Wednesday, April 07, 2021

ME: PORTRAITURE IN THE AGE OF FACIAL RECOGNITION


ME Oil on linen 92 x 112 cm 2021
 

ME is a self-portrait. It is a painted self-portrait. It visually parodies facial recognition computer graphics.*

IDENTITY & VERIFICATION
For me, my defining features are my very blue eyes, and my long hair which I wear in a loose, often messy, bun. Despite these defining features appearing in the portrait, further confirmation that ME is me is given with a tick generated by facial recognition technology. This is corroborated by the binary code 'instructing' the word ME. I ask, are we heading for a future history where identity is verified only by AI and coding? Will human beings stop looking - and - seeing, if identity verification is ubiquitously provided by technology? Maybe - think about the way contemporary motor vehicles have smaller windows, especially at the rear, than years ago.** We don't need to look - or see - when sensors take over!

In a world of digital imaging, facial recognition and biometric scanning, this painted self-portrait is possibly not me, simply because it is a painting and not a computer graphic generated by AI or machine learning facial recognition technology. As a painting it is untethered from reliance on algorithms, signals and an energy source. It exists as an independent unit, unconnected and not networked. As a painting, I think it is defiant in the face of such technology!

Are we in danger of being defined and verified by surveillance photography and digital scanning? Given questions around using AI to detect emotions, I think this is a key question, among many. Check out this short article about this topic, by Kate Crawford, in Nature 

PORTRAITURE
As I painted ME I wondered what might happen to portraiture in the age of facial recognition. Will painting survive as a human activity? Will paintings by human beings become more realistic as technology synchronises aesthetics or will paintings become more abstracted, as a form of resistance. My gambit, is visual parody.

DRONE
And, for regular readers, there is a drone! The airborne drone gives a clue that facial recognition is being used to monitor my behaviour, identify my person, document my whereabouts. But, there is another way to look at this! In reality, you and I have the drone under surveillance, its signaling exposed, and its connection to insidious surveillance revealed. That this information cannot be tracked, hacked, modified or datafied, may be scurrilous...how delightful! 

I think this self-portrait says a lot, and more, about ME!  

Clearly, there is more to say....


* Is It Me? is another self-portrait you might like to see and read about.

** Waiting for the Beeps is a post, with other links to further posts, about some of my thoughts regarding looking, seeing and cars.

Cheers,

Kathryn

Tuesday, March 23, 2021

THEATRE OF WAR: PHOTON

Theatre of War: Photon gouache on paper 56 x76 cm 2021
 

Electromagnetic Spectrum
This is my eighth Theatre of War painting. In this painting I am experimenting with how to think about the increasing interest, taken by militaries and defence departments around the world, in the electromagnetic spectrum (EMS) as an enabler of technology and a domain to dominate. This is particularly evident in policy and strategy documents produced by the US Department of Defence (DoD) in the last two years. An example is the US DoD's Joint Electromagnetic Spectrum Operations, May 2020 statement. 

Photons
All electromagnetic energy is made up of photons travelling at the speed of light. Photons are mass-less particles that travel in a wave-like motion. Each photon has a certain amount of energy which determines different radiation or frequencies. All frequencies in the EMS are created by photons - radio waves have lower energy and therefore longer wavelengths than gamma rays, which have the highest energy and shorter wavelengths. You can learn more at this NASA site

Electronic Warfare - Electromagnetic Warfare
As the term electronic warfare becomes a legacy term replaced by the term electromagnetic warfare, I think some focus on photons provides interesting ways to think about how the EMS, as an environment, a domain and a commons, is actively targeted for military-purpose domination. The change in terms is clearly noted in the Joint Electromagnetic Spectrum Operations May, 2020 statement page  GL-9, and the DoD's Electromagnetic Spectrum Superiority Strategy, October 2020, page 26.  

Theatre of War: Photon
In Theatre of War: Photon I have painted six Y photon symbols. They are painted with wavy lines to indicate frequencies. The colours - red, blue, white and grey - were chosen after reading the DoDs Electromagnetic Spectrum Superiority Strategy, October 2020 document. It describes (page 12) where data to "support operations and analysis" will be garnered ie: across a range of military and civilian sensors, equipment, platforms, activities, communications. - from entities/hosts that are hostile or adversary (red), US blue), coalition or potentially friendly (grey) and commercial or non-military (white). The photon symbols are painted against a cosmic-like background to indicate a universal force. Although appearing like a wall, the wavy-lined circular shape on the left is meant to shift perspective. 

Photons appeared moments after the Big Bang. They emitting light and energy at around 300 million years. The EMS is a natural force and environment. It is part of the fabric of the universe. 

In our sphere of Earthly influence, what are the possible outcomes of militarised EMS domain dominance?        


Links to previous Theatre of War paintings are:
Theatre of War: Ghosts Warn 
Theatre of War: Spectrum  Other links are on this blog post.


Cheers,

Kathryn





Tuesday, March 09, 2021

THEATRE OF WAR: DOMAIN DOMINANCE

Theatre of War: Domain Dominance Gouache on paper 56 x 76 cm 2021


This is my seventh Theatre of War painting - my series is developing! Here is a link to my sixth painting Theatre of War: Ghosts Warn, where there are further links to earlier paintings.

THEATRE OF WAR
In these paintings I explore the notion of 'theatre of war', oft mentioned by General Carl von Clausewitz in his early nineteenth century famous tome On War. I explore the notion 'theatre of war' as a way to think about how contemporary war has seeped beyond geographic boundaries to infiltrate digital and cyber worlds, the media, social media and information. I also draw the electromagnetic spectrum [EMS] into the contemporary notion of 'theatre of war'. Why? 

The EMS is both an enabler of contemporary militarised technology and a domain of increasing military interest. Importantly the EMS also enables contemporary civilian technology. Thus, as a shared resource the EMS can clearly be described as dual use. However, I argue, that the term 'dual use' belies the complexity of contemporary technology where networking, interconnectivity and the 'Internet of Things' expose civilian technology [systems and hardware] to both overt and insidious militarise-abiliy. This militarise-ability is not just the purview of state-based defence forces, but also non-state and aberrant groups or individuals.

DOMAIN DOMINANCE
In Theatre of War: Domain Dominance I have tried to convey that EMS domain dominance, a direct US Department of Defence policy, extends the theatre of war into the invisible [except visible light] natural resource of the electromagnetic spectrum. Like the natural physical environment, the EMS is occupied, colonised and used for advantage. As an enabler of technology the EMS is a protagonist in the contemporary theatre of war, and as a domain of military interest it forms part of the extensive, everywhere stage of contemporary war. 

In Theatre of War: Domain Dominance I have depicted a number of black boxes, indicating secret or discrete capabilities. I have painted strings of binary code 'instructing' words like 'NODE', HUMAN', 'DRONE' and 'CLOUD'. Trees-of-life hover in designated zones, as does the group of human figures. Are they targets? Everything is connected by signals and wavelengths delivering coded instructions, data and information. Surveillance night-vision green clouds deceptively float, stored information stacked. Targeting cross-hairs on the far right indicate a possible mission - the map-like depiction of the 'stage' reveals the drama.

And - yes - there is more to say!

Cheers,
Kathryn

 


Monday, March 01, 2021

THEATRE OF WAR: GHOSTS WARN

Theatre of War: Ghosts Warn Gouache on paper 56 x 76 cm 2021


This is my sixth Theatre of War painting. The other paintings can be accessed via my post Theatre of War: Spectrum

Clausewitz
Theatre of War: Ghosts Warn is again inspired by thinking about the famous 18th/19th century General Carl von Clausewitz's famous tome On War . In this book Clausewitz regularly refers to the term 'theatre of war', even devoting a chapter to it [Book V, Chapter II]. In the 21st century the concept of 'theatre of war' extends beyond Clausewitz's idea of a "portion of the space over which war prevails as has its boundaries protected, and thus possesses a kind of independence". While the idea of a portion of space, independence and protected boundaries are blurred by new modes of warfare, such as cyberwar, information war, electronic and electromagnetic warfare, I think it is interesting to ponder what the contemporary 'theatre of war' actually might mean.

For a start, Clausewitz describes journeying to a 'theatre of war' and moving within a 'theatre of war'. With contemporary modes of warfare operating across multiple domains, moving to or within become problematic of not obsolete in certain circumstance. For example, what if we ask ourselves, are we permanently within the contemporary 'theatre of war'? If so journeying to the 'theatre' is not possible.

Clausewitz also writes about 'our theatre of war' and the enemy's 'theatre of war'. The 'theatre of war' he describes in geographically based, overlaid by strategy, movement of armies, and politics. I argue that the politics bit remains, but although geography, strategy and movement of armies are still involved, they are part of a complex matrix of concerns in an equally complex matrix of battle spaces where notions of 'ours' and 'theirs' are increasingly blurred, if not similar. In a world where technology renders state and non-state warfighting capabilities as continuously engaged, escalation and de-escalation can potentially occur at light speed. This includes the information war and its partner social media. Speed is a key ingredient that helps 'conduct' and 'produce' the contemporary everywhere, all the time 'theatre of war'. 

Roles Played in the Contemporary Theatre of War
In the contemporary 'theatre of war' we are all wittingly or unwittingly 'playing' roles that change in type, degree and importance. If we own a mobile phone, for example, we could provide a node for a state or non-state actor to appropriate for multiple reasons. That both state and non-state actors now have commensurate or near-commensurate technical capabilities clearly creates a more synchronised 'theatre of war' where action potentially no longer has a story arc - from declaration of war, duration of war and end of war. My ideas here are informed by cultural critic Paul Virilio's commentaries on technology, Jean Baudrillard's three essays first published in the French newspaper Libération in 1991 ie: “The Gulf War Will Not Take Place”, “The Gulf War is Not Really Taking Place,” and “The Gulf War Did Not Take Place,” March 29, 1991, plus David Kilcullen's very interesting recent book The Dragons and the Snakes: How the Rest Learned to Fight the West [2020].

Ghosts
In Theatre of War: Ghosts Warn I have painted various elements of contemporary war ie: two drones, parodies of geolocation and terrain visualisation technology, targets, a satellite, indications of built environments, and signals transmitting instructions, information and data. All of these either normally visible or normally invisible aspects of contemporary war, create a landscape that overlays a background that could be a landscape or a skyscape - are you above or below this rendition of the contemporary 'theatre of war'? Flipping your perspective could possibly behelpful!

I have also included ghosts. Maybe speed makes everything ghostly? What are these ghosts warning us about?

I'll leave it up to you to ponder.


NEW PODCAST NEWS

I was interviewed by Paris-based Cecilia Poullain for her Brave New Women series of podcasts. She asks me about my PhD, the influences of my parents, my artwork, and about being a single Mum. You can watch it here on YOUTUBE


Cheers,

Kathryn






Tuesday, February 16, 2021

APPROPRIATING TITIAN'S 'SACRED AND PROFANE LOVE'

Ageless Gouache on paper 2003
 
In the early 2000s I painted a series of works on paper that dealt with love, marriage, divorce. I was newly divorced, so my perspective was pretty raw. 

If you are a regular reader - yes, there are no drones in this post!

Part of the series included a series-within-a-series, where I appropriated Titian's early famous work Sacred and Profane Love ,1514 [below]. The painting is at the Borghese Gallery and Museum


Titian Sacred and Profane Love Oil on canvas 118 x 279 cm 1514

Sacred and Profane Love 
There has been much art historical discussion about the meaning of the Titian's painting. Questions like, which female figure represents sacred love, which represents profane love? There are questions over the title given to the painting too. Apparently the title Sacred and Profane Love may not have been recorded until the 17th century. However, there seems to be general consensus, due to various symbols in the painting, that love is a theme. For example, there is a cherub with wings, so it could be Cupid, and the clothed female figure holds a sprig of Myrtle, a symbol of marriage. This figure is also wearing what is considered bridal clothing for the period. And, the near-naked female figure is thought to be Venus, Goddess of  love, beauty, sex and fertility. I remember reading, somewhere, that the painting is a bridal portrait, but unusual for the times, because there is no husband included. Because the two women look very similar, they might represent multiple aspects of the bride - the sacred and profane, romance and lust, defiance and supplication? 

My Appropriations
In my appropriations Ageless and A Different Landscape I have replaced the distant small village, seen in Titian's painting, with modern cityscapes. In 2003, this was reference to me moving from the country to the city, when I got divorced. It could also demonstrate that themes of love traverse time. In Ageless, the dotted line is like a highway, a metaphor perhaps?

In Jigsaw and Love Puzzle the pastorale scene depicted by Titian is abstracted, with the figures merging into the landscape, becoming one with it. I have previously written about Love Puzzle in regard to landscape, and the image of the bride in the landscape. I have a whole other series dwelling on this theme too!

And, Cupid does not get a gig in any of my Titian-appropriated paintings! I am not sure why...

The face-less women elide the opportunity for portraiture to be considered. There is no gaze. And, in art historical terms this has implications - the history of the female gaze in art is oft discussed. Manet's appropriation of Titian's Venus of Urbino  [1534] to create Olympia [1863] provides just one example of where the significance of the female gaze is scrutinised - from allure to defiance. But in both cases who is the gaze and its inflection meant for. Many would say - men.


Jigsaw Gouache on paper 2003


In Monolithic Matriarchs the women are faceless, except for red circles. For me, in 2003, this indicated strength, a way to solidify the power of matriarchy. There are no gazes to be mistaken as seductive or defiant, no expressions that give away secrets. The six women repeat the figure of the bride in Titian's painting. The repetition reveals the powerfulness of her figure. The morphed shape of Venus is also repeated in the foreground. She forms the landscape on which the monolithic matriarchs are positioned. Love, lust, fertility and sex are not discarded in the matriarchy - they are private. 

So, what does it all mean - its up to you!

Cheers,
Kathryn

                                                Love Puzzle Gouache on paper 2003


                                             A Different Landscape Gouache on paper 2003


                                           Monolithic Matriarchs Gouache on paper 2003
 

Wednesday, January 27, 2021

SPECTRUM WARFIGHTING: INVISIBILITY

The Tree Whispers, Beware of Fake Clouds Gouache and watercolour on paper 30 x 42 cm 2021


As I research more about the increasing interest in harnessing the electromagnetic spectrum for strategic and tactical military purposes, I think about how we are mediated and affected by the invisible aspects of contemporary war, conflict, geopolitics and techno-politics.* As invisible signals and wavelengths enable technological operability and interoperability, they also forge techno-political-industrial relationships. In a world of the Internet of Things (IOT) interconnectivity blurs boundaries, potentially collapses dual-use and allows political seepage.

So, I continue to think about what happens when the invisible is made visible? What questions are triggered? What kinds of new maps are revealed - relational maps, topographic maps ie: signal-maps? I continue to take cosmic perspectives where I invite viewers of my paintings to fly, in imagination, around and beyond drones, satellites, visualised signals and more. I call this critical kind of 'flight' imaginational metaveillance

With each of these three paintings I wanted to trigger questions, in me and you, about the importance of what we cannot normally see. In two of the paintings, the tree-of-life prods us to probe deeper. 

Can you 'see' anything?


Spectrum Warfighter Gouache and watercolour on paper 30 x 42 cm 2021


In Spectrum Warfighter, it's what you cannot see that's important. The warfighter, whether robotic, human or other, carries various antennae. What might they be connected to? That you cannot see the bottom half of the warfighter may indicate a simulation - one being generated or one being deactivated...


The Tree Asks, What Can't You See? Gouache on paper 30 x 42 cm 2021


In The Tree Asks, What Can't You See?, is the tree asking you or the warfighter what can be seen? What if the warfighter is a robot or an avatar on a screen, a digital metaphor or proxy - if so, does even asking a question about seeing even make sense? 

Cheers,
Kathryn

* There are so many recent articles, military statements, industry information about the increasing use of the electromagnetic spectrum by militaries around the world. Just Google the topic!
Here's an article "The Outcome of Future Conflicts Depends on Who Controls the Electromagnetic Spectrum" from Engineering.com 
And, another "Electronic Warfare Success Hinges on Spectrum Dominance" from the Asia Pacific Defence Reporter 
  

Saturday, January 16, 2021

THEATRE OF WAR: SPECTRUM

Theatre of War: Spectrum Gouache on paper 56 x 76 cm 2021

 

Theatre of War: Spectrum is my fifth Theatre of War painting. It seems I am developing a series. 

My earlier Theatre of War paintings are:

Theatre of War

Theatre of War: Terrain Visualisation

Theatre of War: Smart Team 

Theatre of War: Pattern Recognition


Theatre of War

'Theatre of war' is a term used often by General Carl von Clausewitz in his early nineteenth century book On War. He describes theatre of war as a "portion of space over which war prevails as has its boundaries protected, and thus possesses a kind of independence." 

Clearly the contemporary theatre of war is very different to Clausewitz's explanation. Contemporary war now extends beyond geographic boundaries, reaching into - and using - multiple aspects of the digital and cyber world. Of particular interest to me is the increasing interest, by militaries around the world, in the electromagnetic spectrum [EMS] as a domain to be harnessed and controlled. 

EMS
Signals carried by radio and microwave frequencies assist and operatively enable contemporary militarised and civilian technology - and the militarise-ability of the latter. Infrared frequencies facilitate surveillance, and imaging technology. New high energy laser technology can be used for communication, but also a weapon. Hacking, jamming, deliberate pulse attacks and activities such as spreading viruses are enabled by appropriating various wavelengths for nefarious deliveries. Arguably, the use of social media, phising, spreading misinformation are also fundamentally enabled by technologies reliant on signals carried by the EMS. 

Theatre of War: Spectrum
In this new painting I have tried to visualise the EMS as a theatre of war. I have placed this 'theatre' against a cosmic background to indicate a couple of things. Firstly, there are no boundaries - what are the ramifications of this? Secondly, that the EMS is woven into the fabric of the universe and its history. In the few seconds after the big bang, photons - quanta of energy - appeared. These photons are the foundation of the EMS, as all wavelengths are made up of photons that operate as both particles and waves. 

In our human sphere of influence, over time, we have harnessed aspects of the EMS for various things, including activities and technologies that benefit humanity and the planet. But, we have also harnessed it for activities and technologies that, as time goes by, could pose existential threats [regular readers know of my interest in existential risk posed by emerging technologies].   

Back to the painting - I wonder what my spectrum warfighter, in the red box carrying various equipment with obvious antennae, thinks? Is this warfighter human or robotic? Is the warfighter a simulation on a screen? Is the warfighter actually a bipedal node? Is the warfighter a posthuman reminder of human hubris?

Oh, but, there's a computer game called Full Spectrum Warrior It was first launched for X-Box in 2004. 

The contemporary theatre of war is no game, but some might say that it includes 'games' of all sorts....

Cheers,

Kathryn

Wednesday, January 06, 2021

COMPETITION CONTINUUM: WAR

 Competition Continuum: War Gouache on paper 56 x76 cm 2021


It's been awhile since I last posted. My last post was the end of October 2020. And, now we are in 2021. Happy New year!

Electromagnetic Spectrum EMS
I have been researching the military use of, and reliance upon, the
electromagnetic spectrum [EMS], particularly military [state and non-state] use of radio, microwave, infrared and visible light frequencies. Of interest to me is that the EMS can be an enabler of militarised and militarise-able technology, as well as being deployed as a weapon - hacking, service denial, signal jamming, high energy lasers. 

All frequencies in the EMS are constituted by photons, each photon holding energy and moving in a wave ie: they are both particle and a wave. Across the EMS photon energy varies and their wave lengths vary, from longer radio waves to shorter gamma waves. All photons move at the speed of light, hence, for example, signals carried by radio waves invisibly travel at the speed of light. 

Cosmology
Within 10 seconds of cosmological history ie: started by the Big Bang, photons played an essential role, producing electromagnetic radiation. Over eons, as temperatures cooled photon behaviour changed, but the foundation of the EMS, a natural resource now harnessed by human beings in our Earthy environment, can be traced to the beginning of the universe. 

EMS Domain
That the EMS, in the 21st century, is a domain of increasing interest to defence departments and militaries around the world, demands attention. Various defence force policy statements increasingly address how to enhance EMS domain dominance, to ensure strategic and tactical advantages in an age of signal-reliant hardware and systems, information warfare, and associated grey zone and hybrid warfare. The EMS is a congested and increasingly contested environment, vulnerable to forces that desire to dominate it.

Competition Continuum: War
In my painting Competition Continuum: War I have evoked the beginning of cosmological history by painting a tree-of-life form that cascades across an ambiguous but vast scape. I have painted strings of binary code 'instructing' the word WAR. These strings can be considered as visualised signals, transmitting or receiving data, information and instructions. These signals criss-cross each other - are they intercepting, hacking, surveilling? The symbol for the speed of light ie: C is also repeated. And, I have included the symbol for photon ie: γ. 

The title of the painting came from a couple of sources. Firstly the US Joint Electromagnetic Spectrum Operations, doctrinal statement, published May 2020. In the preface Daniel O'Donohue, Lt Gen USMC Director, Joint Force Development, states "This publication provides fundamental principles and guidance for planning, executing, and assessing joint electromagnetic spectrum operations across the competition continuum." The second source is the US DOD's Electromagnetic Spectrum Superiority Strategy, published in October 2020. The following quote is taken from the Strategy's glossary "Competition Continuum – Describes a world of enduring competition conducted through a mixture of cooperation, competition below armed conflict, and armed conflict. This is the environment in which the United States applies the instruments of national power (diplomatic, informational, military, economic) to achieve objectives."

From Cosmology to Militarised technology!
Regular readers will know that I have been very interested in the EMS, signals, militarised and militarise-able technology etc for a long time. Here are a couple of earlier posts. 

Signalscapes and Existential Risk 

Data Data 

Regular readers will also know of my long-term interest in cosmology - the study of the history of the Universe. I am intrigued and excited about how my interests in cosmology, landscape and technology are converging! I even had an exhibition called Cosmology at Purgatory Artspace in Melbourne in 2013. And, I have a designated page called Cosmology

Cheers,

Kathryn