Friday, February 15, 2019

PREPARING FOR "WAR, ART AND VISUAL CULTURE" - SYDNEY SYMPOSIUM

Mission Capable Oil on linen 137 x 72 cm 2018 


Art, War and Visual Culture: Sydney
On Monday 25th February I am one of the speakers presenting at Art, War and Visual Culture, An International Symposium on the Art and Visual Culture of War, Conflict and Political Violence. You can view the conference website HERE. The symposium is taking place in Sydney. A sister symposium will take place in London on May 31, with artist and author James Bridle as a keynote speaker. You can view the London symposium site HERE

Art, War and Visual Culture: London
I would love to be able to attend the London symposium, as I have followed James Bridle's work for some time. I recently read his book New Dark Age: Technology and the End of the Future, which I highly recommend. One of the key messages in the book is the identification of the insidious arrival and influence of what Bridle calls "computational thinking". The whole book demonstrates how to expose and resist this kind of thinking. I use the word 'demonstrates' because Bridle does not merely explain, he poses questions that flip the mainstream, thus forcing the reader to confront how they think about the world. For example, he details some historical and current failures of computation, such as US military systems identifying "flocks of migrating birds as incoming Soviet bomber fleets" to "government IT initiatives that fall short of their much-vaunted goals and are superceded by subsequent, better engineered systems before they're even completed, feeding a cycle of obsolescence and permanent revision."[1] He then poses a question, "But what if these stories are the real history of computation: a litany of failures to distinguish between simulation and reality: a chronic failure to identify the conceptual chasm at the heart of computational thinking, of our construction of the world?" [2] Here, he presents us with a critical resistance to the bravura that surrounds contemporary technology, as well as notions of positive historical and future progress. 

James Bridle and Jean Baudrillard
Bridle's book gives us tools to bust open and resist the confines that French philosopher Jean Baudrillard warned us about in his 2003 book Passwords. He warned of a digital future where it will be “possible to measure everything by the same extremely reductive yardstick: the binary, the alternation between 0 and 1.”[3] "Computational thinking" is a symptom of this reductive space...this reductive yardstick that Baudrillard identified. The concept of reduction suggests homogeneity, sameness, uniformity. These, in turn, enable ease of control and management by systems and the entities that operate these systems. It provides a space that perpetuates "computational thinking" and its elevated status.  

This systemic 'landscape' is enabled by signals that ricochet around the world. from subterranean/undersea cabling, to land-based nodes, and into sky and space, via drones and satellites. I 'see' connecting and networked signals as netting the planet, holding us hostage, although we are largely unaware of the hostage situation. And, a hostage situation indicates a reductive space. 

Art and Resistance: New Landscapes in the Drone Age
The title for my Sydney symposium presentation is "Art and Resistance: New Landscapes in the Drone Age". In twenty minutes I will argue that signals net the planet with new kinds of hidden or invisible topographies that enable the scopic intent of contemporary technology. Landscape is reduced, homogenised and made uniform to allow ease of access. I will show paintings, like the two here in this post, to demonstrate how these signals have infiltrated the landscape, in a sense volumetrically colonising it. I sometimes try to mimic a computer screen or lens [camera or weapon] to pose questions about how we view landscape and our environment, the real vs the virtual. The real window or the computer 'window'. More importantly how do the machines that scope life and landscape, for surveillance and targeting purposes, impose new 'landscapes' onto the real, and onto our psyches? 

I am going to talk about how I use cosmic perspectives to take an imaginational reach beyond the drones and satellites, to see if an expansive picture can expose the anomalies that must exist in the reduced space of the signal-net. How can I make visible the invisible? Is a signal-enabled hostage situation a sign of war, a perpetual war and Derek Gregory's "everywhere war'? 

I will let you know how the presentation goes. 

Cheers,
Kathryn


1. James Bridle,  New Dark Age: Technology and the End of the Future, (London and Ne York: Verso, 2018) 34.
2. Ibid.
3. Jean Baudrillard, Passwords, trans. Chris Turner (London and New York: Verso, 2003), 76.



New Horizons oil on linen 97 x 112 cm 2018

Thursday, February 07, 2019

SIGNAL-SCAPES & EXISTENTIAL RISK

 Atlantic Currents Gouache on paper 30 x 42 cm 2019


I look for the hidden and new topographies that exist in our landscape. I look because I have a theory. This theory is that these hidden or invisible new, and proliferating, signal topographies hold us hostage, thus threatening how we live and operate in our environment, even threatening existence as we know it. The latter may seem extreme, but identifying potential existential risks, and thinking about mitigation strategies, is far better than suffering irredeemable circumstances. The risk revealed in these new topographies is the insidious nature of connected and networked systems. While these systems do deliver positive outcomes, there is an underbelly. Here, it is important to think about Paul Virilio's statement “no technology has ever been developed that has not had to struggle against its own specific negativity”.[1] 

The underbelly of networked and connected systems includes the militarisation and militarise-ability of signals. Designated military networking is one thing. But, as Ian Shaw observes, security and policing activities, including monitoring such things as cyber terrorism, transnational crime and border security, are increasingly militarised by technologies and devices that are dual-use.(2) This is compounded by the ability of the militarised system, or those with mal-intent, to appropriate civilian technologies, systems and devices into their domains. A simple example is accessibility to mobile phones and the plethora of data they deliver. Surveillance is the lining of the underbelly!

Atlantic Currents and Pacific Currents
Atlantic Currents and Pacific Currents depict sea currents on the left of the image, and undersea cabling maps on the right. Both relay elements of landscape, one is natural, the other is not. Both landscapes influence how we live. Sea currents influence water temperatures, fishing, maritime activities and so on. Undersea cables enable communication, the internet and more. Multi-Mission (bottom) depicts the signalling the enables the operation of militarised airborne drones. Signals travelling at near light speed are conducted via undersea cabling from Creech Airbase in the Nevada Desert, to Ramstein Airbase in Germany, to satellites and then to the drones. The drones sensors capture new data that is delivered back along the connected system. 

These three paintings are part of a larger group of works on paper and oil paintings, where I attempt to expose the occupation of landscape, from subterranean/undersea to land, to the sky and into space. It is a volumentric kind of occupation - a colonisation that enables a persistent readiness for offensive and defensive action. The invisible part of the Derek Gregory's "everywhere war".(3)  

Can you see why I think it indicates an existential risk? Yes, risk lies in the development of, for example, autonomous weapons. But, signals are the ubiquitous enablers. 

I could write more, but I will leave you to look and think.

Cheers,
Kathryn

[1] Paul Virilio, “Red Alert in Cyberspace,” trans. Malcolm Imrie, Radical Philosophy (Nov/Dec 1995): 2. 
[2] Ian Shaw, “The Urbanization of Drone Warfare: Policing Surplus Populations in the Dronepolis,” Geographica Helvetica 71 (2016): 19-28.
[3] Derek Gregory, “The Everywhere War,” The Geographical Journal 177, no. 3 (2011): 238-50.

Pacific Currents Gouache on paper 30 x 42 cm 2019

Multi Mission Gouache on paper 30 x 42 cm 2019

Monday, January 28, 2019

HUMAN: Recognition, Identification, Targeting

HUMAN Oil on linen 30 x 30 cm 2019


In both these paintings I play with ideas of algorithmic human identification, and reasons for this identification. Clearly, as the cross-hairs indicate, I am thinking about targeting. However, reasons for targeting can range from orders to kill, to targeting by entities such as advertisers, pollsters, corporations, and governments. These seemingly benign entities target to seduce buyers, persuade voters, and to muster people into standardised behaviour [particularly online]. In this interconnected and networked age, the data that is collected, however, could/can be used to aid identification and targeting for more deadly purposes.

In both paintings I have appropriated the appearance of a computer screen or lens, giving a sense of removal from the scene eg: similar to remote airborne drone operations. But, is the operator human or machine? The algorithm of binary code 'instructing' HUMAN at the bottom of each painting references the use of machine learning to assist in target identification. Global debates about whether autonomous systems should go further and make the ultimate 'kill' decision have regularly occurred since 2013, eg: CCW at UNOG. However, politics and the law, are fast outpaced by enhancements in technological applications and systems developments.

HUMAN/HUMAN BEING
I purposefully did not 'instruct' HUMAN BEING because I wanted HUMAN to suggest that algorithms identify using data derived characteristics of humankind. While individuals are certainly targets, humanity is also in the cross-hairs, but do we realise it? Also, while individuals are targeted standardisation of characteristics leads to bias and mistakes, and the possibility of further standardisation. Here, a possible existential threat!

TREE-OF-LIFE
I have painted the shadows of the seemingly targeted figures as trees-of-life. For me this indicates something the algorithm cannot access. Each tree-shadow is an individual, representing life in all its array of personal history, biology, spirit and soul. Can these all be reduced to data? But, the tree-of-life represents another kind of 'code' of life, one that also speaks to humanity as a whole. The tree-of-life with its array of branches, twigs and leaves, stands in contrast with the zeros and ones. I am reminded of Jean Baudrillard's observation about a digital destiny where it will be "possible to measure everything by the same extremely reductive yardstick: the binary, the alternation between 0 and 1". (1)

LANDSCAPE
HUMAN and Where to Hide? are part of my ongoing quest to represent landscape in ways that pose questions about human future and planetary future. I  think about computer graphics, imaging technology, invisible signals that enable networks and undersea cables that also enable networked operations. They impose new kinds of topographies onto landscape. These topographies are not necessarily visible, but they are either militarised or militarise-able. They net and wrap the planet, in ways that make us all target-able.

There is more to say, but I will leave that up to you.

Cheers,
Kathryn




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


Where to Hide? Gouache on paper 30 x 42 cm 2019

Sunday, January 20, 2019

LANDSCAPE DECEPTION

 Pacific Currents Gouache on paper 30 x 42 cm 2019



DECEPTION
What do I mean by 'Landscape Deception", the title of this blog post? I think it can mean a number of things  eg: perhaps landscape itself employs deceptive means, perhaps landscape is hijacked by fake landscapes that deceive? 

Regular readers know of my long-term interest in landscape generally, and my more specific interest in what I call the militarisation of landscape. I see the latter as an insidious occupation of landscape by the signalling systems that enable near light speed operation of miltiarised technology and militarise-able technology. Here, I not only include things like drone operation, but also, things like manipulation of social media, hacking into financial and communication systems, monitoring of personal devices, access to personal data and so on. That militarisable technology includes civilian systems reliant on signals and cables, and their associated infrastructure such as satellites, data centres, relay stations, cannot be ignored.

The three new paintings in this post reflect upon ideas of deceptive landscape, or the deception of landscape. 

PACIFIC CURRENTS
MULTI MISSION

Pacific Currents [above] depicts the flow of Pacific water currents on the left. On the right I have painted a map of the undersea cables that connect across the Pacific ocean. These undersea cables, while tangible, are also essentially invisible. Yet, they enable the operation of 21st century networked technology. 

In Multi Mission [below] cabling from Creech airbase in the Nevada desert connects with the US Air Force base in Ramstein, Germany. From there signals sent to and from a satellite enable airborne drones to undertake missions. Signals sent by subterranean and undersea cables, and signals sent by wave frequencies into and from space, are invisible. I 'see' them as creating new 'topographies' that net the planet from underground/sea to space. 


 Multi Mission Gouache on paper 30 x 42 cm 


DECEPTION PERSPECTIVE
The invisibility of these new 'topographies' can be associated with deception. In Deception Perspective [below] I have painted cross-hairs to create an illusion of perspective. That the cross-hair on a camera or gun helps draw a subject/victim closer cannot be ignored. It is a way of using targeted perspective. 

In the painting I have painted three large red cross-hairs in a row. I have then painted white cross-hairs in diminishing sizes to give the illusion of perspective. These cross-hairs parody the cross-hairs on lenses, computer screens, imaging devices. They are part of the insidiously invisible signaling net that wraps the planet, the new landscape of deception.

So, is landscape deceived or deceiving. Are we deceived or are some of us deceiving? Is anyone even aware of what is happening?




These three paintings are part of my - signalscapes, dronescapes, militarised landscapes work
Cheers,
Kathryn

Monday, January 07, 2019

NOWHERE TO HIDE?

Nowhere to Hide: Memorial Oil on linen 30 x 30 cm 2018


21ST CENTURY SURVEILLANCE
Surveillance in the 21st century is pervasive, persistent and increasingly ubiquitous. Cameras, sensors, monitored devices, and the collection of various kinds of data contribute to modern day surveillance. Facial recognition, gait recognition, social media use, shopping habits, web browsing and much more feed data into the surveillance net. 

I am interested in how surveillance by cameras and sensors changes our perceptions of landscape. The focusing and orienting markings on camera lenses and computer screens create a digital overlay, one that represents new kind of topography. It is the topography of simulation and computation. Signals that connect devices and enable networked systems also create an overlay of the landscape, an invisible volumetric overlay that extends from Earth to satellites in space. Networked systems enable the persistence of contemporary surveillance.

There is nowhere to hide.

These new and largely discrete or invisible new landscape topographies act like nets or webs. This webnet captures us, holds us hostage...but, do we realise this? Has this insidious infiltration of life and landscape changed perceptions of landscape, environment? If not, will it? How conscious are we of any changes?

NOWHERE TO HIDE: MEMORIAL
In Nowhere to Hide: Memorial the crosses can represent a few things - cross-hair focusing/targeting on a camera or a gun lens, orienting graphics on a computer screen, the digital division of landscape into zones or maybe the digitised structural components of a simulated landscape. The crosses indicate a process of uniformity, a flattening of space and experience. Does this mean the real landscape, in all its wondrous diversity, becomes alien? Does it mean we feel there is nowhere to hide, to be private?

The crosses also act as a kind of memorial to the loss of freedom.

But, I like to think that, as a painting, this image acts subversively!

There is a lot more I can say, but I will leave you now to wonder....

___________________________________________________

* I have previously written about the contemporary hostage situation HOSTAGE
You might be interested in OPERATIONAL LANDSCAPE  and PERSISTENT READINESS and EXPOSING THE INVISIBLE

Cheers,
Kathryn

Friday, December 28, 2018

LOYALTY TO EARTH AND HUMANKIND

It's Everything Oil on linen 50 x 50 cm 

Historian, Yuval Noah Harari has written an article, "Moving Beyond Nationalism: Three global problems create a need for loyalty to humankind and to planet Earth"published by The Economist. The three global problems Harari identifies are "nuclear war, climate change and technological disruption." That these three issues require global attention and co-operation is clear. Each pose major risks, even existential risks, to humanity and the planet. Combined, they pose a hellish picture of the future. 

As Harari notes, a retreat into nationalism does not protect nations from risks posed by nuclear war, climate change and technological disruption. He writes "We need to create a global identity and encourage people to be loyal to humankind and to planet Earth in addition to their particular nation."

LOYALTY
I like the idea of being "loyal to humankind and to planet Earth." Regular readers of this blog will know that this kind of sentiment underlies much of my work. My use of the age-old transcultural/religious tree-of-life, depictions of Earth as a pale blue dot, and my use of cosmic perspectives, coupled with visual signs and metaphors of contemporary risks, are attempts to focus attention on humanity and the Earth. Visual questions about militarised technology and the militarise-ability of technology, pose questions about the future of humanity and the planet.

The medium of painting moves thinking away from what artist and writer James Bridle in his fascinating book [do buy it!] The New Dark Age: Technology and the End of the Future calls "computational thinking" eg: data driven computation, computer simulation/modelling. The act of painting and the medium of painting can help remind us of alternative ways of thinking. Ways that may assist us in creating a loyalty to humankind and Earth. Ways that can critique contemporary technology - without using it for creation, exhibition and storage.*     

FOR THE ARRIVAL OF 2019
So, for the arrival of 2019 just a few days away, I have decided to upload a selection of my paintings where, variously, the tree-of-life, the pale blue dot, cosmic perspectives and images of airborne weaponised drones may induce thoughts about loyalty to humankind and Earth. 




 Future Oil on linen 91 x 102 2015


 Australian Landscape Cutout Oil on linen 55 x 80 cm 2015
This painting is a reflection upon how nationalism might work, or not work, in the 21st century. It reminds us that all nations share the one planet.


 Beacon Oil on linen 92 x 102 2014


The Birth of Landscape oil on linen 138 x 168 cm 2014
A small tree-of-life is cradled by the emergent landscape, at Earth's beginning. Ultimately life, including humankind and the planet are entangled.  


 Pale Blue Dot Oil on linen 120 x 160 cm 2014

Reading/viewing the painting above with the two below triggers a few questions about what kinds of risky anomalies are we not noticing. I propose human imagination can take us to revelatory perspectives.


 Anomaly Detection [No 2] Oil on linen 120 x 180 cm 2017


Anomaly Detection Gouache on paper 56 x 76 cm 2017



Happy New Year,
Kathryn



Saturday, December 22, 2018

DRONED 21ST CENTURY VISION

Droned 21st Century Vision oil on linen 40 x 50 cm 2018



DRONE VISION Vs DRONED VISION
The term 'drone vision' is different to 'droned vision'. 'Drone vision' ascribes vision capabilities to a drone, a machine. This is something I have previously critiqued.* The latter, 'droned vision', is about how human vision is changed as a result of ubiquitous images viewed on screens, for example, camera screens, mobile phones and computers. The flattening of an image, the pixellation of an image, the cross-haired focussing to generate and view an image, all contribute to 'droned vision'. The simulation of perspective is a trickery that implodes both literal and metaphoric perspective. The latter should be the ability to cast critical eyes and intellect to penetrate the digital data that makes up 21st century imagery. I fear this has been eroded. 

DRONED 21ST CENTURY VISION
In Droned 21st Century Vision the red overlay presents a flattened perspective, the orienting lines mimicking surveillance and targeting co-ordinates. The grid of squares, that seemingly continue beyond the painting, establish zones of reference, a kind of pixellation of space that enables extraction of data. Here I expose the way new and invisible topographies are imposed on the landscape. These new topographies include invisible signals that ricochet around the world and into space, from node to node. Signals enable increasing surveillance as they wrap the planet in nets that we cannot see, but hold us hostage.

Are the cross-hairs those of a camera viewing screen or do they represent a weapon? The dual-use nature of contemporary technology, however, blurs the separation between civilian/domestic and militarised use and intention. The hostage situation becomes clearer! The very recent deliberate disruption of Gatwick airport by civilian drones demonstrates that no contemporary technology can claim to be neutral. 

In Droned 21st Century Vision I have placed two trees-of-life, one pale night-vision green and the other red, within the flattened plane of gridded squares. Another tree-of-life, a white one, is positioned on a hillside in the background landscape. This tree reveals the insidious trickery of droned perspective. It represents a resistance to the norming of droned vision. It stands as a beacon, both as a warning and a guiding light. It retrieves real landscape and the depth it provides - perspective - from the 21st century simulation.



* One example post is The Drone: Do Not Embody
                                        -------------------------------------------------------

On a more happy note. I wish all my readers a very Merry Christmas, and a happy 2019.

Cheers,
Kathryn


Friday, December 14, 2018

LIFE + RISK + LEAVES

 Cosmic Testimony Gouache on paper 56 x 76 cm 2017


As I mentioned in my last post, I am on crutches with a full leg brace. It is difficult to stand and sit at a desk for a long period of time, let alone sit in a car. I am 1.8 m tall with long legs and when one of these legs cannot bend and the other has a slight injury, even simple things are difficult. I hope to get back to my studio practice asap though!

LEAVES
In this post I present three paintings from 2017. Each of the paintings includes leaves. In my mind they are leaves that have fallen from the tree-of-life. Each of these paintings also include figures. As regular readers know I do not often include figures as I am careful not to appropriate other people's stories. However, the tree-of-life is often my figure substitute, a symbolic representation of human life and all life, at the same time.


The Leaves are Leaving Gouache on paper 56 x 76 cm 2017


Each of the three paintings also include radiating lines that appear like the rays of the sun. But, are they? Well, they could be, if that's what you want to believe. However, for me, they are the surveillance and targeting signals of an airborne drone.That the signals take on a fake sunshine appearance is deliberate.

I ask, what are we not noticing? What risks are we oblivious to? Are we noticing the effects of ubiquitous surveillance? Are we noticing what is happening to the leaves of the tree-of-life?

Leaves can fall off a tree because the tree is deciduous. The fallen leaves provide mulch on the ground. A cycle of life continues as the tree, in springtime, sprouts new leaves. But, leaves can fall off a tree due to lack of water, heat stress or poisoning. The leaves fall as the tree dies.

The leaves in my paintings are metaphors.........................................

Cheers,
Kathryn


Can the Leaves Still Dance? Gouache on paper 56 x 76 cm 2017