Tuesday, November 22, 2022

ON THE EDGE OF BEING

On The Edge of Being Oil on linen 112 x 92 cm 2022
 

In an age of artificial intelligence, increasingly autonomous systems, technological interconnectivity and interoperability, drones and other robots, what happens to human identity? If our future is one of being human-machine, what kind of being-ness does this impose or require? Do we become more like the machines/systems or do they become more like us? How does machine utility and human being-ness work together? 

On The Edge of Being
This new painting visually poses a possible immanent battle or meeting between the upper section of trees and the lower section of different kinds of 'tree's. It's up to you to ponder whether a battle or a meeting is likely, or maybe something else. The free flowing tree-like branches at the top of the painting are posed with a more standardised neural network tree-like structure in the bottom half of the painting. I was thinking about being-ness vs utility. I was also thinking about trees - for example, computer science tree-logic/hierarchies and the age-old transcultural/religious tree-of-life. Both 'coded', but differently. A lot to say here, but I won't go on - and on...!

I have not only painted different tree-structures, but I have used slightly different tones of colour in each section. The green in the top part of the painting is a more real-world tree or plant green, whereas the green in the lower section is a night-vision surveillance green. I have used different yellows and blues in each section, but the same cadmium red. This red dominates as each 'tree-scape' encroaches on the fiery and tumultuous centre. The red denotes readiness - maybe for battle. The centre section could be a war zone, but it could also indicate fertile ground. Whatever it is, for me it symbolises a rubicon - like crossing the Rubicon River. Maybe there is no way back, especially if we don't pay attention. In 2017 I created a painting called Crossing the Rubicon  

PhD - Light Speed
On The Edge of Being came to me as I wrote one of my PhD chapters Speed: Light Speed = c. In an era where light-speed signal transmission enables technological speed, how do expectations of beyond-human dimensions of speed, and therefore, time, impact or influence human being-ness? What metaphoric tree should we grasp onto as speed engulfs?

I am reading James Bridle's new book Ways of Being: Beyond Human Intelligence   where he reminds us that human beings exist in a world inhabited by multiple different types of non-human intelligences, apart from AI - animals, trees, and other ecological systems. He prompts us to de-centre the human being in order to gain greater appreciation of roles played by a plethora of other kinds of beings and intelligences. I started Bridle's book after I started On The Edge of Being. I would like to think that the painting's multiple interpretations metaphorically 'speak' to the idea that we need to look beyond ourselves - and the hype surrounding AI, especially programmed in relation to being more the human. If we focus on ourselves and technologies such as AI, what might we miss? Bridle clearly pays attention to the world at large. I look forward to finishing the book.

There is more to say and think about...but, cheers for now - Kathryn 

PS: You might be interesting another painting



Sunday, October 30, 2022

MAKING CODE VISIBLE: ONLINE EXHIBITION

 1. Unseen Oil on linen 90 x 80 cm 2015


2015-2022

This online exhibition of selected paintings starts wit  Unseen (above), painted in 2015. Unseen is one of my first paintings where I depict binary code as part of an overall image. In this case a colourful string of zeros and ones repeatedly instructs the word LIFE. This string of visualised code extends from a branch of the tree, depicted with a colourful array of roots. The tree could be a tree-of-life, offering another kind of 'code'. Like many of my paintings a cosmic-like background helps to create a sense of flight.

Unseen was the source of inspiration for a collaboration with Brisbane-based internationally known jeweler Margot McKinney. The small series includes a fabulous necklace that follows the graphic lines of the tree, and zeros and ones. Square cut and round gems 'form' the binary code. A series of gorgeous earrings were inspired by the spiral of binary code in Picturing the Posthuman (painting number 16). I like the fact that code has been extracted and aestheticised in my paintings and in jewels made from natural geologically formed gemstones.     


LIFE and War
The next 19 paintings start with examples of recent works, ending with other earlier paintings. You will notice that as I experiment with visalising and eastheticising normally invisible code, its relationship with militarised technology and militiarise-able civilian technology becomes more politically charged. In a world where notions of warfare now include information, cyber, hybrid, grey-zone, and network-centric warfare, the key role played by code and algorithms demands attention. 

Various kinds of violence now insidiously play out in networks, enabled by light-speed transmission and reception of signals carried by radio and microwave frequencies in the electromagnetic spectrum. Signals are tentacular enablers and deliverers of codified data and instructions. 

Text Prompted AI Generated Images
This online exhibition also responds to recent hype surrounding text prompted AI image generation, using datasets of human artists' images scraped from the Internet. I offer my paintings of visualised code as a disruption and resistance to algorithmically generated image making. Painting is not reliant on digital or cyber technology, thus it has a capacity for independent critique, without feeding data back into the system. Interestingly I have discovered that one of my painting, in this online exhibition, has been scraped and used in a dataset - painting number 19 Coded Landscape. The binary code, 'instructing' the word LIFE, forms a landscape-like contour. It's kind of ironic that this painting was scraped. I add here, that the image scraped was a digital image of the painting, not digital artwork. 

A few issues relating to text prompted AI generated images [not I do not call it AI Art!] include:
  1. That work created by human artists has been scraped with intent to build datasets, without consent from original artists. 
  2. Currently, text prompted AI generated images appear very similar, exhibiting a banality that flags a creeping homogenisation of aesthetics. This is a quiet kind of violence. I am reminded of a statement made by Jean Baudrillard in Passwords (2003), where he describes a digitally coded destiny where it will be “possible to measure everything by the same extremely reductive yardstick: the binary, the alternation between 0 and 1”.
  3. While AI generated images might be considered cultural activity, production or performance, it does not mean that all AI generated/assisted images are art. 

* Please click on the hyperlinked titles to take you to the relevant posts on this BLOG. 


2. Theatre of War: Techno-Seduction Gouache on paper 56 x 76 cm 2022


In Theatre of War: Techno-Seduction visualised code is used to used to expose connections between various elements of network-centric warfare - from satellites, to drones, to military AI legal tools, to human targets. 


3.  Interface: Being HUMAN Being   Oil on linen 56 x 112 cm 2022



4. Interface Gouache o paper 56 x 76 cm 2022 


5. Competition Continuum: War  Gouache on paper 56 x 76 cm 2021

6. ME: 01001101 01000101 Oil on linen 92 x 112 cm 2021 

ME: 01001101 01000101 is a self-portrait that poses questions about portraiture in the age of facial recognition. It also raises questions about identity and verification of identity. Louise Amoore’s concerns about “how algorithms are implicated in new regimes of verification, new forms of identifying a wrong or of truth telling in the world” 'speaks' to the role played by AI in image and identity verification. Could we, weirdly and dangerously, come to a time where verification of identity is only confirmed by a digital tick?

Louise AmooreCloud Ethics: Algorithms and the Attributes of Ourselves and Others, 5-6.


7. GOD? Oil on linen 41 x 51 cm 2019 

8. HUMAN Oil on linen 31 x 36 cm 2019 


9. Drones and Code: Future Now Oil on linen 40 x 56 cm 2018


10. Manhunting Gouache on paper 56 x 76 cm 2017


11. Fake Tree Oil on linen 25 x 35 cm 2017


12. Data Heaven Oil on linen 100 x 120 cm 2017 

Code 'instructs' the word DATA in the storage centre of the fake cloud. Predominantly painted in night vision green the painting 'speaks' to surveillance and digital data storage - even after mortal death.


13. Combat Proven, Long-Range, Long-Dwell Gouache and watercolour on paper 56 x 76.5 cm 2016


14. I Am A Posthuman Gouache and watercolour on paper 42 x 30 cm 2016

01001001 00100000 01100001 01101101 00100000 01100001 00100000 01110000 01101111 01110011 01110100 01101000 01110101 01101101 01100001 01101110 00101110
The code above appears in my new painting I Am A Posthuman. It actually 'forms', or maybe 'performs', or otherwise 'instructs' a structural element to the 'figure'. You can guess the translation for sure!


15. A Human's House and A Posthuman's House Gouache on paper 30 x 42 cm 12016


16. Two Humans Gouache on paper 30 x 42 cm 2015


17. I am Am I? Gouache and watercolour on paper 30 x 42 cm 2015


18. Picturing the Posthuman Gouache and watercolour on paper 30 x 42 cm 2015


19. Coded Landscape Gouache on paper 15 x 21 cm 2015



20. Where There's Life There's... Oil on linen 92 x 102 cm 2015

Where there's life, there's hope or code?


Cheers,

Kathryn




Thursday, October 20, 2022

THEATRE OF WAR: SENSORATION

Theatre of War: Sensoration Oil on linen 122 x 153 cm 2022


Sensorium?
This new painting Theatre of War: Sensoration was inspired by thinking about arrays of sensors eg: for surveillance, detection, tracking, data sorting, airport security etc. I am particularly interested why arrays of sensors are often called sensoriums, or considered part of the general natural world sensorium of senses and sensing. I have an issue with this! While the word sensorium does contain the word sensor, sensorium is normally applied to the human or natural world sensorium, where different senses, from sight, to hearing, touch, hindsight, emotion, feeling, even sixth sense, are experienced. So, to apply sensorium to arrays of technological sensors implies an attribution of a range of senses that sensors do not have. 

To avoid anthropomorphising technology we must pay closer attention to the language used to describe capabilities. My suggestion for the sensorium conundrum is to turn the noun sensor into a verb. Thus, the scoping and detection activities of sensors are acts of sensoring, not sensing. And, thus an array of sensors could be called a sensoration (like association, or delegation). 

PhD
I add here that my thoughts are part of a broader PhD creative practice-led research project (Curtin University, Western Australia) examining increasing military interest in the electromagnetic spectrum, as an enabler of technology, a type of fires (weapon), a manoeuvre space (tactics) and a domain (strategy). 

Registering
I do realise that human beings share the world with an ever increasing array of technological sensors, and therefore there is a relationship, whether clear or not to human beings. I add here that I doubt that sensors 'know' there is a relationship! Eyal Weizman (Founder of Forensic Architecture) and Matthew Fuller  write about the sensor-sensing-human relational characteristic of contemporary life in their very thought provoking book Investigative Aesthetics: Conflicts and Commons in the Politics of Truth (2021). While using the word sensorium to encompass the sensor-human relationship, they do not scrutinise its anthropomorphising attributes. 

Weizman and Fuller do, however, mention the act of registering - of registration. The idea of registering/registration provided a way for me to think through the conundrum of using the word sensorium to encompass sensors and human/natural world sensing. I propose that both sensors and human beings register, and that this is the relational link between the sensor sensoration and the human sensorium. A sensor will register the presence of a human being and relay or store data relating to the human being's actions, condition etc. A human being may register the presence of sensors and mediate behaviour, or possibly not care. But, a human being's act of registering a sensor, or anything else for that matter, can entail an emotional reaction - even not caring is an emotional reaction. Whereas, a sensor is incapable of caring or not caring - full stop. 

Theatre of War: Sensoration
Using the symbol for light-speed ie: c, and the symbol for photon ie: y, I have painted two outer circles. Each symbol in each circle is connected by a wavy line. These lines indicate wavelengths in the electromagnetic spectrum. This implies sensor signal connectivity and interconnectivity. An inner circle of cross-hairs coveys the idea of surveillance and monitoring, and the central cross-hair conveys the idea of targeting. This targeting could be by advertisers, information warfare bots, surveillance cameras, a drone's imaging technology or even the scoping lens of a weapon. 

Without depicting actual sensors Theatre of War: Sensoration visually critiques the idea that an array of sensors, or an environment of sensors, is a sensorium. I chose to use red and white to suggest that the sensoration - not sensorium - is a shared military and civilian space. The reliance on speed of light signal connectivity to relay data and instructions, in an network-centric world renders the civilian world of sensors ie sensoration militarise-able. 

I invite you to 'fly', in imagination, above, behind and around the sensoration. The cosmic background scape creates a distance into which you can soar. What do you see?

Cheers,
Kathryn

Wednesday, September 07, 2022

CLOUDY WAR

 Cloudy War Gouache on paper 56 x 76 cm 2022


CLOUDY?
You may have guessed that cloudy, in the title of this painting, does not mean atmospheric cloudiness, but rather, the encompassing cloudnet that is the 21st century techno-cloud, commonly called The Cloud. Regular readers will know I have created a number of paintings where I try to make visible the invisible aspects of contemporary militarised technology and war. By war, I mean not only kinetic warfare, but also information, hybrid, cyber and grey-zone warfare. The techno-cloud of interconnected and interoperable systems provides seeming instant access and connectivity to information, updates, news cycles, social media posts and posting and more. This is enabled by light-speed or near light-speed signal transmissions carried by frequencies in the electromagnetic spectrum (EMS). Speed is now an expectation.

Cloudy War
In  Cloudy War I have painted strings of binary code 'instructing' the word CLOUD. Circles of dotted lines carry the fake cloud theme further. And, yet more circles containing wave patterns reveal the underlying signalic character of this 'cloudy' war painting. Why waves? All frequencies in the EMS are made up of photons travelling in wave form at light speed. Radio waves have the longest wave lengths and gamma waves have the shortest. The radio to microwave frequencies are the most commonly used for transmission of signals that enable contemporary hardware and systems technologies. Congestion and contestation of bandwidths is prompting experimentation with other frequencies. Additionally AI systems are being developed to optimise bandwidth access, especially for the military. 

Peeping out from behind the techno-cloud are hints of various militarised hardware - airborne drones, ground-based aerial nodes, a tank, a robotic quadruped, a ship, indications of satellites. And, of course there are other hidden elements - you just have to imagine them! 

The 'fog of war' is now electromagnetically induced. 

I could go on, but I'll leave you to ponder. 

Cheers,
Kathryn



Friday, August 19, 2022

BATTLE CLOUD

Battle Cloud Gouache and watercolour on paper 30 x 42 cm 2022


IoT, IoBT, IoMT

Regular readers will know of my interest in trying to visualise the 21st century techno-cloud  - often just called The Cloud. Also, the Internet, and even the Internet of Things (IoT). 

But, did you know that the military also have terms like the Internet of Battlefield Things (IoBT) and the Internet of Military Things (IoMT)

All these 'internets' rely on the electromagnetic spectrum (EMS) for connectivity and interconnectivity, plus operability of hardware and systems, as well as inter-operability. The term dual-use, in a world where civilian technologies also rely upon the EMS becomes almost non-sensical. Why? Because in a world of not only kinetic warfare, we now have remotely operated systems, cyber warfare, hybrid warfare and information warfare. These draw civilian technologies into the various physical and cyber battlefields of our time. Our mobile phones, computers, remotely update-able vehicles and appliances, GPS, social media updates, cloud storage, cyber home assistants and more, can be, and in many instances are, tracked, hacked, surveilled, harvested for data, used as nodes and purveyors of viruses. 

What if the Internet of Things is ultimately a subsidiary of its spawned IoBT or IoMT? Where does that place the civilian in terms of complicity, unwitting or not? 

Battle Cloud

My visualisations of 21st century technology and its Cloud are created with paint - oil paint or gouache and watercolour paints. I love using paint to critically examine contemporary militarised and militarise-able technology. Why? Because, unlike the technology I critique and examine, painting is not reliant on the EMS for creation, exhibition or storage. This independence provides a critical distance. It is a form of resistance.

I listened to a fascinating conference hosted earlier in the year by the Disruption Network Lab in Berlin. The conference was called The Kill Cloud. One message from this bluntly titled conference was that the airborne drone needs to considered as part of a network. This resonated with me, and is why my PhD focusses on increasing military interest in the EMS as an enabler of technology, a type of fires (weapon), a manoeuvre space (tactics) and a domain (strategy). Any robotic hardware, whether an airborne drone, or a ground, sea or under-the-sea robotic system, functions as part of a network. The network is enabled by signals transmitted via EMS frequencies. As frequencies become more congested, due to not only increasing military needs, but also civilian needs, there is a heightened sense of urgency for militaries to dominate the EMS. Congestion is only one issue, another is contestation from state and non-state malign entities. 

I chose to paint Battle Cloud in red, after hearing the term 'kill cloud'. Maybe I could have called it Bloody Cloud or That Bloody Cloud. I don't think I need to explain the title any more - you 'get' it.

The washed out text running across the painting is binary code 'instructing' the word CLOUD. I like the way the code seems to dissolve, as if it is actually cloudy. The illusion of connection...


Three Other Cloud Paintings: 
There are actually more than three...scroll through the blog and you will see them. 

Cheers,
Kathryn



Friday, July 22, 2022

HUMAN IN THE LOOP

Human in the Loop Gouache on paper 30 x 42 cm 2022
 
NEWS

My work is included in the University of St. Andrew’s, UK, newly launched online Museum of Peace . The Museum exhibits an array of different approaches to peace in different themed ‘rooms’. You can see my exhibit in the Visualising Peace room, plus a couple of the other rooms.

I am thrilled that Otilia Meden, in her thoughtful essay "Cyber Peace and Artivism, with Kathryn Brimblecombe-Fox" has connected my earlier work with my more recent paintings.  

_______________________________________________________________


Autonomous Systems
As technological systems increasingly include autonomous functions, a plethora of questions about human work and agency arise. These questions relate to human labour and human decision making. With regards to weapon systems, autonomous functions within a system raise questions about a creeping attrition of human participation. This usurped participation could be analysis of data, decisions about deployments of human and non-human warfighters, assessments of kill zones, identification of targets and more. Autonomous functions enabled by AI and machine learning decrease latency, often caused by human beings taking time to think. Speed is increasingly viewed as a tactical and strategic edge, even a purveyor of weaponry, if not a weapon itself. .

These two paintings Human in the Loop and Threat reflect upon the concepts of  'human in the loop' - 'human on the loop' - 'meaningful human control' - 'meaningless human control'. 

In Human in the Loop [above] binary code 'instructs' the word 'Human', followed by text "in the loop.". This is a reference to another recent painting Theatre of War: Law  which is a response to recent news about research into an AI legal assistant for the military. The human being becomes an algorithm?

In Threat binary code at the bottom of the painting 'instructs' HUMAN. The aerial view of what looks like a military air force base, seems to be viewed on a screen. Perhaps this is drone footage? Does the code mean that a human being is monitoring the surveillance, identifying the threat, targeting the threat - or - does it mean a meaningless presence?

Internet of Battlefield Things
Both paintings also indicate that interconnectivity via 'the Cloud' or the Internet of Battlefield Things [IoBT], enables interoperability across multiple domains. Another recent painting Theatre of War: Internet of Battlefield Things responds to this permutation of 'the Cloud'. 

 I have just listened to the proceedings of a very interesting and serious conference "The Kill Cloud: Networked Warfare, Drones and AI" hosted by The Disruption Network Lab, Berlin, March 2022. Sobering listening. It was a call out to look beyond the drone [hradware], and to examine the system. This is exactly the focus of my PhD research, examining increasing military interest in the electromagnetic spectrum [EMS], as an enabler of technology, a type of fires, a manoeuvre space and a domain. Without reliable access to the EMS connectivity, operability, interconnectivity, interoperability - at speed - could not occur. 

And, there's a lot more to write and think about, but I will leave this to you!

Cheers,
Kathryn


Threat Gouache on paper 30 x 42 cm 2022
 

Monday, June 13, 2022

LIGHT SPEED: CRASH

 Light Speed: Crash (After Virilio) Oil on linen 66 x 112 cm 2022


The light barrier “is not something one can cross: you crash into it.”


"To have reached the light barrier, to have reached the speed of light, is a historical event which throws history in disarray and jumbles up the relation of the living being towards the world." 

Both quotes Paul Virilio Speed and Information: CyberspaceAlarm!,” CTheory (August 27, 1995).  
 
_____________________________


Regular readers will know of my interest in the speed of light, the electromagnetic spectrum, technology, war, humanity and the future. One of my other recent paintings is called Speed of Light

Light Speed: Crash (After Virilio) (above) was inspired by reading French cultural theorist Paul Virilio's multiple works on themes of speed, technology and war. As you can see from the date of the above two quotes, Virilio was insightful and incisive in his critiques of technology and speed in the twentieth century. His book Desert Screen: War at the Speed of Light  was first published in 1991, during the first Gulf War. Like Jean Baudrillard, Virilio saw this war's embrace of instantaneous signal transmission of instructions and imagery, as a historical milestone. Since then, the utilisation of the electromagnetic spectrum to enable seeming instantaneity, has conditioned us to speed - light speed or near light speed signal connectivity, interconnectivity, to enable operability and interoperability across civilian and military technologies and systems.

One limit, if not the only limit for these technologies and systems is light speed. It is "not something one can cross: you crash into it.” As we scramble to make sure speed gives us an edge, whether it's high frequency stock trading or weapon delivery/detection, how far/fast can we go?

In Light Speed: Crash (After Virilio) I have tried to give an impression of speed. The cosmic landscape alludes to the fact that the electromagnetic spectrum is universal with a history embedded in the universe's cosmological history. The painting seems to indicate an imminent crash. A 'wall' of symbols visually suggests a limit. These symbols are  c - light speed and y - photon. All frequencies in the electromagnetic spectrum are made up of photons travelling at the speed of light. Radio waves have longer wave lengths, while gamma waves have the shortest wave lengths.  The light spectrum is the only one visible to the unaided human eye.

NEWS

In May, Autonomous Weapon Systems and the Protection of the Human Person: An International Law Analysis by Dr. Diego Mauri, was published by Edward Elgar Publishing. Thrilled that my painting Manhunting 2017 is on the front cover. I met Dr. Mauri at the Aesthetics of Drone Warfare conference, University of Sheffield in February 2020. We were both presenters. 

The book is a thoughtful examination, through an International Law lens, of issues associated with increasingly autonomous weapon systems (AWS). This is intersected with a history of AWS, ethical issues & more. The examination keeps the human being as central to the discussion.




Cheers,
Kathryn

Wednesday, May 18, 2022

HYPERSONIC

HYPERSONIC Oil on linen 56 x 112 cm 2022




Speed has become a central concern of mine - light speed, hypersonic speed, terms like 'accelerated warfare' +++. I have a chapter on speed in my developing PhD exegesis. I am informed by cultural critic, Paul Virilio's various commentaries on speed - speed of technological development and speed of technological operation. I am also informed by his intersection of speed and war.

HYPERSONIC
This new painting HYPERSONIC references Australia's commitment, through the AUKUS [Australia, United Kingdom, United States] partnership, to develop hypersonic weapons and counter-hypersonic capabilities. The painting maps trajectories taken by hypersonic weapons. Ballistic missiles that can fly at hypersonic speeds have set flight paths, and are less manoeuvrable. Hypersonic glide and hypersonic cruise missiles are more manoeuvrable, thus they can evade detection. Evading detection means a target is more difficult to identify. Hypersonic weapons fly at speeds beyond Mach 5 [Mach 1 being the speed of sound]. Google hypersonic weapons, and you'll find lots of information.

An AUKUS update, April 5, 2022, from the White House clearly identifies hypersonic weapons and counter-hypersonic technology as key activities under the heading Advanced Capabilities. "Hypersonic and counter-hypersonic capabilities. The AUKUS partners will work together to accelerate development of advanced hypersonic and counter-hypersonic capabilities."

Note the word accelerate in the quoted sentence above. Everything is about speed!

Like many of my paintings that visualise signals, flight paths, the techno-cloud and more,  HYPERSONIC is an attempt to visualise discrete or invisible aspects of contemporary war. HYPERSONIC reveals a 'landscape' of trajectories - hypersonic ballistic missile trajectories and hypersonic glide/guided weapons trajectories. Hypersonic weapons cannot be easily tracked with the naked eye. Sound becomes a residue. Manoeuvrable hypersonic weapons cannot be easily tracked, full stop. Hence the AUKUS partnership is not only about hypersonic weapons R & D, but also "counter-hypersonic capabilities". 

LANDSCAPE
The painting suggests that invisible forces 'etch' landscape, creating new kinds of insidious scapes that mediate landscape, as well as concepts of environment. This mediation affects how we think of human movement, borders, sovereignty, security, life and death. A patch of red dots, left of centre, references geolocating and terrain visualisation graphics. This reminds us that landscape is mediated for technologies with increasingly autonomous functioning, particularly movement.  What are the implications for the future of war and humanity? 

For any living creature, human or non-human, at or near a target, speed is life changing or ending. 

Speed is key. Speed can be weapon and a purveyor of weaponry. 

"There is a certain inevitability in the domain of science and technology. We never decelerate." Paul Virilio , Desert Screen, p. 33. 

Cheers,
Kathryn