Saturday, June 16, 2018

EXISTENTIAL RISK - RESEARCH - ART

Outside Jesus College, Cambridge, April 2018

As regular readers of this blog know, I was invited to attend the Centre for the Study of Existential Risk, (CSER) University of Cambridge, annual conference. The conference took place at Jesus College, 17 - 18 April, 2018. Around eighty people were invited to attend.

CSER is "dedicated to the study and mitigation of risks that could lead to human extinction or civilisation collapse." Even though a risk may have a low probability of occurring, if its outcome is cataclysmically irredeemable, then it is worth examining.

The conference, whilst focused on what some might call a morbid topic, was reassuring. Why? Because, the level of discussion, in presentations and workshops, about humanity's future was deep, analytical, open, inquisitive and creative. Importantly, CSER's aim to take an inter/multi-disciplinary approach to the "study and mitigation of risks that could lead to human extinction or civilisation collapse" was clearly evident. This approach demonstrates CSER's understanding that different disciplines can pose novel questions about issues relating to existential risks. This then assists identification of potential risks, plus possible ways to mitigate them. This is significant stuff!

MULTI-DISCIPLINARY SPEAKERS
Speakers included people involved in Mathematics, various kinds of Engineering, Artificial Intelligence, Geography, Public Policy, Disaster Studies, Philosophy, Communication, Law and International Law, Politics, Biology, Innovation Studies, International Relations, Economics and Demographics. Some examples of topics include Dr. Seth Baum's presentation based on a paper A Model for the Probability of Nuclear War co-authored by him, Dr. Tamsin Edwards presentation on Antarctic ice sheets, sea levels and climate change, Dr. Karin Kuhlemann's terrific presentation on sexy (eg: climate change) and non-sexy (egs: overpopulation, disappearance of insects) catastrophic risks, and Prof Andrew Maynard's talk focusing on creativity and imagination, the film Ex Machina and more. 

Those in attendance, including me, contributed another layer to the multi-disciplinary dynamic of the conference. We came from all over the world. Additionally, the researchers working in CSER were available for workshop facilitation, debate, conversation and feedback. Please check out the CSER TEAM. You will see that they also represent multiple disciplines. And, yes, the three Co-Founders of the Centre, Lord Martin Rees, Prof Huw Price and Yaan Tallinn attended the conference.

Delighted to say I briefly met Lord Martin Rees, whose book Our Final Century, which I read in 2010, launched my interest in existential risk posed by emerging technologies. He told me he has a new book coming out soon - something to look forward to! Also, delighted to say that I met Yaan Tallinn, who was a Co-Founder of Skype. He assists research into risks associated with emerging technologies; also into how research (eg: into safe artificial intelligence) can ensure beneficial outcomes for humanity. A very interesting man.

CONFERENCE THEME
The conference theme was "Challenges of Existential Risk Research". This involved four sub-themes:
1. Challenges of Evaluation and Impact
2. Challenges of Evidence
3. Challenges of Scope and Focus
4. Challenges of Communication

Each afternoon, after a morning listening to invited speakers, conference attendees could choose one of two workshops. This allowed everyone to participate and have a say, contributing to the the four conference sub-themes. In the communication workshop I attended, I noted that although I am well informed about existential risk research, I am not an expert. But, I do know where to find experts! However, as a well informed visual artist who addresses ideas of existential risk in my work, I try to provoke questions that might make people more curious. Thus, my work is more catalytic than informational, hopefully triggering people to undertake their own research. I suggest that this is a valuable way to help communicate ideas relating to existential risk. While I did not say it at the conference, I have found that in the process of thinking about and creating a painting, new ideas about risk emerge. To be blunt, it offers another investigative methodology.

MARGARET BODEN LECTURE
After the communication workshop I was approached by Prof Margaret Boden. She is one of CSER's scientific advisers, a highly regarded Professor of Cognitive Science from the University of Sussex. She has degrees in medical sciences, philosophy, and psychology, and integrates these disciplines with AI in her research. We had a great conversation that ranged across a variety of subjects. If you want to see her in action, she has just made the speech for the inaugural Margaret Boden lecture series, hosted by the Leverhulme Centre for the Future of Human Intelligence, University of Cambridge. You can watch you  on this YouTube link - I recommend that you do!

As you can tell I thoroughly enjoyed the CSER conference. And, I am not resting! My aim is to get people talking about existential risks. 

*Videos of some of the conference presentation will be uploaded onto CSER's website soon.


Out a window at Jesus College, Cambridge.


MY RESEARCH
I first wrote about my interest in existential risk posed by emerging technologies in 2010, when I was reading Lord Martin Rees's book Our Final CenturyI have often written about my interest since then.

In fact, ideas of existential risk posed by emerging technologies interested me so much that when I was offered an opportunity to undertake post-graduate research at the University of Queensland, these ideas informed how I positioned my research topic. I chose to undertake a Master of Philosophy, and ultimately narrowed my topic to how two Australian artists, George Gittoes and Jon Cattapan, represent contemporary militarised technology in their paintings. My research involved art historical examinations of the two artists' practices, as well as investigations into the historical, social, political and ethical issues surrounding the development and use of contemporary militarised technology, particularly airborne drones and night vision technology. This research was scaffolded by technical research into airborne drone capabilities, persistent surveillance technologies and increasingly autonomous systems.


Anomaly Detection (Number 2) oil on linen 120 a 180 cm 2017

I deliberately chose a topic that would afford me the opportunity to undertake research that would feed back into my painting practice. And, indeed the research into militarised technology has fed back into my longer term concerns about how to portray existential risk posed by emerging technologies. Prior to my academic research I had already included painted binary code, often juxtaposing it with the tree-of-life, to indicate potential threats to life from accelerating developments in technology. Since starting my research the tree-of-life, binary code and the figure of the airborne drone [or indications of its presence] are variously positioned together in cosmic landscapes where the viewer can 'fly'. I completed my M. Phil degree in July 2017, and I am now thinking about a PhD. Rest assured ideas of existential risk posed by emerging technologies will inform any research topic I pursue.


Follow Me, Says The Tree oil on canvas 60 x 76 2017







Sunday, June 10, 2018

NEW STARS - FALSE STARS: ONLINE EXHIBITION

 New Star - False Star Oil on linen 97 x 112 cm 2018


This online 'exhibition' gathers together paintings that evoke the image of the star, suggesting that contemporary surveillance technology and its invisible signals create false stars. Yes, we may not see them, but that makes their influence far more insidious. 

Many of the paintings situate a weaponised airborne drone at the centre of a 'star'. However, this is not the case in all of them, thus the paintings draw upon signals transmitted and received by other nodes, such as satellites - and even - mobile phones. 

* Please click on the paintings' titles to link to my previous posts about them.*


NEW LANDSCAPES
I have previously written about my interest in making visible the invisible networking of signals that operatively enable digital and cyber surveillance, targeting and attack. I suggest that these signals create new kinds of topographies that occupy landscape. As you will see from this 'exhibition' I interpret landscape as a domain that now extends from Earth into space, where space assets such as communication and GPS satellites, are positioned. That many of these assets are dual-use complicates the role played by contemporary technology in the potential militarisation or 'militarisability' of everyday life. 

When landscape is extended into space the figure of the star becomes a landscape element. Traditionally stars in night skies a brought into a relationship with earthly landscapes. A point of departure here is astronomical art, perhaps paving a way for more open ended notions of landscape. 

I am also interested in how new stars/false stars impact on our relationship with stars as celestial guides, real and symbolic. For example: guiding stars in biblical stories, reference points for early seafearing navigators, and journeying points for souls of the deceased. Do new stars/false stars hijack the role of guidance, navigation, and soul life in ways that steer us towards a militarised future? Do they erode symbolic meaning? There are a plethora of other possible questions here...

NEW STAR - FALSE STAR
New Star - False Star [above] is a new painting. A weaponised drone is situated at the centre of a landscape. But, are you looking down upon the drone and an earthly landscape beneath it, or are looking up into a netted skyscape? This play with perspective is a deliberate tactic on my part. I invite you to fly around the drone, turning human surveillance back upon it. This is demonstrated in all the paintings in this 'exhibition'.


                                New Star - False Star Oil on linen 97 x 112 cm 2018 DETAIL


In New Star - False Star the drone is painted with small squares [detail shot above], mimicking pixels, to indicate its link to digital and cyber technology and virtual representation. One could describe the painting as beautiful and this is important. Why? Because by creating an aesthetic appeal I try to draw attention to the stealthy and covert aspects of  contemporary militarised technology. I ask, have we noticed? I ask, what kind of subterfuge are we missing? I ask, what do we lose if invisible networks allow an ever-readiness for war? What kind of reality do we desire?


 Sensored Oil on linen 50 x 50 cm 2017


The 'stars' in this exhibition [except in False Stars] seem to extend their rays/signals beyond the edges of the paintings. This is again a deliberate ploy on my part. I try to indicate that the netting of landscape, and therefore, experience, by signals continues beyond the borders of the image. Once this is imagined, do you become more alert?  

The paintings in this 'exhibition' can be called cosmic landscapes, dronescapes, starscapes, signalscape....


 Drone Star Gouache on paper 30 x 42 cm 2016


                                        Sky - Drone - Net Gouache on paper 30 x 42 cm 2016



 False Stars Gouache on paper 56 x 76 cm 2017


Swarm Surveillance Gouache on paper 30 x 42 cm 2017 

The possibility of a swarm of drones presenting a kind of false galaxy or universe of stars is troubling!


 DATA DATA gouache on paper 30 x 42 cm 2016


 Strategic Landscape Gouache on paper 30 x 42 cm 2016


 Code Empire Gouache on paper 56 x 76 cm 2017


 Space Net Gouache on paper 56 x 76 cm 2017

Sunday, June 03, 2018

NEW HORIZONS

New Horizons Oil on linen 97 x 112 cm 2018

NEW HORIZONS
New Horizons continues my proposal that militarised and militarisable contemporary technologies, and their signaling systems and infrastructure, create new invisible topographies that crisscross and penetrate landscape. This landscape incorporates land, sky and space. The latter, in hosting various kinds of satellites used to transmit and receive communications, imaging and global positioning capabilities, is drawn into this extended landscape of signals. 

In New Horizons the weaponised drone, with its long expansive wings, creates a kind of horizon line. This line can be taken as a literal delineation. It can also be taken metaphorically. For example, with the development and use of weaponised drones, what kind of 'line' is crossed? Like any horizon, there is always something beyond it. What if this metaphoric horizon is time, the future? This poses further questions - Have we already militarised this future? Is there anything beyond the metaphoric horizon - is there a future?

In New Horizons I have also painted lines that seem to hover over the landscape, dissecting it into zones and co-ordinates. These lines mimic computer generated graphics, perhaps like those a remote drone pilot might see on their computer screens, to help surveillance and targeting operations. Is the ubiquitous computer screen, mobile phone and tablet screen, a new kind of horizon? 

In my painting the lines painted over the landscape offer a perspectival entrance into a netted topography that imposes itself upon the landscape. The layering and netting of land-based and atmospheric landscape with signals and nodes, such as drones, satellites, relay stations, mobile phones, suggests a kind of hostage situation. But, are we aware of this? In some parts of the world it is clearly apparent; in places like Yemen, Northern Pakistan, Syria, Afghanistan and Gaza, where persistent surveillance and the potential for airborne rapid response attack are constant.  

The underlying landscape in New Horizons is colourful and vibrant. Its liveliness contrasts with the spare linearity of the signals and the drone. Looking closely at the colourful landscape, multiple possible horizons exist. 

PERSISTENT WAR?
The interconnected nature of signals, ricocheting from node to node, could be read as some kind of constant readiness for war. Or, perhaps that we are already and persistently in a state of war. Here the ideas of perpetual war, and the 'everywhere war' [Derek Gregory] help us understand the stealthy role played by interconnected digital and cyber systems,and their appropriation for multiple-use civilian/military/security/policing activities. 

EXTENDED LANDSCAPE - LAND, SKY, SPACE
As an artist, I am interested in how landscape can be mediated and changed by invisible signals. Even considering landscape as an environment the extends from land, to sky and into space disrupts traditional notions of landscape. The idea that signals pose new topographies adds to this disruption. By viewing landscape as an extended environment, I see opportunities for new approaches to examining ideas of colonisation and occupation. Additionally, these intersect with neo-capitalist imperatives to economically quantify spaces and places in terms of ownership and value. The appropriation of signals by militarising forces poses interesting and alarming questions in a potential era of neo-colonisation. The unseen nature of buried and undersea cabling also intersects with this stealthy appropriation.

General unawareness of invisible and unseen enabling systems, particularly for those of us who live outside active war and conflict zones, means we may not understand the potential for insidious manipulation of human behaviour? 

Maybe we have already crossed an horizon we did not know was there?

Cheers,
Kathryn

P.S. Have you read Federica Caso's article about my dronescape paintings Visualising the Drone: War Art as Embodied Resistance ? I responded to it in my last post Exposing the Invisible









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 form 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.

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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