Tuesday, September 18, 2018

NOT WAITING FOR THE FUTURE

Not Waiting for the Future Gouache on paper 56 x 76 cm 2018


SPEED AND ACCELERATION
With accelerating developments in technology, including militarised or militarise-able technology, the future seems to be hurtling towards us. This is happening at the same time as technology's operative speeds are also accelerating. Here, for example, think about near-lightspeed transmission or processing of data via networked, always on, systems. How do human beings, living in human dimensions of space and time, keep up with accelerating developments and processes that 'play' in dimensions of space and time that are beyond our sentient or experiential reach? 

One domain that is attempting to keep up is the military. Is this a good thing or a bad thing? Surely, in attempting to keep up, the military is absorbed into the processes of speed and acceleration. Arguably, this is an ingredient for an arms race - the word 'race' indicating speed! But, if a nation's defence forces do not address the acceleration in technological development, and speeds of technological operation, their duty of care to defend their citizens and allies could be compromised. 

LETHAL AUTONOMOUS WEAPON SYSTEMS
Discussions and debates about the use and development of lethal autonomous weapon systems [LAWS] have been taking place each year at the United Nations Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons [UNCCW] since 2013. LAWS are weapon systems utilising machine learning and artificial intelligence, thus enabling various levels of decision making to be made by the system. UNCCW Meetings have occurred in April and August this year - 2018. Debates about what meaningful human control means, preemptive bans on LAWS development, LAWS and International Human Rights Law and more, have been discussed. 

But, the worry is that these debates and discussions, occurring in human dimensions of space and time, cannot keep up with the actual speed of LAWS development. The Future of Life Institute in its report on the April 2018 UNCCW meeting commented,The UN CCW is slated to resume discussions in August 2018, however, given the speed with which autonomous weaponry is advancing, many advocates worry that they are moving too slowly.

The Australian Chief of the Army, Lieutenant Rick Burr, recently released a "Futures Statement" titled Accelerated Warfare. This statement briefly outlines the Army's response to issues posed by the future of war; a future where technology offers new ways of warfighting, new types of warfighters, as well as new dimensions/terrains in which warfighting will occur. The complexity of war, dispersed across multiple domains and capabilities, now and into the future, enhances the challenges faced by the military. It also presents potential heightened risk in an age where research into existential risk posed by emerging technologies warns us of potential civilisation collapse or human species demise. * 

NOT WAITING FOR THE FUTURE
The Chief of the Army made a statement in Accelerated Warfare that sparked my imagination. He wrote, We must pull the future towards us rather than wait for it; My painting Not Waiting for the Future was inspired/provoked by Lt Gen Burr's statement. I have previously written that rhetoric surrounding the 'future of war' militarises the future. Certainly the future is a dimension already inhabited by anxiety, if not strategy. 
In Not Waiting for the Future I have flipped the continent of Australia to indicate a kind of flipping of time. A satellite and an airborne drone occupy the sky/space, along with an array of signals. A cross-hair target is positioned over central Australia. Red and white dots appear to perforate the continent, perhaps indicating invasive signals, or the presence of other targeting devices. Or are they indicators of Australian defence systems aimed in all directions? 
This painting is another of my droned landscapes or militarised landscapes. It is also a cosmic landscape that propels the viewer to perspectives beyond the immediate. With cosmic perspectives the occupation of land, sky and space, by signals that enable the operation of militarised or militarise-able technology becomes apparent. Is this a future-scape? if so, is this a future we really want? 
But, what if this future has already arrived?

________________________________________________


* If you are interested in research into existential risk posed by emerging technologies, please start here, at the Centre for the Study of Existential Risk, The University of Cambridge. 

Cheers,
Kathryn

Sunday, September 09, 2018

OPERATIONAL LANDSCAPE

Operational Landscape Oil on linen 41 x 56 cm 2018


SIGNALSCAPE
Operational Landscape is a continuation of my interest in exposing what I call the 'signalscape' of the 21st century. This invisible 'signalscape' enables the operation of networked and interconnected digital and cyber systems - including systems that are militarised or militarise-able. I have spent many hours painting landscapes that are netted by signals, with skies occupied by weaponised drones and satellites hovering in space. I have come to realise that signals, ricocheting from node to node, from land to sky and into space, create a persistent readiness for offensive and defensive activities - an ever-present readiness for war. 

It was with great interest that I read the Australian Chief of the Army, Lieutenant General Richard Burr's recent Accelerated Warfare statement. In this statement he maps out a future trajectory for war and how Australia might respond to accelerating developments in warfare. The statement places emphasis on technology. This quote below is particularly pertinent re: my painting Operational Landscape:


"Threat. Our operating landscape is changing – adversaries, including violent extremist organisations and state-based threats can now control and influence all operating domains. The advent of rapidly evolving, easily accessed technology increasingly offers asymmetric capabilities to both established powers as well as non-state actors and even individuals. The ability to sense and strike from long range as well as swarming low-cost technologies are increasing the vulnerability of major military systems. Future strike capabilities will not just be physical but also digital, executed often at the speed of a mouse-click."


OPERATIONAL LANDSCAPE
In Operational Landscape, an ambiguous  but colourful landscape oscillates between appearing to be land-based and sky/cosmic-based. Are you looking down upon a landscape or up towards a tumultuous sky or are you looking into a landscape of  mountains, river, grassy knolls and sky? This play with perspective, is a visual ploy I use regularly in my work. I like to think it generates surprise, imaginational involvement and ultimately a critical stance. Lines seeming converge somewhere. That they are operational is evidenced by the cross-hairs set against the dark terrain. Whether you are above or below the signals, the occupation of volumetric landscape - from land, to sky, to space - is inescapable. There is a sense that geography offers no hiding place in the era of the algorithm, the epoch of netted signals, and the age of the unmanned drone - the 21st century. 


Please also check out:


NEWS

My painting New Horizons is a finalist in the $30,000 Tattersalls Landscape Art Prize. The exhibition of paintings will be on public view from Sept 10 until Sept 21, at Riverside Centre, 123 Eagle St , Brisbane, Queensland, Australia: weekdays 7am - 6pm.

All the finalist paintings can be previewed HERE

Congratulations to the winner of the prize as Kate Shaw, with her painting The Grandparents -1928, The Gorge.


New Horizons Oil on linen 97 x 112 cm 2018


Cheers,
Kathryn

Friday, August 31, 2018

LETHAL LANDSCAPE

Lethal Landscape Gouache on paper 56 x 76 cm 2018


LETHAL?
The landscape in Lethal Landscape does not look too lethal - does it? It does not even really look like a landscape. In fact, what parts of the painting are landscape? Is the landscape the background? If so, is this background a skyscape or a landscape? Is the viewer above or below the radiating lines, looking up or down? 

What are those lines? They are signals...

21ST CENTURY SIGNALSCAPE
The lethal landscape is not the background. Rather, lethality lies in the new imposed twenty-first century 'landscape' of signals that operatively enable militarised and militarise-able technology. As invisible signals ricochet around the world from node to node, into the sky and also space, landscape as we know it, is increasingly under occupation. This silent and invisible occupation enables a persistent readiness for offensive and defensive activities, not only by military forces, but potentially, also by aberrant state and non-state individuals or groups. 

Connectivity and networking enable the new imposed landscape of the twenty-first century to be persistently operational. Sensing/sensoring and strike capabilities across cyber space and geographical environments are enhanced by near light speed connectivity and signalling. Remote operation, long range capabilities, increasing autonomy and distributed systems contribute to lethal capability. As the Chief of the Australian Army. Lieutenant General Rick Burr, in his "Futures Statement",  Accelerated Warfare   (8 August, 2018) observes, "Future conflict is likely to be across domains where networks and integration are the key to generating military power." (1)

THE WORD ACCELERATED
Here, I want to ponder the Chief of the Army's choice of the word accelerated. I painted Lethal Landscape before I read Accelerated Warfare. But, as regular readers will know, I have previously mentioned cultural theorist Paul Virilio's ideas about accelerating developments in contemporary technology, and the accelerating speeds at which technology can operate. Speed closes distance, collapsing the space between private and public, civilian and military domains.(2) Here, we can think about cyberspace as an example of a domain where the lines between private and public, civilian and military are collapsed. The dual-use nature of technological infrastructure, including enabling signals, collapses the borders between discrete spaces. Who or what has control? As Virilio provocatively remarks in his book The Great Accelerator “acceleration of reality is now part and parcel of the loss of all self-control”.(3) And, his warning that “no technology has ever been developed that has not had to struggle against its own specific negativity” needs to be taken seriously. (4)

LETHAL LANDSCAPE
When I was painting Lethal Landscape the idea of acceleration was in my mind. Hence the sense of propulsion, whether you are positioned above a landscape of land and sea, or below a tumultuous sky. The broad array of signals seem to converge, but a persistent sense of movement means there is no destination. The viewer is drawn into the net of signals, trying to keep up, trying to focus, trying to gain clear perspective; but speed forecloses all horizons...there is no distance. 

The Chief of the Army writes "We must pull the future towards us rather than wait for it".(5) Perhaps, we are already too late? 

Cheers,
Kathryn



(1) Chief of the Australian Army in his "Futures Statement",  Accelerated Warfare   (8 August, 2018)
(2) Paul Virilio, “Cold Panic,” trans. Chris Turner, Cultural Politics 1, no. 1 (2005): 28-29.
(3) Paul Virilio, The Great Accelerator, trans. Julie Rose (Cambridge and Malden: Polity Press, 2012), 44.
(4) Paul Virilio, “Red Alert in Cyberspace,” trans. Malcolm Imrie, Radical Philosophy (Nov/Dec 1995): 2.
(5) Chief of the Australian Army in his "Futures Statement",  Accelerated Warfare   (8 August, 2018)

Sunday, August 26, 2018

DANGEROUS DIVERSIONS AND DISTRACTIONS

Trees of Life Vs The Drones Gouache on paper 30 x 42 cm 2016

POLITICAL SHENANIGANS
This week's political turmoil in Canberra has left many Australians scratching their heads. I will not go into the politics - that would be a never ending Alice in Wonderland rabbit hole type trip! You can Google for more information! However, for foreign readers, briefly, a sitting Prime Minister, Malcolm Turnbull, has been ousted due to recalcitrant forces from within his own party, the Liberal Party. This is not the first time in recent history that this has happened, for either a sitting Liberal Prime Minister or a Labour Prime Minister. 

But, apart from the politics, what about the distraction these kinds of events cause - distraction from more important issues, the issues politicians should be paying attention to? And, there are many.

Here's one that concerns me.

ARMS RACE
Since becoming interested in the burgeoning research area of existential risk posed by emerging technologies, I have become increasingly concerned by political inattention to growing and potential threats posed by advances in technology, either designed for military purposes, or appropriated by defence forces, or aberrant state and non-state individuals or groups. Examples of new and emerging technologies with the potential - due to mal-intent, accident or unintended consequences - to cause major mayhem, civilisation collapse or human species demise are biotechnology, nanotechnology and artificial intelligence. Combining or linking them could be a extremely worrying.*

Adding to the alarm is the apparent escalation in arms research and development utilising new and emerging technologies, including machine learning and artificial intelligence. There are many voices around the world who are concerned. Significantly, many of them are scientists. For example there are a number of AI researchers and developers, including,  Prof Toby WalshProf Stuart Russell and Prof Noel Sharkey, who are concerned about increasingly autonomous weapons ie: weaponry utilising machine learning and artificial intelligence. The Future of Life Institute, based out of MIT, has facilitated open letters clearly expressing that AI research and development must be for the benefit of humanity. These letters have been signed by thousands of scientists, philosophers, International Studies scholars and others. One letter is specifically targeted to address concerns about lethal autonomous weapons. I quote from this letter written in 2015 - three years ago, "If any major military power pushes ahead with AI weapon development, a global arms race is virtually inevitable, and the endpoint of this technological trajectory is obvious: autonomous weapons will become the Kalashnikovs of tomorrow."

The idea of a twenty-first century arms race is very worrying. So, today I was pleased to see that an interview by David Aaronovitch with historian Yuval Noah Harari was published in this weekend's Weekend Australian Magazine*. I have read Harari's work, but not Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind and 21 lessons for the 21st Century. These are on my list! In the interview Harari makes it clear that national political intrigues divert attention away from globally significant issues, such as potential outcomes of emerging technologies. Three years after the Future of Life open letter, here's a sobering quote from Harari, 

    "But in 2018, we are already in a very serious arms race. The Chinese realised it, I think, three 
     or four years ago; the Europeans are realising it now. But the world is in an arms race, and this 
     is terrible news because you cannot regulate this explosive technology if you are in an arms race."

It is ironic that Harari's interview appeared in the Weekend Australian Magazine, the weekend after a week of befuddling political shenanigans that clearly diverted attention away from proper government. It is likely that this coming week will be overshadowed by post-mortem examinations of the last week, intrigues about a new ministry, and what might happen to the so-called 'insurgents' within the Liberal Party. More diversions! Meanwhile, Australia, like the rest of the world, faces repercussions from extremely important issues relating to globally significant and accelerating developments in militarised and militarise-able technology. I have previously written about Australia and a global arms race. Please read my post DRONES AND CODE: FUTURE NOW The title of the post is also the title of a painting.

BACKGROUND
I have a long term interest in existential risk posed by emerging technologies research. This interest was focused on 2015 in research I undertook for a research Masters degree, an M. Phil, at the University of Queensland. Part of my research included examinations of contemporary militarised technology, including, unmanned drone technology, night vision technology, pervasive surveillance capabilities and autonomy in systems. While I was researching I became aware of how fast developments in militarised technology were accelerating. I also became aware that, as the months ticked by, more and more countries were either developing new technology or purchasing it.  And, I also became more aware of the increasing militarise-ability of civilian technology. An arms race, twenty-first century style, is not a fantasy!  

Trees of Life Vs The Drones (above)
This painting depicts a swarm of drones threatening two trees, trees-of-life. The drones represent 21st century militarised technology - unmanned, weaponised, and potentially equipped with some autonomous systems. The drones seem to 'march on' relentlessly! But, let's not give up, the trees-of-life declare! 

Our Bright Future (below)
The contours of the continent of Australia are formed by binary code repeating/instructing AUSTRALIA.  This painting was inspired by watching Kevin Slavin's fabulous TED talk How Algorithms Shape Our WorldAt one point he says "It's a bright future if you're an algorithm."

Really?

  
Our Bright Future Gouache on paper 30 x 42 cm 2016


* Check out the Centre for the Study of Existential Risk, The University of Cambridge. 
* Weekend Australian Magazine: if you have an account you can access the interview online.

Cheers,
Kathryn

Friday, August 17, 2018

NEW TERRAIN

The New Terrain Gouache o paper 56 x 76 cm 2018


As I have previously mentioned, I am interested in making visible the invisible signals that enable contemporary technological inter-connectivity. I 'see' signals wrapping the planet, extending into the sky and into space. Signals enable the operation of designated militarised technology, dual-use civilian/military technology and the appropriative capabilities of state and non-state entities, aberrant groups or individuals. Regarding the latter, think of election interference, cybercrime and so on.

SIGNALSCAPE
In my view signals that ricochet around the world, from land-based, sky based and space based nodes, create a new type of landscape - a signalscape. This signalscape is an invisible colonising force that forms a dense net that volumetrically occupies the biosphere and extends to space-based assets in low Earth orbit and geostationary orbit. 

This net is not a neutral force, as it represents a persistent readiness for action which includes a  constant readiness for offensive and defensive activities. In other words we live in a world that is constantly ready for war, twenty-first century style. Seen this way the invisible signalscape holds us hostage. I wrote about this in a recent post called HOSTAGE.

THE NEW TERRAIN
In The New Terrain I have made visible a section of the new signalscape. It appears to be glimpsed between clouds. However, the clouds may be a ruse. Taking the nomenclature of The Cloud maybe the netting is too small for us to see, hence the cloudy appearance? Maybe the area I have exposed is closer to the viewer, just one layer if the volumetric occupation? 

As with many of my paintings, the viewer could be above the new occupying signalscape. Maybe you are beyond the busy orbits of enabling satellites? However, you could be on land looking up and through the signalscape, its layered nets wrapping around you, even stroking you as you move in your environment - unaware of your hostage situation.

I have deliberately used the word 'terrain' in the title for two main reasons. The first is that it is linked to ideas of landscape and landscape features, and secondly it has military potential.

Cheers,
Kathryn






Friday, August 10, 2018

MILESTONES

Do You Know, Have You Met? Mixed media on paper 37 x 27 cm 1991


MILESTONES
My daughter is getting married next year. With the flurry of excitement about planning for a wedding I have reflected upon life's milestones. When I was pregnant with this daughter, my first child, I painted a series of works about her immanent birth - certainly a milestone! My maternal grand-mother, born in the nineteenth century, passed away - another milestone, a sad one -  shortly before my daughter was born, making many of these images a kind of homage to ancestry and the cycle of life.

You will notice that the pregnant figure in a few of the selected paintings seems to have multiple shadows, or iterations of herself. Maybe these are ancestral figures, maybe they are multiple aspects of the expectant mother, maybe a plethora of interpretations.... 

My last blog post Twelve Years Blogging - Twelve Paintings was an online exhibition of twelve paintings, one from each year since 2006, when I first started blogging. 

BUT, there was life and painting long before Blogspot! 

The selected paintings in this new post are from 1991, the year we bought our first mobile phone, I got a home computer, and had a baby - in the twentieth century!



Homage Mixed media on paper 37 x 27 cm 1991


COSMOLOGY
Regular readers will notice the cosmic appearance of these 1991 paintings. As you know, I still fly into the cosmos - and invite you to fly with me - in my work today! 

The babies, pregnant bellies and figures float against indefinite spaces, cosmological in possibility. In these spaces, circles and dots could be read as planets or atoms, star dust or thoughts. The tree-of-life also appears in these paintings. Here, though, the tree-of-life is linked to a familial tree, a more intimate one than the universal ones I depict in my later and more recent paintings. However, while intimate in intent in these 1991 paintings, the tree-of-life positioned in cosmic-like landscapes is never without universal potential.



Children Mixed media on paper 1991

1991
If you think about these 1991 paintings and my recent dronescape paintings, you can possibly see where my concerns about the future of humanity, in the age of the drone and the algorithm, spring from. I will leave you to think about that...but...the first Gulf War erupted in August 1990 and officially ended in February 1991, a few months before my first child was born. This war, however, never really ended, it just morphed into ongoing conflict, with battlefields existing in real and virtual spaces. These distributed battlespaces blur the lines between military, counter-insurgency, counter-terrorism and security activities. War is now a hybrid of conventional and unconventional warfare, the latter appropriating civilian technological systems and platforms to perpetrate new modes of war, such as cyberwar. Airborne drones were used in the first Gulf War, for surveillance - they were weaponised in the second Gulf War, and continue to be used in declared and non-declared war/battle situations.  

So, in the years since the birth of my first child, the world has changed.



A Pure Life, Haunted Mixed Media on paper 1991



THEMES
It is interesting to me, and I hope for the reader, to identify elements that continue to appear in my work over many years. Even though subject matter has changed, underlying themes have not. Some of these themes, such as cosmology, initially appeared before I had the words or terms to ascribe to them. 

As I have written this post, I am also struck by the links between my recent work dealing with the apparatus of war and conflict in the twenty-first century, and a personal life milestone that occurred in 1991, the year War did not really end. 

But, back to these 1991 paintings. They are joyous images. I am glad I still have some, especially as we are about to celebrate another joyous milestone.

Cheers,
Kathryn

Where Are You? Mixed media on paper 1991

Thursday, August 02, 2018

TWELVE YEARS BLOGGING - TWELVE PAINTINGS

Cosmic Dreaming - Simulation Oil on linen 31 x 56 cm 2018



August 2018 marks twelve years since I started my BLOG. I have posted consistently, about once a week for twelve years. For regular readers I send you many thanks for taking an interest in my work.

To celebrate twelve years, I am uploading one painting for each year from 2006. I am not going to write more than these few sentences. I will let the paintings do the 'talking'. 

Cheers, Kathryn



Launching the New Horizon oil on canvas 60 x 92 cm 2017


Life and the Drone Gouache on paper 56 x 76 cm 2016


Privileged Landscape oil on linen 80 x 140 cm 2015


New World Habitability - Vacation Anyone? Oil on linen 70 x 120 cm 2014


Multiple Landscapes Oil on linen 80 x 140 cm 2013


Cosmic Ouroboros Oil on  linen 120 x 150 cm 2012


Meeting Place of the Mind Oil on linen 100 x 70 cm 2011


Phantom Water Gouache on paper 30 x 42 cm 2010


Halo Oil on linen 81 x 182 cm 2009


Lifeblood Oil on linen 90 x 180 cm 2008


Braid oil on  board 89 x 59 cm 2007
Self portrait


Totally Out There Oil on linen 180 x 120 cm 2006





Monday, July 23, 2018

HOSTAGE

 Code Empire Gouache on paper 56 x 76 cm 2017


I have not been painting for the last few weeks as I have been writing essays, proposals and articles. And, I still have one more proposal to write. However, as I think and write, ideas emerge or become clearer.

One of these is the idea that we are held hostage by invisible nets of signals that enable technological inter-connectivity. For example, signals sent via radio waves and microwaves enable connectivity between ground-based nodes, air-based and space-based assets. As I have previously written, I see these signals as a new kind of occupation of landscape, a new kind of colonisation that extends from land into space.* Coupled with undersea and subterranean cabling, a matrix of signalling infrastructure extending from below the Earth's surface into space is either obscured or invisible.

Increasing dual-use capabilities of contemporary technology mean signals are militarised or are potentially militarisable, by state and non-state actors. That signals also enable a constant ever-readiness for offensive and defensive actions places the world in a constant state of preparedness for war. One could argue that this is actually an insidious siege by stealth - a hostage situation.

And,

We are the hostages.

* Selected list of previous posts.
Occupied Landscape: Everywhere
Persistent Readiness
Exposing the Invisible

I will be thinking more about the idea of hostage.

The paintings in this post have been completed since 2016. But, I see now, that my ideas about new invisible netted landscapes and the foreclosure of perspective, disclose an environment ready for taking and holding hostages.


Forever Watched Gouache on paper 56 x 76 cm 2017


The title Forever Watched clearly indicates a hostage-like scenario. I have painted lines that emanate from an obscured source. These lines encircle a group of people. While the spotlit appearance mimics beams of light, maybe from the sun, or maybe from a stage spotlight, the cage-like encirclement of the people indicates something more sinister. Is an obscured airborne drone surveilling or targeting the people?  

\
 The New Clouds Gouache on paper 56 x 76 cm 2017

In The New Clouds I have painted swarms of drones, 'camouflaged' as clouds. One drone has been 'taken out', but swarm technology allows for groups to re-calibrate and continue their missions. Swarming technology is less reliant on signal connectivity with communication and GPS satellites, thus making jamming and hacking more difficult. However, inter-connectivity is still a characteristic, including within the swarm. Thus, the concept of netting is transferable from one place to another. 

In The New Clouds, the viewer could be below the drones looking up, or above the drones looking down. Either way a hostage situation is apparent - the viewer could be a  hostage, or an observer of a hostage situation. 

Or, as the painting provides oscillating perspectives, the viewer could be both hostage and observer. What will you do?


 Ubiquitous Surveillance: An Invisible Landscape Oil on linen 60 x 110 cm 2017


In Ubiquitous Surveillance: An Invisible Landscape the viewer can again be under the clouds or above them, or in both places as once. The red and green signals clearly net the landscape. Has the sky fallen, like a cage, foreclosing perspective, literal and metaphoric?

This same question could be asked about Wide Area Surveillance [Below]. New layers of landscape, formed by signals emanating from a drone, cast a net that extends beyond the edges of the painting into the wider environment. By making visible, the invisible signals that enable digital and cyber connectivity, I attempt to reveal a creeping foreclosure of perspective - a 21st century hostage situation. 


Wide Area Surveillance Gouache on paper 14 x 24 cm 2016


Cheers,
Kathryn