Camouflage Gouache on paper 30 x 42 cm 2016
As regular readers know, I am currently an M. Phil candidate in the School of Communications and Arts at the University of Queensland. My degree is a research one, thus I spend a lot of time reading and writing. My research topic came out of my own work as an artist and now the research is feeding back into my work. My practice is not part of the degree as it is not a practice lead degree. However, by the time I finish it I will have a large body of work that will reflect the research trajectory. Part of my studies includes research into militarised technology, particularly night vision capabilities and unmanned air vehicles [UAV], commonly called drones. Hence, my predilection for drones in recent paintings.
The initial impetus for my research came from my interest in existential risk posed by emerging technologies ie: those technologies not yet fully developed or even embarked upon. Whilst risk might be small, the possible outcomes could be cataclysmic. Thus, the risk is worthy of attention. For instance, there is risk in the coupling of AI or AGI with the development of autonomous weapons. Voila! You have a reason for why I am studying militarised technology...
Camouflage is normally associated with military tactics-uniforms, colouration and patterning on vehicles, decoys, undercover work and so on. It is a tactic taken from nature where animals and some plants change in order not to be eaten by predators- think stick insects, for example. In a sense even trying to humanise AI is a kind of camouflage, albeit a tricky and potentially dangerous one. Just think of Ava in the recent movie Ex Machina. By making her human-like normal safety alerts and boundaries became vulnerable to erosion because humans emotionally connected with her.
Ideas of camouflage intersect with my very long interest in the tree-of-life, an age-old transcultural/religious symbol. Its branching appearance is repeated across life, land and the universe in seen and unseen forces and things. For example, think about our vascular system and river networks, think about leaves and ice flows on cold planets. I wonder if the tree holds clues to the template for the universe? Its repeating patterns are far more than mimicry or camouflage.
I have painted the weaponised drone in Camouflage [above-detail below] the same colours as the two cascading trees-of-life to suggest a warning.
This painting is another of my dronescapes. They represent a sub-theme of my quest to re-consider what landscape means in the 21 st century. I suggest we need to untether landscape from earth-bound horizons by launching ourselves into universal distances, where we can evaluate Earth and humanity from new and multiple perspectives. The droning of the landscape, where surveillance mechanisms and infrastructure proliferate, is just but one of my considerations.