Saturday, December 03, 2016

LIFE AND THE DRONE


Life and the Drone Gouache and watercolour n paper 56 x 76.5 cm 2016


PRECIPICE?
Have you noticed that the world seems to be on a precipice? Political instability, seemingly endless war and conflict in parts of the world, climate change [with the debates about whether it is real or not distracting from actual issues], financial and economic volatility, left and right divides becoming more extreme...and so on...all add up to a deep global anxiety. Advances in technology do not seem to help alleviate the anxiety! In fact, new anxieties about privacy and surveillance pervade as we increasingly use and rely on the internet, and other digital technologies, for a variety of daily and ongoing services and functions. 

MILITARISED TECHNOLOGY
As a result of my current research into militarised technology [as part of my M. Phil at the University of Queensland] I am concerned about research and development in weaponry, and military technology and systems infrastructure . These include advances in autonomy, where the human is minimally involved in the decision making loop or potentially completely out of the loop. The human would be replaced by advanced artificial intelligence with decision making and information gathering capabilities that could also include self-learning attributes. These kinds of weapons are called 'lethal autonomous weapons' [LAWs]. This problematic area is summed up in a recent article The Problem of Defining Autonomous Weapons by Ariel Conn on the Future of Life Institute website. You can find a lot of information on this site. 

THE DRONE
The figure of the military drone is symbolic of  our current era's dilemma. Currently operated by remote pilots, drones are used by various governments including the USA and UK for surveillance, targeting and attack purposes, in declared battlefields and counter-insurgency situations, in various regions of the world, including Yemen, Pakistan and Afghanistan.  The The Bureau of Investigative Journalism  can provide you with a starting point for more research.  The Australian Air Force provided drone surveillance support in Afghanistan, withdrawing in 2014.

Drones, or unmanned aerial vehicles [UAVs], certainly have positive civilian uses such as surveillance and targeted assistance in disaster situations such as fire and flood etc. However, I propose, that the dual-use ie: civilian/military capabilities of drone technology [whether air, land or sea based] muddies the seriousness of projected developments in military use of drone technology that is combined with increasing levels of autonomy. Additionally, as Martin Reese speculated in his fantastic and provocative book Our Final Century [2004] how do we ensure that technologies such as these do not get into the hands of aberrant individuals or groups? The answer seems to be...to stay one step ahead. Is that, in itself, a pathway to destruction? Or as Reese might postulate a pathway to human species extinction?

LIFE and the DRONE
In this painting I wanted to show/reveal two types of branching systems: that of the tree-of-life and that of a drone's scoping capabilities designed for surveillance, targeting and attack. The tree's branches represent life's systems - life supporting systems such as vascular ones, river systems and energy forces beyond Earth and perception. The drone's branching scoping signals represent technology. Are we replacing life with a simulation of life? If so, does the simulation make it deceptively 'easier' to develop weapons operated by artificial intelligence? 

There are a myriad of questions to be asked and I wonder how the arts can be involved in the questioning? I know I am trying....

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I remind the reader that I am not a technophobe - I grew up in a house full of gadgets and gizmos - my father was a very serious HAM Radio enthusiast who, as a teenager, tracked Sputnik 1, made our first television in the early 60s on the dining room table and so on. You can read more about my childhood surrounded by technology HERE

Cheers,
Kathryn
P.S. Please check out my latest e-newsletter Studio News and Christmas Greetings




Saturday, November 26, 2016

$URVEILLANCE

$urveillance Gouache and watercolour on paper 56 x 76.5 cm 2016


$$$$$
Surveillance is big business - the collection, storage, evaluating and packaging of data; developing and implementing surveillance systems of all kinds; developing and implementing security systems to thwart surveillance by known or unknown infiltrators; ensuring the delivery of cyber updates for ongoing security...and more.

The use of GPS and communications space assets [satellites] to enable civilian and military surveillance draws attention to the dual-use nature of contemporary technology. Regular readers will know of my interest in airborne drones used by the military for surveillance, targeting and attack purposes. Drone operations currently rely on both GPS and communications satellites. [Check out many of my recent posts for more on drones.]

$URVEILLANCE
In this large work on paper I have painted small $ signs to create emanating surveillance signals. I have done this to contest ideas of value. The 'value' flow goes up and down or from one place to another, demonstrating the financial gains delivered to the developers and operators of surveillance technology AND the 'value', to governments, advertisers, the military and others [malign and benign], of the collected data. Technology to collect data is like a 'data harvester' - the harvester collects the 'golden grain'. Yes, I am a farmer's daughter!

The small $ sign-signals could represent proxy rays of 'sunshine' - the new 'sun' in our new 'sky' of surveillance sensors! Yet, they could also represent the perspective of a 'ploughed' field - of data. Or, perhaps 'landing' lights on a 'runway' of data! 

The 'play' with perspective is a deliberate ploy - one I employ often in my work. The 'landscape' is undetermined and the viewer's orientation is also. Are you above, below, in front, or all simultaneously? 

Be aware!

Cheers,
Kathryn
www.kathrynbrimblecombe-fox.com 





Friday, November 18, 2016

HUMANMACHINEHUMAN

HumanMachineHuman Gouache and water colour on paper 57 x 75.6 cm 2016


HUMANITY AND TECHNOLOGY

I am really interested in the intersection between humanity and technology. It's an intersection which is increasingly blurred.

I am particularly interested in human/technology relationships and developments in militarised technology, where guiding principles are focused on developing and maintaining supreme advantage over enemy forces. Modern soldiers are equipped with various devices that connect to other remote devices. These devices detect external events and environmental conditions, as well as monitor soldiers' physical well being. Soldiers are walking, talking, breathing nodes of information and detection. Technical apparatus to enable a soldier to survive extreme conditions and situations, without losing tactical advantage continue to be developed, using a plethora of modern technologies. Robot soldiers that can carry great weights or can be deployed in precarious situations have been developed eg: DARPA's Legged Squad Support System.  The remote drone pilot, in a sense, has an external appendage that responds to his/her movements and instructions. If you'd like to read more about military developments in these areas visit various defence force science and research agencies. You can do the research! There's plenty of information out there. It's both fascinating and scary. 

HUMANMACHINEHUMAN

So, HumanMachineHuman does not depict a morphed transhuman soldier...for me this would be too illustrative and therefore, restricted. Rather, I prefer a play with symbols. I have painted a tree-of-life with cascading branches that morph into three weaponsied drones, as if they are extensions of humanity/life. The drones' scoping systems provide a new type of branching appearance...not quite as complex as that of the tree-of-life though - for now!

Two smaller trees-of-life, positioned at the bottom left of the painting, are slightly beyond the drones' scopes. Is 'capture' immanent? Maybe - maybe not? I'd suggest the white root-like system, that mirrors the red tree, offers some hope of escape. Maybe the small red tree has camouflaged itself to avoid detection? Maybe its colour - red - indicates that it has its own counter-surveillance systems? Maybe it acts as a jamming system, thwarting the drones' collaborative success? The white root-like upside down tree is like a lighthouse shedding light into the dark. Maybe it is seeking a new way, a new universe even? The collaboration between the small red and white trees is significant!

You, the viewer - are you in front of a landscape or are you below the drones looking up, or are you above the drones looking down? Whatever your perspective, it might be a good idea to pay attention! 

This painting is another of my cosmic landscapes, another 'dronescape' or possibly a droned 'skyscape', or a droned 'aerialscape'? It could also be a droned 'dreamscape'? Yes, I do have some fun thinking about these sorts of things.

Cheers,
Kathryn
www.kathrynbrimblecombe-fox.com

Saturday, November 12, 2016

NEW SKY?

New Sky? Gouache on paper 57 x 76.5 cm 2016


TECH AND THE SKY
New Sky? continues my exploration of the relationship between technology and how we might perceive and understand the sky, consciously and subconsciously, in the 21st century. In an earlier post I contemplated how the sky is now a contested place where surveillance and targeting by weaponised drones limits the freedoms and lives of those who live below them. This limitation is about literal life and death. It is about fearing the sky and what it might deliver.

In this painting,New Sky?, the viewer is unsure whether they are above or below the three weaponised drones. This ambiguity in perspective is a deliberate ploy, one that I have 'played' with for many years in many different paintings...regular readers know.... 

TREES-OF-LIFE
The trees-of-life, some upright and some upside down, enhance the ambiguous perspective. Are we looking up into a cosmic sky, the Universe opened up? Or, are we looking down upon a landscape where life, in many cases, is turned 'upside down'...destroyed?

 What does it mean if the transcultural/religious tree-of-life symbol is turned upside down? This question is bigger than me! I know I painted upside down trees-of-life, AND I felt compelled to do so, in this painting and others, but I leave it to you to find your own answers. 

BLUE DRONES
I have painted the drones in shades of blue to suggest their contribution to the 'new sky'. But, the geometric patterning deliberately hints at the artificiality of their sky impressions or camouflage. The geometric patterning becomes synonymous with pixels and virtual reality, algorithms and digital image making. In this way I have channeled the ubiquity of connectivity...the connectivity that contemporary surveillance relies upon. Our devices, personal, work related and incidental, are data suppliers, nodes of information, points of digital reference, markers of behaviour...all of these and more, provide fodder for data collection and analysis ie: metadata. This is used by advertisers, governments, the military and...

But, is it real? Again, you can seek your own answers. 

RED
The Hellfire and guided missile weapons on the Reaper drones in New Sky? are red, the same colour as the trees-of-life. The colour red is fervent, vital, energised. 

The fact that I have painted both the trees-of-life and the weapons red can be interpreted as a bad thing, but it could also be read as a good thing. It depends on which entity you think has the most power - LIFE or the weapons?


Cheers,
Kathryn
www.kathrynbrimblecombe-fox.com 


Friday, November 04, 2016

HELLO POSTHUMANITY?

Hello Posthumanity? Oil on linen 70 x 100 cm 2016


POSTHUMAN?
Hello Posthumanity? relates to some works on paper I did last year and earlier this year [see below]. In these paintings I used binary code, the tree-of-life and words, painted in cosmic environments, to grapple with the meaning of 'posthuman'. I have, however, bypassed the idea that it means a kind of re-calibration of human identity as a result of technology. Rather, I plummet straight into it being a state or place that exists after the annihilation of the human species...possibly due to emerging technologies. Here, the 'post' in posthuman literally means after-human-species-existence. Yes, somewhat different to a re-calibration. 

WHAT DOES POSTHUMAN LOOK LIKE?
So, what would this posthuman world look like? Would there ever be a chance of human revival, resurrection? Does God have a say? If we exist in a multiverse, would humans survive in other universes, if they exist there at all? Or, is the multiverse a parallel system, so that when something is extinct in one universe, it is also extinct in another universe? Even if humans were annihilated by misuse of technology, deliberate mal-use, accident or by machine design, would the ultimate demise of the Sun and the resultant destruction of the solar system, return us to the stars? Would this be a posthuman existence that is still 'human'? Would a posthuman world be one where humanity's digital residue remained long after mortal extinction? Would a posthuman world be one where artificial intelligence reigned...an AI that surpassed human intelligence in ways that were so far in advance that any connection to human intelligence was lost?

Regular readers will know that much of my most recent work is involved with landscape, weaponised airborne drones, cosmic perspectives and the figure of the tree-of-life representing LIFE threatened by accelerating developments in militarised technology. Yes, there is an undercurrent that connects these works with my interest in the posthuman.

HELLO POSTHUMANITY?
Hello Posthumanity? combines the tree-of-life, with binary code 'instructing' various words that I have also painted. The portal from which ribbons of colour emanate could indicate journeys into and from another universe? Maybe the trees-of-life are bits of 'human' star dust scattered across space? Maybe the binary code indicates digital residue? And, what about God? Well...your guess is as good as mine!

HOPE
I cannot help myself...but...this painting positions hope as a strong force. Hope is there - in the trees-of-life, in the the portal where the distances of time and space are retained, in the ribbons of colour indicating vibrancy...and...in the number of question marks, both '?' and '00111111'.

Cheers,
Kathryn
www.kathrynbrimblecombe-fox.com 


 Picturing the Posthuman gouache on paper 30 x 42 cm 2015 


 I Am Am I? Gouache on paper 30 x 42 cm 2015 


 Imagining the Posthuman Gouache on paper 42 x 30 cm 2016


Vascular System for Posthumans Gouache on paper 42 x 30 cm 2016


Saturday, October 29, 2016

BETWEEN EXISTENCES

 Between Existences Gouache on paper 30 x 42 cm 2016


Sometimes I feel the contemporary time we live in is actually a between-time. It's like humanity is on the edge of one kind of existence and another. The thing is - humanity may not be part of this other existence. But...it could be. I suggest it depends on how we navigate the contemporary space-time, the Antropocene. With my M. Phil research covering militarised technology, the development of autonomous weapons and current warfare and conflict, I am somewhat anxious about humanity's future. 

Lord Astronomer, cosmologist and one of the three founders of the Centre for the Study of Existential Risk [University of Cambridge], Martin Rees, wrote a fascinating book Our Final Century  in 2003. It proposes a number of catastrophic events that could see the annihilation of the human species. These events are not necessarily naturally occurring ones. They include those the might ensue from emerging technologies, due to mistakes, accidents, getting into the hands of aberrant groups or individuals. 

However....

Between Existences [above] is a hopeful painting! The tree of life stands as a beacon in a cosmic landscape. The blue river-like mass could be the 21st century - a space between, a hiatus in human development, a touch and go period, a challenge. 

BUT, the tree has sent its roots deep into time...they even extend beyond the painting, digging deep. There's hope for root suckers - root sprouts to revitalise existence!  Yet, the blue river-like '21st century' also extends beyond the paintings. It also has root-like extensions...maybe they extend into other universes?  


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


Trees-of-Life Vs The Drones is similar to Between Existences in format - there is a top half and a bottom one too...a representation of a duality eg: humanity - technology, life and death, symbolism - fashion, reality and virtuality, time and space, civilian and military, war and peace. Yet, in this 'between time' of the 21st century dualities are blurred. Cultural theorist, Paul Virilio's commentary, on the accelerating speeds of technological interactivity, provides avenues to help us understand this blurring. With time and distance collapsed into near light-speed connectivity, dualities disappear, become unnoticeable, creating an inertia. Philosopher, Gregorie Chamayou's proposal that remote targeting and killing makes the whole world a potential manhunting ground certainly illustrates the blurring [hey! eradication] of the lines between things. Anthropologist, Hugh Gusterson's ideas about 'remixed war', as a result of militarised technology distributed through global networks that allow remote control and killing, exemplifies the collapse of the civilian-military divide. There's more...but I'll leave you to explore.

In Trees-of-Life Vs The Drones the weaponised drones look like an early computer game, little icons marching forward. The trees-of-life stand firm, their branches acting as an alternative network, outside the digital network connecting the drones. Note that there are two trees! AND, their roots are not evident - but they are there! I know, because I am the artist!

Cheers,
Kathryn
www.kathrynbrimblecombe-fox.com 


Thursday, October 20, 2016

FRAGMENTED & UNDERGROUND: DRONESCAPES


The Tree-of-Life Sends its Energy Underground Gouache on paper 30 x 42 cm 2016


TREE-OF-LIFE & DRONES
Here, I have two paintings where the age-old transcultural/religious tree-of-life stands as a beacon in landscapes that are threatened. Indeed, life is threatened. Unmanned air vehicles [UAVs] or drones loiter in dark skies. These Reaper drones are each armed with four hellfire missiles and two guided missiles.

My last post talked about the sky becoming a contested place...a place where surveillance and attack threats from above create an artificial sky. It is a sky to be feared...one where distance has collapsed and access to the beauty of cosmological perspectives is obscured. Here, in this post I offer the tree-of-life as a symbol of hope. It is a symbol which is shared by many cultures and religions, including the three Abrahamaic religions of Islam, Christianity and Judaism. Now, that's something to think about!

The tree-of-life can 'speak' to hearts and minds. I know this from personal experience. In 2006 I had an exhibition at the Abu Dhabi Cultural Centre, [UAE]*. People from all over the region came to see the show. On a daily basis I had the most incredible conversations - all triggered by my paintings particularly those that depicted the tree-of-life. These conversation I call 'agenda-less, but not directionless'. 

I suggest the power of age-old symbols is still fervent but, especially in the West, we have lost our connections to them. We prefer the transience of  fads and fashion delivered via gadgets and gizmos...at our peril!

In these two paintings, The Tree-of-Life Sends Its Energy Underground and Fragmented, the trees-of-life, representing all life, are vulnerable to attack. The drones certainly seem to be targeting them. Yet, the trees have scattered their seeds, sap and embedded their roots across the landscape. Potential new trees hibernate in wait, laying dormant until it is safe. The landscapes seem ripe, fiery and fertile, ready to re-charge. Yet... these paintings could also be 'read' a different way. The trees could be 'wounded', close to death, their 'blood' seeping into the landscape. Maybe? 

These paintings can be viewed either as harbingers of catastrophe or harbingers of hope. Depends on your perspective and belief in the power of symbols. 



Fragmented Gouache on paper 30 x 42 cm 2016

* I have previously written about my Abu Dhabi experience: Here are two posts:


REDLAND ART AWARD

This LINK takes you to a page where you can see pictures of all the finalist paintings, including mine Where There's Life There's...


Cheers,
Kathryn

Sunday, October 16, 2016

RAINBOW CAMOUFLAGE & DRONE CLOUDS

Rainbow Camouflage Gouache on paper 30 x 42cm 2016


NEWS
Firstly news - my entry Where There's Life There's... was chosen as a finalist in the $15,000 Redland Art Award. It is amongst some other terrific work. The opening and the announcement of winners was a few days ago. Congratulations to the winner, Pollyxenai Joannou. 


CLOUDS AND RAINBOWS
Rainbow Camouflage and Drone Clouds both refer to natural phenomena we see in the sky: clouds and rainbows. They also refer to the figure of the drone, a human-made 'phenomena'. I am really interested in how the figure of the drone is changing and will continue to change human perceptions of the sky and landscape. The figure of the drone literally represents unmanned air vehicles (UAVs) as well as symbolising pervasive surveillance of our physical actions and our digital ones. For those who live in Yemen, Pakistan, Afghanistan and other places of conflict, the sky has become something to fear. Why? Because, drones loiter - watching - tracking -attacking. 

RAINBOW CAMOUFLAGE
The posse of drones each painted with a colour from the rainbow are enroute to surveil and perhaps attack the the arced rainbow on the horizon. They are armed with Hellfire and guided missiles. The drones are camouflaged in an attempt to dupe the rainbow, but will they? But...maybe the rainbow is enticing the drones into a trap? The rainbow is fortified with the presence of trees-of-life, each painted a colour of the rainbow. The rainbow, of course can disappear, but its essence remains in the trees-of-life. What does this mean for the posse of rainbow coloured drones, representing 21st century fast paced and ubiquitous technological development, surveillance and more? I suppose that depends on us!

Is this a landscape or a skyscape? The sky is an arena of contest!

When I painted this painting lots of thoughts were running around in my head. But, I'll let your imaginations take flight now!


Drone Clouds Gouache on paper 30 x 42 cm 2016


DRONE CLOUDS
Drone Clouds was inspired by thinking about the increasing use of drones and how they create a kind of artificial 'ceiling' in the sky. This can be viewed as both a literal and a psychological 'ceiling'. If we develop a fearful mentality that the sky is a place of threat what happens to the beauty of cosmological perspectives? Regular readers know I have a fascination with cosmology, and the close and far distances it reveals. Threat from the sky is something that limits a fearless desire to look beyond horizons, Earthly ones  as well as universal ones. 

Eyal Weizman, an architect and Director of the Centre for Research Architecture at Goldsmiths College, London, writes about the Politics of Verticality  and threats from the sky, in the form of surveillance and air attack. Here's a telling quote These eyes in the sky, completing the network of observation that is woven throughout the ground, finally iron out the folded surface and flatten the terrain. From the air, everything can be watched – if you have the right kind of access.( Weizmann, 2002)

Drone Clouds, like many of my recent paintingswas also partly inspired by reading French Philosopher Gregoire Chamayou's fascinating book Drone Theory. The threat from above, represented by drones controlled and operated by remote pilots, makes the whole world a potential "hunting ground". The rhetoric around the development of autonomous weapons, makes the threat even more alarming. 

LANDSCAPE
I wonder what becomes of landscape if the world is perceived as a "hunting ground"? If perceptions of the sky change, landscape changes, distance loses perspective, horizons become sublime -filled with hope and horror, that is... if they can be glimpsed through hooded eyes. Does the underground offer safety - maybe not? Maybe exodus to other planets is another escape route?

As regular readers know I am interested in untethering notions of landscape from Earth-bound horizons, to embrace the perspectives that cosmology offers. I suggest that these kinds of multiple perspectives of distance provide ways to evaluate humankind's place in the universe, to critique activities such as the militarisation of technology and more. 

PERSPECTIVE
In Drone Clouds I play with perspective. Is the viewer below the drones looking up, or are they above the drones looking down? If it is the latter maybe the viewer is an alien watching humankind's dangerous play? Or, maybe humankind has developed another layer of surveillance - good or bad? Or...?

Cheers,
Kathryn
www.kathrynbrimblecombe-fox.com