Friday, May 25, 2018

EXPOSING THE INVISIBLE

Are you above the surveillance net, or below it?


Federica Caso recently published an essay "Visualising the Drone: War Art as Embodied Resistance" in E-International Relations. Caso is a PhD candidate at the University of Queensland. She is completing a thesis on the body and the militarisation of western post-conscription societies. Her essay in E-International relations reflects on "ethical questions about the aestheticisation of violence and the anaesthetisation of publics." Caso's pivotal question is "How can artists represent war without reproducing it, without making war into a beautified spectacle for public consumption devoid of critique, and without militarising their body, work, and art?" She uses my dronescapes to grapple with this question. She goes onto say,  

       "Drones make warfare look surgical, clean, and as if there is nothing to see (Gregory,           2012). Against this backdrop, Brimblecombe-Fox has realised that it is paramount to             represent and uncover drone warfare in ways that reveal the invisible. Yet, not many             public artists are in the business of doing so."

Caso identifies my quest to make visible the invisible aspects of drone operation. However, she digs deep into the question of making the invisible - visible. She notes that it "also encompass the realm of affective cognition, that is, the knowledge derived from the emotive responses of the body in the encounter with the other, human and non-human." She suggests that  "Art’s currency is emotions, and therefore it is a crucial site of affective cognition." She suggests my paintings provide an opportunity to encounter "the other, human and non-human" by providing a site/s where "affective cognition" is stimulated in ways that inform the viewer. Knowledge gained is not just the revelatory aspect of exposing the invisible, but also the the kind of knowledge gleaned by taking note of emotional responses. 

THE INVISIBLE
In this post I want to focus on one aspect of making visible the invisible operations of airborne militarised drones. This is the exposure of enabling invisible signals. These signals are those that are transmitted and received by a drone and its supporting operative infrastructure ie: nodes such as ground control stations, communication and GPS satellites, plus devices such as mobile phones, computers and so on. 

I 'see' these signals as layering new topographies across and into the landscape, a dimensional environment that now extends from land, into the sky and into space. Space Net and  Remote Control (below) are examples of how I imagine this extended 'landscape'. Exposure is a from of resistance.


Space Net Gouache n paper 56 x 76 cm (unframed) 2017


This extended dimension of landscape has a sense of volume, even a body. For me, this has been colonised and penetrated by the proliferation of signals that enable the operation of systems that are either militarised or militarisable. By militarisable, I mean the increasing dual-use military/civilian capabilities of contemporary technological platforms, such as space-based assets, mobile phone infrastructure, and digital and cyber systems. And, let us not forget accelerating developments in machine learning and artificial intelligence capabilities.


Remote Control Gouache on paper 30 x 42 cm (unframed) 2016


A landscape that is invisibly colonised by signals, enabling surveillance, monitoring and targeting, is worth critical attention. These types of activities cut across military, policing and security pursuits, therefore highlighting the increasing blurred lines between civilian and military use of technological infrastructure. Additionally malign or aberrant state or non-state actors can also conscript, by mal-intent, the same infrastructure. I 'see' a problem! 

Of course, in some parts of the world the impact of the invisible is already keenly felt eg; Yemen, Northern Pakistan, Afghanistan and others. There are arguments that a drone strike is 'surgically' targeted, but the knowledge that 'flying watchtowers' (Chamayou), with long range and long dwell capabilities, lurk in skies above, creates a constant fear for all who live under those skies.

If you are remote from places where drones loiter in skies above, the problem of a landscape invisibly occupied by netted signals also seems remote. But, the threat to human life and wellbeing is clearly demonstrated in countries where drone surveillance and strikes occur. That people anywhere on Earth are afraid of what the sky might harbour, is an indictment on all of humanity. Think about it - as  Voyager 1  travels beyond our solar system, at the same time we have people on Earth who are afraid of the sky! This defies enlightened sense.

What if an invisibly occupied, penetrated and colonised landscape posed an existential threat to all of humanity? Would you/ we pay more attention?



 Drone Star Gouache on paper 30 x 42 cm (unframed) 2016


 Droned Landscape Gouache on paper 30 x 42 cm (unframed) 2016
Are you 'flying' above the drones landscape, or are you below the droned sky. Or, is this a cross section of landscape, demonstrating a subterranean occupation as well?


Drone Zones Gouache on paper 30 x 42 cm (unframed) 2016
Will the space between land and space be zoned? Who or what will have jurisdiction? Will there be new types of ownership titles?
  

DRONESCAPES
In my dronescapes I use cosmic perspectives to expose signals, technological connectivity and the new nets that crisscross landscape - the extended environment from land, to sky, to space. I visually propose that these signals, while layering new topographies over the landscape, can also mimic landscape elements, such as stars, the rays of the sun and clouds. 

The cosmic perspective, though, allows you to fly around drones or indications of their presence, thus turning the human gaze [in imagination-a dynamic form of vision] back onto the drones. In many of the paintings, you are unsure whether you are above or below the drones, or indication of their presence ie: signals. 

I could write more - but this post is already too long. Hope you enjoyed reading it.

Please take a look at my DRONESCAPES page for more about my process - and - thinking. Oh! - and - more paintings!


1. These resources attest to fear of the sky:
The Atlantic article  reporting on thirteen year old Pakistani boy Zabair's experiences. 

Atef Abu Saif's book The Drone Eats With Me: Diaries from a City Under Fire

Cheers,
Kathryn









Saturday, May 12, 2018

DATA HEAVEN

Data Heaven Oil on linen 100 x 120 cm 2017


I painted Data Heaven last year. I present it to you as a landscape, cosmicscape, dronescape, datascape, futurescape, codescape!


At the centre of the square, in the centre of the cloud, binary code ‘instructs’ the word DATA. The fifth line of code, ‘instructing’ the letter D, indicates algorithmic continuity. The cloud looks like an eye, with DATA as its ‘pupil’. I am playing with ideas relating to THE CLOUD, big data and humanity’s increasing reliance on digital and cyber technologies. That we can exist virtually across multiple technological platforms/systems while alive is one thing, but that this virtual existence can continue after mortal death, is indicative of  -  DATA Heaven, or perhaps - DATA Hell?

The white cloud-eye is surrounded by fiery ‘lashes’ that lick the cosmos. Is the fire destructive or a symbol of renewal? The binary code is painted white, like the cloud, to reveal subterfuge – DATA is used for scoping, surveillance and targeting purposes. The code is positioned at the centre of red cross-hairs to indicate the replacement of human sight/vision by algorithms, scoping for targets – to sell something to – or to kill. Here, the cloud becomes a visual metaphor for the airborne weaponised drone, its persistent surveillance and increasingly autonomous capabilities.

VISION?
I am particularly interested in making a critical comment about the use of 'vision' as a word to describe machine imaging technology. In a few of my recent paintings I play with images that look like an eye, but on closer inspection are not really eyes. To ascribe a machine, no matter how advanced, with powers of vision, reduces human capacities of vision - in it broadest sense ie: not only seeing with eye-ball and pupil, but also with a mind's eye/imagination, in dreams, and visionary thinking. A scoping machine, such as a drone, cannot imagine, dream or generate visionary thoughts/thinking. Let's not give away human capacities that may actually be useful for us in the future! Relinquishing them too soon, and normalising things like machine vision - for me - poses an existential risk [can you 'see' this too?].

Data Heaven? poses questions about the future of humanity – its mortal and digital existence.


BACK IN THE STUDIO

After winding down from my wonderful trip overseas, I have returned to the studio. The photo shows me preparing the early stages of a painting. And, there's Data Heaven in the back of the studio. Another new painting sits on the desk to the right. 

Please read about my trip, speaking engagements, conferences etc in my last post: Please click on the heading below.

BRISBANE - SAN FRANCISCO - NY - LONDON - CAMBRIDGE - HK



Kathryn Brimblecombe-Fox  Studio 

Cheers,
Kathryn


Saturday, May 05, 2018

BRISBANE - SAN FRANCISCO - NY - LONDON - CAMBRIDGE - HK

Presenting my talk at the international Studies Association annual conference in San Francisco. 


I have just returned from my month long trip from Brisbane, to San Francisco, to new York, to Cambridge and London and home via Hong Kong. I did not post while I was away - the first time I have missed even one week, let alone four, in nearly twelve years!

ISA
Happy to report that my presentation at the International Studies Association annual conference, San Francisco, was received very well. I was asked to speak about my paintings - my dronescapes - how they resist the insidious [and no so insidious] infiltration of militaristion into everyday life, imagination and the future.  

This conference was a massive one. Every session I went to was stimulating. An array of different topics, approaches, and people from around the world. 

GOLDSMITHS
Happy to also report that my presentation at Goldsmiths, University of London, was also well received. Dr. Claire Reddleman and Dr. Elke Schwartz also spoke. I was asked to speak about my work in reference to issues relating to new landscapes/topographies and drone vision. 

CENTRE FOR THE STUDY OF EXISTENTIAL RISK, UNIVERSITY OF CAMBRIDGE
A highlight of the trip was attending the Centre for the Study of Existential Risk, University of Cambridge, annual conference. This was a small conference and I was delighted to be invited to attend. It was two days of fascinating presentations and participatory workshops. The focus was on thinking about strategies to help inform the broader community, policy makers, governments and corporations about existential risk ie: often considered low probability, but high impact events that could cause human species demise or civilisation collapse. Regular readers will know why I was so pleased to attend this conference - I have been interested in existential risk posed by emerging technologies for many years. Ideas associated with existential risk have informed both my creative practice and academic research.


                            
Presenting my talk at the international Studies Association annual conference in San Francisco. 


Presenting at Goldsmiths, University of London


TALKS
In both my talks I questioned the term vision and its application to a machine. I asked, are we relinquishing human vision before we understand the ramifications of doing so? I couched this in reference to vision as an expansive human capacity ie: not only seeing with eye-ball and pupil, but also with our mind's eye/imagination, in dreams and visionary thinking. I argued that a drone cannot dream nor imagine, rather a drone's imaging technology gives it scoping capabilities, not vision capabilities. Are we exposing ourselves to risk by ascribing human capabilities to drones [and other machines, no matter how advanced they are]? 

My way of countering this reduction of vision is to invite people to 'fly' around the drones, or indications of their presence, in my paintings. The cosmic perspective allows for some considerable soaring! Thus, human vision, in all its capacities, is turned back upon the drones........a radical surveillance. 


The poster advertising the talk at Goldsmiths, University of London

  
 View out the window at a workshop for the Centre for the Study of Existential Risk, University of Cambridge. Jesus College courtyard.


The Centre for the Study of Existential Risk conference dinner at Jesus College, Cambridge. 


FORENSIC ARCHITECTURE

There were many high points during the trip. One was visiting Forensic Architecture's exhibition Counter Investigations at the Institute of Contemporary Art [ICA], London. I used some of Forensic Architecture's ideas in my M. Phil thesis, particularly in my visual analysis of, Australian artist, Jon Cattapan's paintings. Their Lexicon was very useful for a variety of reasons. So, I was very keen to see Forensic Archicture's work at the ICA. I spent hours at the exhibition. A few days after seeing the show, Forensic Architecture was nominated for the Turner Prize. 

Forensic Architecture is a research group at Goldsmiths, University of London. They investigate sites of atrocity, war crimes, human rights violations and more. They gather a plethora of evidentiary material, which they then piece together. This evidence is presented in layered visual formats, often further overlaid with audio material. Comparative analyses of sounds, photographs, shapes in imagery, timelines, satellite imagery, trajectories of bullets, and more, are provided by computer generated tools presented as visual graphics that provide another visual layer. The outcome is a reconstruction of a site or an event - relived, but also explained. Forensic Architecture's work is complex and compelling, visually/aesthetically, and as evidence. This evidence is used in legal and human rights arenas. Additionally the group exhibits their work in art exhibitions. The bridging between seemingly different worlds is extraordinary. For me, their Lexicon  provides clues to this success. It demonstrates creative thought and the depth of their research - and - thus, the precision of their evidence. As art, it is meaningful.



 Me at Forensic Architecture's exhibition Counter Investigations at the ICA, London.


I will write more about the trip in my next post: 

  • The ballet Manon at the Royal Opera House, London.
  • Visiting Bletchley, the secret WW 2 code breaking site half an hour out of London. 
  • Visiting the Intrepid Air and Space Museum, New York.
  • The Imperial War Museum, London, and the special exhibition Art in the Age of Terror
  • Revisiting the National Gallery, London
  • Revisiting the marvelous Frick Museum, New York
  • And More!


Cheers,
Kathryn


Saturday, March 31, 2018

RETURNING TO THE COUNTRY - "COSMOLOGICAL LANDSCAPES" - EXHIBITION IN MILES

Australian Landscape Cutout Oil on linen 50 x 70 cm 2015


My exhibition Cosmological Landscapes opened two night ago at Dogwood Crossing, Miles, Western Queensland, Australia. My exhibition hangs in the John Mullins Memorial Art Gallery. It is a great gallery space, kitted out to meet regional gallery standards eg: climate control, lighting, hanging systems, loading bays etc etc. Plus, the professional staff are wonderful to work with. And, the Miles community provides a team of well trained volunteers.

This is my first show for nearly three years. The reason for this is that I became a recluse while I was studying and researching for my Master of Philosophy, University of Queensland. My proposal for Cosmological Landscapes was accepted two and half years ago - and - now it is hanging. 

I relished the opportunity to exhibit paintings completed over the last 3-4 years, including some of my very recent paintings that depict airborne weaponised drones, or indications of their presence. Considering that my interest, and subsequent academic research into militarised technology, was spurred by my creative practice, Cosmological Landscapes provides insight into my journey - from a broad interest in existential risk posed by emerging technologies to a specific focus on contemporary militarised technology. This journey is also a 'flight' through the cosmos, where the vastness of my childhood landscape enticed me to wonder about life and the universe. 

The title Cosmological Landscapes invites the viewer to see 'landscape' as something that traverses universal time and scale - from the quantum to the vast. As this was the first opportunity for me to exhibit some of my dronescape paintings, it was interesting to see how my ideas of 'droned landscape' worked with my earlier paintings. In contextualising the dronescapes as landscapes, the exhibition reveals how landscape is mediated by persistent technological surveillance and the enabling invisible signals that ricochet around the world from node to node - satellites, drones, devices, cars, mobile phones and so on. In my artist's talk I suggested that this insidious mediation affects how we might operate and live in the landscape/environment. In Australian regional and rural centres, for example, satellites are used to monitor/record various aspects of agricultural production and activity - planting, clearing, stock movements, fire break construction and maintenance etc. As this kind of monitoring and surveillance becomes more ubiquitous, human behaviour is likely to change. Extreme examples of places where lives are changed by persistent vertical surveillance are Yemen, Pakistan, Somalia and others. 


 Exhibition image Cosmological Landscapes



 The Australia corner of Cosmological Landscapes


I am so so happy to have an opportunity to exhibit a selection of my Australia paintings. Underground Currency [far left] depicts the continent of Australia, formed by a cascading tree-of-life. The Great Artesian Basin in painted with small blue $ signs. I 'play' with the term currency in multiple ways! This painting was received very well at the opening - country people 'get' the issues surrounding water and the Great Artesian Basin



Image may contain: 2 people, indoor
Me gesticulating during my artist's talk at the opening of Cosmological Landscapes
Photo: Courtesy of Dogwood Crossing



A selection of my dronescapes at Cosmological Landscapes


Cosmological Landscapes


Cosmological Landscapes


                                                               Cosmological Landscapes

                                        Cosmological Landscapes continues until May 21.



On at the same time as Cosmological Landscapes is The View From Here: An Exhibition of Papercuts. Lead artist on this project is Pamela See.


COUNTRY TRIP
A great trip to the country from Brisbane would be - Toowoomba, Dalby, to Jimbour, cut across to Chinchilla, to MILES [to see my show, and The View From Here!], then to Roma, and to Mitchell where the best scrambled eggs can be eaten at the local bakery. Plus, Mitchell has a wonderful spa complex - yes water straight from the great Artesian Basin!


Cheers, Kathryn


Sunday, March 18, 2018

FAKE

Fake Tree Oil on linen 25 x 35 cm 2017


In a world where terms like 'fake news' are bandied about I thought I would enter the foray with a painting called Fake Tree. I had fun with this one!

BINARY CODE
Regular readers will know that I often paint strings of binary code into my paintings. They are often colourful strings, always hand painted, and, thus not perfect. By not expressing perfect zeros and ones the 'code' could be described as fake - but - does the imperfection actually expose the role algorithms play in the creation of virtual, unreal and fake worlds? 

In Fake Tree I have painted the word FAKE and the word TREE in binary code. These 'instructions', which is what code essentially is, straddle each side of the green tree. So is the tree fake or not? My deliberate play with entendre extends to the fact that the binary code creates what appears to be an horizon. But, is it a fake horizon? Here, the horizon can be viewed as a real or virtual landscape element, or perhaps an existential horizon of the future. Fake Tree suddenly becomes a possible visual representation of the future, but does this future include humans? If not, what brought about the demise of the human species?

I have used shades of a night vision green to accentuate the appearance of fakeness, but the visual entendre here is that the green also signifies some kind of surveillance. Is it human surveillance or machine surveillance? 

TREE-OF-LIFE
The tree could be one of my trees-of-life, a virtual representation of a tree [real or symbolic] or a tree-of-life pretending to be a virtual representation. The latter perhaps demonstrating human ingenuity or rather, life's ingenuity? Maybe, however, it demonstrates advanced machine learning - artificial intelligence - finally surpassing human intelligence? 

The radiating lines emanating from the tree pose more interesting possibilities. Are they a tree-of-life's roots, camouflaged as surveillance signals or even targeting signals to avoid detection? Or, are they, in fact, surveillance or targeting signals emanating from a fake tree, thus confirming that it is actually fake. If so the tree represents a node in the interconnected technological infrastructure that permeates our world? Nodes include such things as land-based, sea-based or airborne drones, and space based assets such as communication and GPS satellites. They can also include various other devices such as phones, vehicular GPS systems, computers and other everyday devices in the increasingly IOT world. 

The radiating lines could also be furrows in a ploughed paddock, even furrows where new shoots of a life-sustaining crop are appearing above the soil's surface - maybe?

RED
And, the background red - I have used it to accentuate the green - playing to the strengths of complementary colours. Red, though, conjures ideas of blood, passion, anger, hunger, destruction. It is a great colour because it can symbolise a multiple of meanings, even contradictory ones. Thus, it helps open Fake Tree to a multiple of 'readings' - even contradictory ones! Maybe contradiction opens up a space for critical and deep thought. Here, I suggest contradiction offers a way to pry open what philosopher Jean Baudrillard, in 2003, describes as a "reductive yardstick"*. He wrote that our coded future is one where it will be “possible to measure everything by the same extremely reductive yardstick: the binary, the alternation between 0 and 1”.*

*Jean Baudrillard, Passwords, trans. Chris Turner (London and New York: Verso, 2003), 76.

________________________________________
NEWS

My exhibition
opens on March 29 
continuing until May 21
at
Arts and Community Centre
Miles,
Western Queensland, Australia.

I am excited about this exhibition for a number of reasons. One of these reasons is that Miles is the birth place of my Mother. I remember visiting Miles to see my grand-parents. It has been years since I have ventured out that way. 

Cheers,
Kathryn

Saturday, March 10, 2018

DISSOLVING INTO A FLOOD OF RIPPLES

Dissolving into a Flood of Ripples oil on linen 40 x 56 cm 2018


Dissolving into a Flood of Ripples 

These are my words from my Instagram page - As Australia dissolves it sends ripples across the Earthly and cosmic landscape. The night sky has fallen, the stars dispersed. Trees-of-life stand as memorials to a time past. The new 'currency' is a 'flood' of eroded land and politics.
The painting's aesthetics clearly belies a dark underbelly!
 Dissolving into a Flood of Ripples relates to my earlier work Run Off  [below] which, at first glance, is signalling a flood situation, climate change and extreme weather events. It does, however, also signify eroded politics where diversionary issues hijack political and public attention. The erosion gauges into public confidence, sovereign integrity and global signification. 

In Dissolving into a Flood of Ripples I have continued my multiple entendre of political critique in conjunction with signalling the effects of climate change. Of course, the two cannot really be untangled. The plodding nature of climate change mitigation draws us closer to potential disaster. 

The title Dissolving into a Flood of Ripples plays with the saying 'dissolving into a flood of tears'. Here, in my painting, the tears are so voluminous that they surge across the earthly landscape as ripples. They extend into the cosmos washing away the night sky, scattering the stars, leaving only memorials to a time past. These memorials, symbolised by the trees-of-life, act as beacons on a new horizon - maybe? Where do the ripples stop?  


Run Off Gouache and watercolour on paper 30 x 42 cm 2016


Both Dissolving into a Flood of Ripples and Run Off, are part of my ongoing interest in rethinking what landscape means in the 21st century, an age of new technologies, accelerating population, perpetual war, climate change and agitated politics.



NEWS
I have a solo exhibition 

Cosmological Landscapes 

Dogwood Crossing, Miles, Queensland, Australia
 
29 March - 21 May. 

Details are available HERE 
And, opening night details etc are available HERE

Cheers, Kathryn




Wednesday, February 28, 2018

RESISTANCE

                  
 Details of Drones and Code: Future Now


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


CONFERENCE PREPARATIONS
I have been preparing my presentation for the International Studies Association conference in San Francisco in April. I have been invited to speak about my own paintings on a panel called "War Art: Museums, Militarisation and Militantism". I have decided to speak about how I attempt to resist the creeping and insidious militarisation of imagination which, in turn, hijacks, infiltrates and colonises  both the present and the future.

I will be speaking about my use of cosmic perspectives, and my painterly invitations to fly around drones or indications of their presence. I will also talk about revealing invisible signals that connect nodes, such as satellites with airborne drones, with mobile phones, ground control stations, computers and more. I will discuss how I believe these signals create new layers of topography in the landscape, and how human movement and behaviour are altered to accommodate the persistent surveillance these topographies enable.

PAINTING
I will also speak about the medium of painting and its historical and operative distance from contemporary technology.Painting does not rely upon digital or cyber systems, software or algorithmic instruction for creation, exhibition and storage. This provides an independence from interconnected and potentially appropriated contemporary technological platforms. Rather than thinking of painting with a nostalgic turn, or with accusations of anachronism, I propose that painting by a human being, in humanly accessible dimensions of time and space, offers subversive agency in the digital and cyber age. That a painting can depict and critique contemporary technology, without actually needing it for creation, exhibition and storage, heightens this agency. This becomes more pointed when the visual critique focuses on contemporary militarised technologies, such as airborne drones, their persistent surveillance systems and increasingly autonomous capabilities.

DETAILS
I have uploaded detail shots of my painting Drones and Code: Future Now to give an idea of the painterly quality of the image. The background of the painting was created with random splashes of colourful paint. Over the top of this I painted drones and satellites. I did, however, wipe out the colourful paint to help create the dark continent of Australia. After painting this and the binary code 'instructing' LANDSCAPE around the coastline, I then added more colour to the background with deliberate placements of colourful dots. I wanted the Australian continent, at one instance to be seemingly set against a sea, and at another instance, set against the universe. This is an example of my love of the cosmic perspective - one that does provide the viewer with a freedom to fly - and to perhaps see things differently. I have uploaded a detail shot of my recent painting Drone Spiral 2 as another example of cosmic perspective, but also to focus on the paint.




Drone Spiral 2 oil on linen 120 x 160 cm 2018


Cheers,
Kathryn

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

DRONES AND CODE: FUTURE NOW

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


FUTURE OF WAR
Recently there have been articles* in Australian news outlets reporting on the Chief of the Army, Lieutenant General Angus Campbell's statements about Australia's preparedness for the future of war. This future is one characterised by advanced robotic technologies and the utilisation of artificial intelligence in a range of military and associated activities - eg; surveillance, data monitoring, battlefield support, targeting. 

Lieutenant General Angus Campbell seemed keen to re-enforce that robotic and autonomous systems would assist and support human soldiers. The participation by a human being in decision making loops is one of the hotly debated issues raised by the development of increasingly autonomous lethal weapon systems. The Chief of the Army also expressed concerns about Australia's ability to keep up with foreign adversary capabilities; state, non-state and rogue. These concerns were also about Australia's ability to assist allied forces, as well as Australia's abilities to protect its land and people from less ethical forces.

ARMS RACE?
I read the news articles, and a couple of things came to mind. I understand that defence forces compare their capabilities with those of other forces. In the contemporary case it seems the focus is on potential future capabilities, where emerging technologies, accelerating at a fast pace, offer marked strategic and tactical advantages. When a focus is on the future and comparing capabilities, do we have an arms race?  

DRONES and CODE: FUTURE NOW
My new painting Drones and Code: Future Now is an Australian landscape, seen from a cosmic vantage point. This cosmic vantage point could be both spatial and temporal. Is this landscape a contemporary one, or is it a future landscape? Surely, if military minds and imaginations can  project into the future, so can I? Indeed, one could argue that militarised imaginations pave a path into the future. In doing so they militarise the future too! Are we aware of this though? 

For me, the cosmic vantage point can help us think critically about the future and how rhetoric surrounding the 'future of war' affects humanity now, let alone in the future. The big cosmic picture offers multiple perspectives that can draw in the past, the present and the future, and even a more distant future than the one militarised imaginations have occupied. What does the far distant future call to us? Surely it is imperative to follow militarised imaginations into their future, and then to proceed beyond it, in order to gain a temporal perspectival advantage that might offer a new imaginary? If we can return from the far distant future, carrying our new imaginary, how would that affect life now?

In Drones and Code: Future Now the continent of Australia presents as a black hole, as if the land mass has fallen away from the universe. Is the continent real? Binary code, wrapped twice around the continent's edge, instructs LANDSCAPE: 01001100 01000001 01001110 01000100 01010011 01000011 01000001 01010000 01000101. This may indicate that the Australian continent is a simulation? Has physical landscape been replaced by virtual landscape? Or, is it a subterfuge, a continental camouflage designed to protect land and people? The presence of weaponised drones certainly suggests a contested environment. Three red drones depart Australia - have they achieved their mission or are they Australian drones offering protection? One dark drone moves toward Australia. Again, its intent is ambiguous. Does it represent a malign force or the return of an Australian drone from a battle of robots?

The presence of the satellites indicate the inter-connectivity of technological infrastructure and therefore, the insidious creep of militarising capabilities. They also demonstrate that the viewer [you] is hovering above them. Your vantage point is revelatory. The fact that two satellites and one drone are darkly painted, like the Australian continent, perhaps suggests further stealth, simulation, but also possible signs of annihilation. 

Drones and Code: Future Now is an ambiguous Australian landscape. If it is a future landscape it is necessarily ambiguous because speculation calls for ambiguity, but also provocation. It just depends on whether the painting presents a near future or a distant future - tomorrow, next year, a century away or a billion years? But, given the current rhetoric about 'future of war', debates about lethal autonomous weapons and the role of artificial intelligence, and research into existential risk posed by emerging technologies, maybe Drones and Code: Future Now is actually a contemporary landscape?


* Sydney Morning Herald
   The West Australian 


OF INTEREST
Center for the Study of the Drone, Bard College, New York interview with me Portfolio: Dronescapes by Kathryn Brimblecombe-Fox

Recent visual essay "New Landscapes in the Drone Age" in Dialogue: Taking Politics Outside the Box [School of Political Science and International Studies, University of Queensland]. In this essay I have a paragraph that discusses where my interest in technology comes from - hint: My Dad was a very keen HAM amateur radio operator. 

Cheers,
Kathryn