life draws us all into the surveillance system as contributors and victims. 

The two trees-of-life, however, present us with some hopeful possibilities and some dire possibilities.It depends on your perspective.

I'll leave it to you to think about these possibilities. 

*Forever Watched and Stay Alert: Says the Tree will be in my forthcoming exhibition Occupied Landscapes: Evidence on Drones. 

Forever Watched Gouache on paper 56 x 76 cm 2017

Tuesday, July 09, 2019

WARFIGHTER - 01010111 01000001 01010010 01000110 01001001 01000111 01001000 01010100 01000101 01010010

 WARFIGHTER Gouache on paper 15 x 21 cm 2019


For information on my forthcoming exhibition 

Occupied Landscapes: Evidence on Drones

please visit my post HERE


A few questions that keep me thinking are:

What happens when the warfighter is no longer human?

Why has the word 'warfighter' replaced, in many instances, descriptors such as soldier, sailor, pilot? 

Is the increasing use of the word warfighter a sign that the replacement of the human being is already underway? I ask this because nonhuman devices can also be called warfighters eg: unmanned systems such as airborne, land-based and sea-based drones or robots. 

If or when the warfighter is no longer human, does war become a battle between autonomous devices and systems? Will human beings still have control, or will they be held hostage to a type of war beyond our current comprehension?

If your nation's warfighters are no longer human, are the enemy's warfighters also no longer human? If not, is the human being's role relegated to that of victim only?

In a war fought between machines and systems what happens to sovereignty and territory? 

In a war fought between machines and systems what happens to notions such as bravery, courage, loss, victory, disgust, sacrifice and more?

How do we memorialise when the warfighter is no longer human? Will memorial cease to exist as a form of human remembrance? If not, where does that place human history?

If autonomous nonhuman warfighters initial programming is aimed at fighting, battle, deception and strategy, what happens to peace?

Are cyber systems and robots designed for civilian use vulnerable to hijacking by the warfighting systems and robots? I assume so - then all systems are potentially militarised. Something to think about in an increasingly interconnected and networked world! 

The artificial intelligence, Alpha Go, plays the ancient game of Go with what is described as superhuman abilities, employing new manoeuvres that human beings have never thought of. This prompts the question, will self learning AI operated warfighters develop unheard of war strategies?  If so, what will war become? Will war become not superhuman, but 'other than' human?  Will human beings have any hope of understanding war once it becomes 'other than human'? Here, I protest against terms such as 'superhuman' and 'more than human', because they imply that that the human is already 'less than' the machine/system. However, if we see these systems as 'other than', rather than 'superhuman' or 'more than human', maybe critical spaces for deeper reflection on the future of war and humanity are revealed?

In WARFIGHTER [above] I have painted a string of binary code 'instructing' WARFIGHTER. The code seems to form a landscape element, a contour or horizon. The warfighter here is a digital system, a non-human, normally invisible combatant. Is the painting a depiction of a future warscape, one where human beings no longer exist, but the autonomous warfighting systems they developed still do? Maybe this could be a memorial to an algorithm! Is it Earth though? Maybe it is a cosmic landscape, or a virtual landscape - a simulation - Earth's remnant, an algorithm.

WARFIGHTER is similar to my earlier small painting Coded Landscape [below]. Here, the binary code 'instructs' the word LIFE. In my 2015 post, where I discuss Coded Landscape, I write about landscape. Landscape emerged out of the Big Bang and continues today on a universal scale. Here on Earth we have our physical landscape, but also our virtual landscapes. Both Coded Landscape and WARFIGHTER play with depictions of various landscapes - universal, cosmic, physical, virtual, future. Like WARFIGHTER, Coded Landscape could be a memorial too - to life.

And, there are a lot more questions....for another time.

                                     Coded Landscape Gouache on paper 15 x 21 cm 2015


Wednesday, July 03, 2019


Beware, Whispers the Wind Oil on linen 61 x 97 cm 2019

My forthcoming exhibition in Brisbane 


Will be at:
POP Gallery, 381 Brunswick St, Fortitude Valley, Brisbane, Queensland, Australia. 
POP Gallery is one of the Queensland College of Art, Griffith University, galleries. 

27 August - 8 September 
10 am - 4 pm

Exhibition Opening - Invitations out soon!

Panel Discussion - Saturday 31 August from 3.30 pm
Panel Members:
Dr. Samid Suliman, Lecturer in Migration and Security, Griffith University. 
Federica Caso and Cormac Opdebeeck Wilson, both from the School of Political Science and International Studies, the University of Queensland. 
Kathryn Brimblecombe-Fox.

*You can view more paintings on my website HERE

Please keep checking back for more details.

 Mission Capable Landscape oil on linen 72 x 137 cm 2018

OCCUPIED LANDSCAPES: EVIDENCE OF DRONES is my first solo show of new work since 2015. The paintings in the exhibition reflect long-term interests in landscape, symbols [such as the tree-of-life], and existential risk posed by emerging technologies.

The paintings in the exhibition are informed by research into accelerating developments in militarised and militarise-able technology - airborne drones, persistent surveillance and increasingly autonomous systems. This research was conducted as part of my Master of Philosophy degree, completed in 2017 at the University of Queensland. Ongoing research continues to inform my work.

I am interested in how landscape is mediated by militarised and militarise-able technologies. I am particularly interested in examining the signals that enable the operation and functioning of militarised technologies. 

Anomaly Detection Gouache on paper 56 x 75 cm 2016
  Please take a look at Anomaly Detection No 2 also 

Please browse through my BLOG to see more paintings and to read about my practice. 


4 - 12 July I am in a group exhibition 

at Arteriet Gallery, Norway

with Pamela See, Svetlana Trefilova, David Harris, and Li Gang


Friday, June 14, 2019


Target Gouache on paper 30 x 42 cm 2016


Fellow Brisbane-based artist Pamela See and I have collaborated on an animation [above] of my painting Target [top]. This was a interesting process for me to undertake, and I am grateful to Pamela for her suggestion to animate the work. 

As I reflect on the animation process, and the decisions made about how and what to animate, I am triggered to think about storytelling. As a painting Target contains a multiple of possible stories. It is up to the viewer to imagine what these might be. The painting, in a way, is a provider of clues or stimulants. The animation, however, is a story. This is because duration of time allows for a sequence of events to unfold. In this case a drone hovers around a tree - the tree-of-life. The drone briefly disappears, only to reappear as it spills forth two more drones. This swarm of drones then circles the tree-of-life. Suddenly the tree disappears and the drones fly off. 

How you interpret what the story might mean, is up to you.

And, More Storytelling
An alternative story, however, could be that as a drone hovers around the tree-of-life, branches from the tree reach out and circle [possibly strangle] the drone. As proliferating branches fill the screen the drone disappears. Another alternative story is that rather than the drone multiplying, maybe the tree could multiply as a 'swarm' of trees. These trees could circle the drone, and then the drone disappears. Or, rather than three drones swarming around the tree, hundreds of drones could plague the tree. Or, as the drones circle the tree, the tree's roots could become visible as they spread out, obviously continuing beyond the screen. 

There are lots of possible stories. 

I will leave it to you to imagine your own now. 

This is what I wrote about Target when I painted it in 2016. 
"The armed drone seems to target the tree - my representation of the tree-of-life. Yet, the cosmic landscape indicates, perhaps, that this painting depicts something from another world of time and place. Maybe the tree targets the drone?"

At Arteriet Gallery

Pamela and I will be exhibiting various works in a group exhibition with Svetlana Trefilova, David Harris, and Li Gang at Arteriet, a not-for-profit gallery in Kristiansand, Norway. The gallery has a focus on contemporary art and technology.

The group exhibition My Optic pays homage to the emergence of the artist, as a profession, at the turn of the fifteen century. During the Renaissance art was considered a science due to its exploration of optics.

Exhibition date 4 - 11 July. Further information about the gallery is available at:

Drone Shadow Gouache on paper 30 x 42 cm 2016


26 August - 8 September 
POP Gallery, 381 Brunswick St, Fortitude Valley, Brisbane, Queensland, Australia. 

POP Gallery is one of the Queensland College of Art, Griffith University, galleries. 

I will keep you posted with exact details over the next few weeks.


Friday, May 31, 2019


DRONE Gouache on paper 30 x 42 cm 2019


I am having a solo exhibition of new work! 

It will be my first exhibition of new work for four years. And, the first time my dronescapes have been exhibited as a body of work. The exhibition will be in late August into September at POP Gallery, 381 Brunswick St, Fortitude Valley, Brisbane, Queensland, Australia. POP Gallery is one of the Queensland College of Art, Griffith University, galleries. At the moment the exhibition is called New Landscapes In The Drone Age. I will keep you posted with exact details over the next few weeks.

In DRONE [above] a weaponised drone appears to hover in front of you. Its guided missiles and Hellfire missiles seem aimed at you. Its wide area surveillance system sends out surveillance signals, scoping, detecting, and perhaps targeting. But, the lines sectioning the sky disrupt this reverie of stealth. Perhaps this is not an image of a drone flying through the air, but rather, an image of a simulated drone graphically depicted on a computer screen. 

The binary code inscribed across the drone's wingspan 'instructs' the word DRONE, and then appears to start a new word DRONE that continues off the right side of the picture. Or, is the 'instruction' DRONED? I will leave you to think about the variety of possible interpretations here! 

Unmanned Aerial Vehicle or Unmanned Flying Aerial?
What I want to focus on is the term or name unmanned aerial vehicle [UAV]. This name for a drone conjures the idea of a plane flying in the air without a pilot on board. And, this is certainly a good description of an airborne drone. But, a drone can also be considered as an airborne aerial. There is no need to be use the word unmanned, because aerials and antennae are normally unmanned. Even satellites that receive and transmit data are unmanned. This idea came to me as I was worked through recent paintings where I expose signals that enable the operation and functioning of militarised technology and dual-use technology, with the possibility of appropriating civilian technology. I was also thinking about my father. Although my father was a grain grower, from the age of 12 he had been an enthusiastic HAM, an amateur radio operator. Dad had a number of aerials dotted around the farm. Various antennae were mounted on each of them. These antennae enabled transmission and reception of messages from around the world. For example, in 1957 when the Russians sent Sputnik 1 into space, my father [aged 20] was one of a number of HAMs from around the world who tracked the spacecraft and sent co-ordinates back to the Jet Propulsion Unit in the US, via an intermediary.  

Thinking of the airborne drone as a flying aerial forced me to think about the drone in a different way. Essentially the drone is a metal-clad flying chassis, its structure designed to enable the transmission and reception of data and instructions from land-based and space-based support infrastructure. Is it a vehicle? Well yes and no. But, is an aerial a vehicle? That's a tricky one, because an aerial is an enabling node for signals to deliver and transport data and instructions. Are signals more of a vehicle than an aerial? Maybe an aerial is more like a warehouse?

Flying Aerial Weapon?
Now to the role of the flying aerial as a carrier of lethal weapons. As a carrier, the drone could be considered a vehicle. But, signals between devices on the flying aerial, and signals sent and received from land-based and space-based assets deliver data and instructions to the drone and its payloads. This includes instructions triggered by remote human operators, as well as internal algorithmic systems, to target and attack. Maybe the airborne militarised drone is a flying aerial weapon, a very sophisticated weapon, an interconnected matrix of sensoring, imaging, orienting, surveilling and targeting capabilities. Signals appear to be pivotal to this kind of weaponry. Where does the human being fit in this matrix? 

I am going to leave my rambling there. But, while I might be off tangent, I think it is important to scrutinise how nomenclature contributes to assumptions and beliefs about contemporary technology, particularly militarised technology. 

I think DRONE looks like a flying aerial weapon!


Thursday, May 23, 2019


Five Eyes and the Rest Gouache on paper 56 x 76 cm

The Five Eyes is an intelligence alliance of five countries - Australia, USA, UK, Canada and New Zealand. Its formation stems from a post World War 2 "multilateral agreement for co-operation in signals intelligence (SIGINT), known as the UKUSA Agreement" signed in March 1946. Initially the agreement included the UK and the USA. Canada joined in 1948, and Australia and New Zealand in 1956. You can read more about its history HERE *

I am interested in the use of the word 'eyes', which in the post-war period meant that intelligence gathered by the five countries was for their 'eyes' only. One can assume that this meant human eyes. 

21St Century 'Vision'
In the 21st century, an age of accelerating developments in digital and cyber technology, networking and inter-connectivity, 'eyes' and 'vision' have taken on different kinds of meaning. Both have been assigned to the machine eg: the unmanned aerial vehicle or airborne militarised drone, satellites, machine learning/vision. The unmanned drone, for example, is often referred to as an 'eye in the sky'. Imaging technology used for surveillance and targeting is referred to as 'machine vision', 'drone vision'. Additionally, as autonomous systems, employing artificial intelligence and machine learning are increasingly employed, scrutiny of data and images for anomalies and patterns is no longer entirely the domain of the human being. That self learning systems can potentially also make 'decisions' based on algorithmic scrutiny begs the questions, where does the human being fit as a critical observer? 

The 21st century concept of vision, is increasingly one of detection, scoping and targeting. This is a concern, because human vision is not only seeing with eyeball and pupil, it is also daydreaming, using imagination, dreaming, and visionary thinking. Plus, we can detect, scope and target too! Jean Baudrillard's observation that "the real vanishes into the concept" helps us think about the implications of endowing machines with capacities of 'vision'. (1) Are we orchestrating our own disappearance? Are we being expelled, as Baudrillard implies, from an artificial world? 

Five Eyes and the Rest

In Five Eyes and the Rest I have used a cosmic perspective. From this perspective can you see any anomalies or patterns that might raise questions about increasingly persistent and pervasive machinic surveillance? Who or what is looking at who or what? 

With your eyes what do you see? I see 'eyes' everywhere! 



* Information about Canada's plans can be found HERE, New Zealand's HERE

Information about the UK's Reaper Drones can be found HERE
I have previously written about Australia's use of drones and future plans Pay Attention: The Drones Are Here
And, the USA's development and use of surveillance and weaponised drones is common knowledge

1. Jean Baudrillard, Why Hasn't Everything Already Disappeared?, trans, Chris Turner ( Seagull Books, London, New York, Calcutta, 2016), 12.

Thursday, May 16, 2019


Charting the Invisible Gouache on paper 30 x 42 cm 2019

Charting the Invisible is another of my paintings that 'exposes' how signals operatively enable contemporary technologies to function in a networked and inter-connected manner. Without connectivity, many devices would be useless or near useless. By 'charting' the normally invisible connectivity and inter-connectivity of the modern technological world this painting can be understood as a kind of counter-map. Here, I focus on the 'map' as a subversive exposure and demonstration of the connection between militarised and civilian technologies. When you consider that security and policing activities are increasingly blurred with military activities, the militarise-ability of civilian technologies is an issue. Does this make everything dual-use? Additionally, while security, policing and military activities are generally considered necessary by many, malign entities using networked and inter-connected systems are more than unwanted interlopers. 

Like my last painting and post Martial Map I have painted lines that join nodes and devices. These lines represent signal connections. For example, a ground control station is linked to an airborne weaponised drone. This control station is also linked to a communication satellite, which is also linked to the drone. The drone is linked to a mobile phone, also linked to the GPS and communication satellite. The phone is linked, then, to a car, and a computer. Some nodes and devices send signals beyond the edges of the painting, to indicate connection to other devices and nodes. And, there are more connections between all the devices, and some connections are still invisible!

While the painting can be read as some kind of map, the cosmic landscape background positions the viewer in an ambiguous perspective. Is the viewer above or below, in front or behind, the net of signals? If they are below, the sky is netted, if they are above the planet is netted. If they are in front or behind the nets act as walls. Here, the netted appearance is important to me, as I 'see' this signal-net as an imposition on landscape, an occupier of space and a sign of a new kind of colonistion, a techno colonisation that holds us all hostage. Given the militarise-ability of civilian technology, in addition to designated militarised technology, does this colonisation come with a persistent readiness for defensive and offensive actions? If so, are we in a constant state of war preparedness, where the near light-speed delivery of data and instructions via signals expunges time for peace?  

On that 'happy' note.


Monday, May 06, 2019


Martial Map Gouache on paper 30 x 42 cm

I have returned from overseas. In Toronto I presented on a round-table, themed to war preparedness, at the International Studies Association annual conference. I then had meetings in London and Berlin. 

And, I saw a lot of art, from the Rembrandt exhibition at the Rijks Museum in Amsterdam, to Is This Tomorrow at the Whitechapel Gallery in London, to Hito Steyerl's Power Plants exhibition at the Serpentine Gallery, London. Two exhibitions at the KW Institute in Berlin still occupy my thoughts. The exhibitions showed works by David Wojnarowicz and Reza Abdoh. Both artists brutally, honestly and sensorially reflected upon the AIDS crisis of the 1980s/early 1990s. I saw a number of exhibitions in Berlin, including Cian Dayrit's thought provoking counter mapping/cartography exhibition Beyond the Gods Eye at Nome Gallery. And, at C/O Gallery I saw two provocative photographic exhibitions - Double Take by duo Cortis and Sonderegger, and Before Sleeping/ After Drinking, a survey show of work by Boris Mikhailov. Matthew Day Jackson's exhibition Pathetic Fallacy at Hauser and Wirth, Somerset was a highlight. This quote from the gallery site gives you an idea about Day Jackson's motivation in this exhibition, "The overarching conceit is an interest in our compulsion to document, map and systemise our natural world as a method for understanding nature." Day Jackson's exhibition and Dayrit's exhibition were both highlights.

Since returning home the idea of counter cartography or mapping has occupied my thoughts. Are my paintings, where I expose signals that enable drone operations, a kind of counter mapping? In many of my paintings I paint proliferating nets of signals as imposed topographies that occupy landscape, from land into space. This volumetric occupation, I 'see', as a techno-colonisation of landscape and environment, facilitating an insidious control and manipulation of human behaviour and movement. I call my paintings 'new landscapes in the drone age'.

By exposing the nets of signals that enable militarised and militarise-able technologies I manifest a kind of map. These paintings expose the invisible, thus resisting techno-military forces by drawing attention to the insidiousness of inter-connectivity and networking. Additionally, the medium of painting enables the exposure of signals without relying on contemporary technologies that utilise connectivity, networking, for example, cloud storage, downloaded software - the internet. While I might upload images, the process of creation remains discrete. 

Martial Map 
The idea for Martial Map was inspired by reflecting upon IR scholar Antoine Bousquet's book Eye of War: Military Perception from the Telescope to the Drone. In this book Bousquet provides a compelling historical perspective on what he calls the development of the "martial gaze", the human eye's conscription into surveillance, targeting and destruction. But, the human eye cannot see signals. Yet, once Heinrich Hertz first transmitted and received radio waves in 1886, radio communication opened the door to modern day connectivity and networking, the enabling signal forces of contemporary militarised and militarise-able technologies. 

The word 'martial' describes something that is related to or suitable for war, related to military life or inclined to war. Martial Map shows how various nodes can be linked, and inter-linked. I have painted various nodes; GPS and communication satellites, credit cards with chips, a cruise liner, home security technology, a digital tv, a drone's ground control station, human beings holding a mobile phone, a car, 'cloud' storage in the form of a huge building, a fitbit, a street surveillance camera, airport security apparatus, a relay aerial and three weaponised airborne drones. The painting suggests how civilian technologies can be conscripted into the militarised network. Dual-use is clearly  a highly problematic and diffused concept in the contemporary world.