Thursday, August 22, 2019

'SAD THINKINGS', RISK AND IMAGINATION



Scary Research?
I am often asked if my research into contemporary militarised or militarise-able technology makes me scared. A few people have said they feel fearful when they see my paintings. I have even had some fearful people say they don't want to hear about my research!

Fortunately for me, most people genuinely appreciate an introduction to issues associated with contemporary militarised and militarise-able technology. If they are already informed about issues, they are interested in how I visually scrutinise drones, signals, connectivity etc. The topic opens up discussions that include, for example, the potential mal-appropriation of militarised technologies by state or non-state protagonists. Many people say they enjoy being challenged by my work. Some quiz me for ages.

But, truthfully, the topic is a sobering one. Through mal-intent, accident or design contemporary technologies pose potential serious risks, even existential risks*. If they are militarise-able or weaponisable is some form or another, the risks are arguably heightened. Astronomer and cosmologist, Lord Martin Rees in his 2002 book Our Final Century: Will Civilisation Survive the Twenty-First Century? makes a clear argument that like at no other time in human history, 21st century humans are creating technologies that could cause global catastrophic impacts.

Yes, it is a bit scary!

Speed
For me, the scariest aspects of 21st century technology are the speed of technological development and the speed of technological operation. Legal, regulatory, social and cultural responses to technological development have difficulty keeping up. And, when interconnected and networked systems operate at near light speed signaling, human dimensions of time and space are excluded. To keep pace with light speed transmissions, artificial intelligence is increasingly used to monitor, react, respond. After all, it can keep up! So, where will that leave us humans?

My imagination goes into overdrive when I think about these things - and - paintings are created!

* Check out the work being done at the Centre for the Study Of Existential Risk, University of Cambridge.


Occupied Landscape Oil on canvas 76 x 76 cm 2018


POEM
My grandmother D. E Ross, wrote the above poem about me. I suspect I was not having 'sad thinkings', but at nearly four I did not know how to say 'philosophical or existential thinkings'! As a child I remember thinking about the end of life - not just mine - but all life. How far was the universe, what happened after people died, where did they go? Were we humans alone in this vast universe? What was time? I remember being a bit scared by my thoughts. As I tried to imagine, I remember feeling like my imagination would burst!  I am sure many readers remember having similar ponderings.

I love that my grandmother wrote 'long distance in her eyes', because distance is a recurring theme in my life and work. From the literal spatial distance of the landscape of my childhood and its influence on my work, to understanding how distance works in creative painting practice, to inviting viewers to fly with me in imagination in my paintings, to the distance of painting [by a human] from the contemporary technological system ie: painting can be used to critique the contemporary technological system without using digital, cyber or electronic platforms for creation, exhibition and storage.

Maybe this poem is an indication that risk analysis was possibly one of my strengths!

Maybe my grand mother's poem indicates that I would be an artist?



MY EXHIBITION 

OCCUPIED LANDSCAPES: EVIDENCE OF DRONES

DOORS OPEN TUESDAY 27 AUGUST 10 AM
POP Gallery, 381 Brunswick St, Fortitude Valley, Brisbane.

More details are available HERE

I am getting ready to install the exhibition. So apart from the paintings I also need a tool kit.


 Tool kit ready for installation day 



Some of the smaller paintings packed, ready to go.

Cheers,
Kathryn

Sunday, August 11, 2019

PAINTING, MUSIC, POETRY AND DRONES

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


MUSIC and DRONES
I had a lovely surprise recently. Out of the blue, author and songwriter, Mary Amato, contacted me. Mary creates music inspired by STEM - Science, Technology, Engineering and Math. Her music puts an A into STEM = STEAM!

Anyway, she had composed music and lyrics for a piece that deals with drones. The piece is called Drone's Love Song 

And, my painting Sky - Drone - Net is now Drone's Love Song's image!

You can listen to Drone's Love Song HERE or below.

Keep an ear out for words like - bombing, spying, dirty work, remote and more. The lilting sounds of instruments and Mary's voice seem to initially belie the darkness contained in the music and lyrics. This, I think, connects with the aesthetic appeal of my work, which also seems to initially belie darkness. But, these initial reactions to listening and seeing are shattered as contemplation draws the listener and the viewer in. This shattering opens up an array of other reactions and thoughts - deepening the experience - provoking questions.






POETRY and DRONES
I was recently given a book of poems by an Australian poet called A. Frances Johnson. The anthology is called Rendition for Harp & Kalashnikov Johnson addresses a range of issues, including contemporary war.

If you love poetry - if you are interested in how the arts can critique contemporary war and accelerating militarised technologies - if you are particularly concerned about issues associated with weaponisable drones - Rendition for Harp & Kalshnikov is a must!

There are a number of poems that directly refer to drones and the various issues associated with surveillance and the remote deliverance of death. The poems are beautiful and sad, empathetic and cutting.

One poem called, Unmanned Aerial Vehicle Versus Poem, positions poetry not necessarily as a winner of a competition, but as something that enables much more that a UAV - therefore - there is no competition. My prosaic words do not do justice to the incisive brilliance of this poem, but what I am trying to say is that this poem tells us something about the power of poetry. In doing so it tells us something about the power of art.

You will have to buy the anthology!

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FORTHCOMING EXHIBITION

And, please visit OCCUPIED LANDSCAPES: EVIDENCE OF DRONES to keep up to date with all the details for my forthcoming exhibition Occupied Landscapes: Evidence of Drones!


The New Clouds Gouache on paper 56 x 76 cm 2017

Cheers,
Kathryn

Saturday, August 03, 2019

PAINTINGS IN CONVERSATION & 13 YEARS BLOGGING

Beware the Shadow Oil on linen 30 x 30 cm 2018


Look Again At That Dot Oil on linen 23 x 29.5 cm 2018


13 YEAR BLOGGING 
This month is my thirteenth blogging anniversary! I have, mostly, posted once a week for thirteen years. Yes, my middle name is PERSISTENCE! 

I really enjoy blogging. It has become very much part of my creative practice. As I write I think through things differently, and new ideas are triggered. These new ideas become paintings, and the cycle continues. 

Thank-you to my readers and anyone who passes by, even momentarily.


PAINTINGS IN CONVERSATION 
As I gear up for my forthcoming exhibition Occupied Landscapes: Evidence of Drones   I am thinking about how I might hang the paintings in the show. I will be including some paintings that do not depict airborne militarised drones or indications of their presence. This is a deliberate curatorial decision. It provides another layer to the visual conversation the paintings have with each other, as well as the conversation a viewer has with the exhibition. Given that the title of the exhibition includes the word 'evidence' I want people to look for evidence of drones in paintings that do not depict drones or indications of their presence. What they see or not see, is not up to me. 

When a painting without a drone is hung near a painting that does depict a drone, what do you think happens? For example the two paintings above are in 'conversation'. Look Again At That Dot does not depict a drone, whereas Beware the Shadow depicts two drones. 

What happens when you place a painting that depicts both the pale blue dot and drones? For example, Drone Spiral (No 2) below.

I am really looking forward to hanging  Occupied Landscapes: Evidence of Drones  
Tuesday 27 August - Saturday 7 September Open daily 10 am - 4 pm
POP Gallery, 381 Brunswick St, Fortitude Valley, Brisbane, Australia.
For more details please check out the exhibition page HERE


Drone Spiral (No 2) Oil on linen 120 x 160 cm 2018



NEWS
I have two paintings on loan at the Australian Institute of Biotechnology and Nanotechnology  (AIBN) at the University of Queensland, Australia. 

Last Monday I gave a short presentation to the AIBN Board and academics. It was a fun event.  I thoroughly enjoyed the incredibly stimulating conversations I shared with researchers working at the cutting edge of their various fields.

The two paintings Beginning of Everything and Objects (both below) are great works to have hanging in a research institution focused on biotechnology and nanotechnology. Why? Because, both paintings can be 'read' as either something very large or something very small. For example Beginning of Everything could be a vast landscape formed by the cascading tree-of-life erupting from the bottom left corner. Or, it could be a cross-section of something seen under a microscope. The painting plays with perspective - are you above a vast land form, or below some kind of portal enticing you into another universe, or are you witnessing the beginning of the universe? There are many possibilities - that's why I called it Beginning of Everything. Objects can also be 'read' in a multiple of ways. Are the round balls atoms or planets? Are you above, below or with them? 



Beginning of Everything Oil on linen 90 x 180 cm 2010


Objects Oil on linen 85 x 147 cm 2015


Cheers,
Kathryn

Thursday, July 18, 2019

STAY ALERT: SAYS THE TREE

Stay Alert: Says the Tree Gouache on paper 56 x 76 cm 2019



For information on my forthcoming exhibition 

Occupied Landscapes: Evidence on Drones

please visit my post HERE


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Stay Alert: Says The Tree



I was thinking about a painting from 2017, Forever Watched  [below]. It is one of only a few paintings where I depict human figures. In the painting a group of people are encircled. But, are they performers encircled by a spotlight on a stage, or something more sinister? Or, maybe the stage is contemporary life, one where everything we all do is monitored, surveilled, watched. 

I was thinking about Forever Watched when I was painting Stay Alert: Says the Tree [above]. In this new painting I have replaced the people with a symbolic reference to humanity and life, the tree-of-life. Regular readers will know that the tree-of-life is often depicted in my paintings. The radiating lines indicate some kind of surveillance emanating from a single point, maybe an airborne drone, a satellite...? Maybe the single point indicates control, rather than a particular device.

The split surveillance could mean a few things, increasing persistence and dominance by surveillance systems, intrusion at global and intimate levels, dispersed targeting and more. The replacement of the human figures with the trees-of-life draws us all into the surveillance system as contributors and victims. 

The two trees-of-life, however, present us with some hopeful possibilities and some dire possibilities.It depends on your perspective.

I'll leave it to you to think about these possibilities. 



*Forever Watched and Stay Alert: Says the Tree will be in my forthcoming exhibition Occupied Landscapes: Evidence on Drones. 
 

Forever Watched Gouache on paper 56 x 76 cm 2017










Tuesday, July 09, 2019

WARFIGHTER - 01010111 01000001 01010010 01000110 01001001 01000111 01001000 01010100 01000101 01010010

 WARFIGHTER Gouache on paper 15 x 21 cm 2019


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For information on my forthcoming exhibition 

Occupied Landscapes: Evidence on Drones

please visit my post HERE


_________________________________________________________



A few questions that keep me thinking are:

What happens when the warfighter is no longer human?

Why has the word 'warfighter' replaced, in many instances, descriptors such as soldier, sailor, pilot? 

Is the increasing use of the word warfighter a sign that the replacement of the human being is already underway? I ask this because nonhuman devices can also be called warfighters eg: unmanned systems such as airborne, land-based and sea-based drones or robots. 

If or when the warfighter is no longer human, does war become a battle between autonomous devices and systems? Will human beings still have control, or will they be held hostage to a type of war beyond our current comprehension?

If your nation's warfighters are no longer human, are the enemy's warfighters also no longer human? If not, is the human being's role relegated to that of victim only?

In a war fought between machines and systems what happens to sovereignty and territory? 

In a war fought between machines and systems what happens to notions such as bravery, courage, loss, victory, disgust, sacrifice and more?

How do we memorialise when the warfighter is no longer human? Will memorial cease to exist as a form of human remembrance? If not, where does that place human history?

If autonomous nonhuman warfighters initial programming is aimed at fighting, battle, deception and strategy, what happens to peace?

Are cyber systems and robots designed for civilian use vulnerable to hijacking by the warfighting systems and robots? I assume so - then all systems are potentially militarised. Something to think about in an increasingly interconnected and networked world! 

The artificial intelligence, Alpha Go, plays the ancient game of Go with what is described as superhuman abilities, employing new manoeuvres that human beings have never thought of. This prompts the question, will self learning AI operated warfighters develop unheard of war strategies?  If so, what will war become? Will war become not superhuman, but 'other than' human?  Will human beings have any hope of understanding war once it becomes 'other than human'? Here, I protest against terms such as 'superhuman' and 'more than human', because they imply that that the human is already 'less than' the machine/system. However, if we see these systems as 'other than', rather than 'superhuman' or 'more than human', maybe critical spaces for deeper reflection on the future of war and humanity are revealed?


WARFIGHTER 
In WARFIGHTER [above] I have painted a string of binary code 'instructing' WARFIGHTER. The code seems to form a landscape element, a contour or horizon. The warfighter here is a digital system, a non-human, normally invisible combatant. Is the painting a depiction of a future warscape, one where human beings no longer exist, but the autonomous warfighting systems they developed still do? Maybe this could be a memorial to an algorithm! Is it Earth though? Maybe it is a cosmic landscape, or a virtual landscape - a simulation - Earth's remnant, an algorithm.

WARFIGHTER is similar to my earlier small painting Coded Landscape [below]. Here, the binary code 'instructs' the word LIFE. In my 2015 post, where I discuss Coded Landscape, I write about landscape. Landscape emerged out of the Big Bang and continues today on a universal scale. Here on Earth we have our physical landscape, but also our virtual landscapes. Both Coded Landscape and WARFIGHTER play with depictions of various landscapes - universal, cosmic, physical, virtual, future. Like WARFIGHTER, Coded Landscape could be a memorial too - to life.

And, there are a lot more questions....for another time.


                                     Coded Landscape Gouache on paper 15 x 21 cm 2015


Cheers,
Kathryn





Wednesday, July 03, 2019

OCCUPIED LANDSCAPES: EVIDENCE OF DRONES

Beware, Whispers the Wind Oil on linen 61 x 97 cm 2019






OCCUPIED LANDSCAPES: EVIDENCE OF DRONES


POP Gallery, 381 Brunswick St, Fortitude Valley, Brisbane, Queensland, Australia. 
POP Gallery is one of the Queensland College of Art (QCA), Griffith University, galleries. 


27 August - 14 September 
10 am - 4 pm Daily




L to R: Mission Capable Landscape and Nowhere to Hide



A PANEL DISCUSSION happened on Saturday 31 August from 3.30 pm - 5 pmPanel Members:
  • Dr. Samid Suliman, Lecturer in Migration and Security, Griffith University. 
  • Federica Caso and Cormac Opdebeeck Wilson, both from the School of Political Science and International Studies, the University of Queensland. 
  • Kathryn Brimblecombe-Fox.


L to R: Occupied Landscape, False Lawn, Swarm Clouds Brewing


 Installation image at Occupied Landscapes: Evidence of Drones



LINKS


*You can view more paintings on my website HERE

* Please read the exhibition essay by Federica Caso on my website HERE


AND - PODCAST

* I was interviewed about my paintings and research by the lead researcher, Dr. Beryl Pong, of the Aesthetics of Drone Warfare project, University of Sheffield, UK.This project is funded by a British Academy Rising Star Engagement Award for 2019-2020. Please listen to the Podcast - it's only 30 minutes.



 Mission Capable Landscape oil on linen 72 x 137 cm 2018


OCCUPIED LANDSCAPES: EVIDENCE OF DRONES is my first solo show of new work since 2015. The paintings in the exhibition reflect long-term interests in landscape, symbols [such as the tree-of-life], and existential risk posed by emerging technologies.

The paintings in the exhibition are informed by research into accelerating developments in militarised and militarise-able technology - airborne drones, persistent surveillance and increasingly autonomous systems. This research was conducted as part of my Master of Philosophy degree, completed in 2017 at the University of Queensland. Ongoing research continues to inform my work.

I am interested in how landscape is mediated by militarised and militarise-able technologies. I am particularly interested in examining the signals that enable the operation and functioning of militarised technologies. 


Anomaly Detection Gouache on paper 56 x 75 cm 2016
  Please take a look at Anomaly Detection No 2 also 




Please browse through my
BLOG to see more paintings and to read more about my practice. 


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EXHIBITION ARTIST'S STATEMENT 

OCCUPIED LANDSCAPES: EVIDENCE OF DRONES


Occupied Landscapes: Evidence of Drones is an exhibition that poses questions about the mediation of landscape in the age of the drone, the era of persistent surveillance and the epoch of increasingly autonomous systems. The paintings in the exhibition are informed by my long-term interests in landscape, age-old symbols and existential risk posed by emerging technologies. My work is also informed by research into accelerating developments in contemporary militarised technology. This research was undertaken as a part of my Master of Philosophy [M.Phil], completed in 2017 at the University of Queensland.

In my paintings I invite viewers to fly, in imagination, around, above and below airborne drones that lurk in cosmic skies. As we fly, surveillance is returned to the human being as a kind of metaveillance. In other words we not only monitor the drones, we also observe what they are monitoring. This kind of observation reveals how drones, and their support infrastructure, intrude into the landscape in ways that occupy it. This occupation becomes a stealthy techno-colonisation of landscape and environment when enabling signals, ricocheting from land, into the sky and space, are exposed. By making visible the nets of invisible signals that operatively enable militarised and militarise-able technology I expose how new kinds of topologies are mapped onto landscape. However, rather than a surface occupation, it is a volumetric occupation from land into space. Imposed new signal topologies mediate human activity and movement through the signal-enabled inter-connectivity of our personal devices, computers, credit cards, mobile phones, GPS locators and more. Without signals these devices are largely inert.

In extreme cases interconnectivity enables the identification and targeting of people by systems increasingly involved in a conflation of military, security and policing activities. Here, the mediation of human activity and movement is clear. However, the ability to track and monitor general populations is an insidious kind of hostage situation that aides and abets the techno-colonisation. We are all hostages?

In my paintings depicting drones, or indications of their presence, I rarely include human figures, preferring not to attempt to tell the stories of others. However, in many of my paintings I include the age-old transcultural/religious tree-of-life as a symbol of all of humanity and life. The tree is often under threat from drones or it stands as a beacon of hope, Depending on your perspective, and perhaps where you choose to fly in imagination, humanity could be at risk of civilisation collapse and species demise, or it could harbour clues for a rich and vibrant future.


There is a lot more to think about – but, I will leave that up to you now. I hope you find Occupied Landscapes: Evidence of Drones stimulating, and therefore enjoyable. 


Drone Spiral (2) oil on linen 120 x 160 cm 2018



Cheers,
Kathryn

Friday, June 14, 2019

TARGET

Target Gouache on paper 30 x 42 cm 2016



Target


Fellow Brisbane-based artist Pamela See and I have collaborated on an animation [above] of my painting Target [top]. This was a interesting process for me to undertake, and I am grateful to Pamela for her suggestion to animate the work. 

Storytelling
As I reflect on the animation process, and the decisions made about how and what to animate, I am triggered to think about storytelling. As a painting Target contains a multiple of possible stories. It is up to the viewer to imagine what these might be. The painting, in a way, is a provider of clues or stimulants. The animation, however, is a story. This is because duration of time allows for a sequence of events to unfold. In this case a drone hovers around a tree - the tree-of-life. The drone briefly disappears, only to reappear as it spills forth two more drones. This swarm of drones then circles the tree-of-life. Suddenly the tree disappears and the drones fly off. 

How you interpret what the story might mean, is up to you.

And, More Storytelling
An alternative story, however, could be that as a drone hovers around the tree-of-life, branches from the tree reach out and circle [possibly strangle] the drone. As proliferating branches fill the screen the drone disappears. Another alternative story is that rather than the drone multiplying, maybe the tree could multiply as a 'swarm' of trees. These trees could circle the drone, and then the drone disappears. Or, rather than three drones swarming around the tree, hundreds of drones could plague the tree. Or, as the drones circle the tree, the tree's roots could become visible as they spread out, obviously continuing beyond the screen. 

There are lots of possible stories. 

I will leave it to you to imagine your own now. 


This is what I wrote about Target when I painted it in 2016. 
"The armed drone seems to target the tree - my representation of the tree-of-life. Yet, the cosmic landscape indicates, perhaps, that this painting depicts something from another world of time and place. Maybe the tree targets the drone?"



EXHIBITION    My Optic    IN NORWAY
At Arteriet Gallery

Pamela and I will be exhibiting various works in a group exhibition with Svetlana Trefilova, David Harris, and Li Gang at Arteriet, a not-for-profit gallery in Kristiansand, Norway. The gallery has a focus on contemporary art and technology.

The group exhibition My Optic pays homage to the emergence of the artist, as a profession, at the turn of the fifteen century. During the Renaissance art was considered a science due to its exploration of optics.

Exhibition date 4 - 11 July. Further information about the gallery is available at: http://www.arteriet.no/


Drone Shadow Gouache on paper 30 x 42 cm 2016


EXHIBITION IN BRISBANE

26 August - 8 September 
POP Gallery, 381 Brunswick St, Fortitude Valley, Brisbane, Queensland, Australia. 

POP Gallery is one of the Queensland College of Art, Griffith University, galleries. 

I will keep you posted with exact details over the next few weeks.


Cheers,
Kathryn



Friday, May 31, 2019

DRONE - A FLYING AERIAL?

DRONE Gouache on paper 30 x 42 cm 2019


GOOD NEWS

I am having a solo exhibition of new work! 

It will be my first exhibition of new work for four years. And, the first time my dronescapes have been exhibited as a body of work. The exhibition will be in late August into September at POP Gallery, 381 Brunswick St, Fortitude Valley, Brisbane, Queensland, Australia. POP Gallery is one of the Queensland College of Art, Griffith University, galleries. At the moment the exhibition is called New Landscapes In The Drone Age. I will keep you posted with exact details over the next few weeks.



DRONE
In DRONE [above] a weaponised drone appears to hover in front of you. Its guided missiles and Hellfire missiles seem aimed at you. Its wide area surveillance system sends out surveillance signals, scoping, detecting, and perhaps targeting. But, the lines sectioning the sky disrupt this reverie of stealth. Perhaps this is not an image of a drone flying through the air, but rather, an image of a simulated drone graphically depicted on a computer screen. 

The binary code inscribed across the drone's wingspan 'instructs' the word DRONE, and then appears to start a new word DRONE that continues off the right side of the picture. Or, is the 'instruction' DRONED? I will leave you to think about the variety of possible interpretations here! 

Unmanned Aerial Vehicle or Unmanned Flying Aerial?
What I want to focus on is the term or name unmanned aerial vehicle [UAV]. This name for a drone conjures the idea of a plane flying in the air without a pilot on board. And, this is certainly a good description of an airborne drone. But, a drone can also be considered as an airborne aerial. There is no need to be use the word unmanned, because aerials and antennae are normally unmanned. Even satellites that receive and transmit data are unmanned. This idea came to me as I was worked through recent paintings where I expose signals that enable the operation and functioning of militarised technology and dual-use technology, with the possibility of appropriating civilian technology. I was also thinking about my father. Although my father was a grain grower, from the age of 12 he had been an enthusiastic HAM, an amateur radio operator. Dad had a number of aerials dotted around the farm. Various antennae were mounted on each of them. These antennae enabled transmission and reception of messages from around the world. For example, in 1957 when the Russians sent Sputnik 1 into space, my father [aged 20] was one of a number of HAMs from around the world who tracked the spacecraft and sent co-ordinates back to the Jet Propulsion Unit in the US, via an intermediary.  

Thinking of the airborne drone as a flying aerial forced me to think about the drone in a different way. Essentially the drone is a metal-clad flying chassis, its structure designed to enable the transmission and reception of data and instructions from land-based and space-based support infrastructure. Is it a vehicle? Well yes and no. But, is an aerial a vehicle? That's a tricky one, because an aerial is an enabling node for signals to deliver and transport data and instructions. Are signals more of a vehicle than an aerial? Maybe an aerial is more like a warehouse?

Flying Aerial Weapon?
Now to the role of the flying aerial as a carrier of lethal weapons. As a carrier, the drone could be considered a vehicle. But, signals between devices on the flying aerial, and signals sent and received from land-based and space-based assets deliver data and instructions to the drone and its payloads. This includes instructions triggered by remote human operators, as well as internal algorithmic systems, to target and attack. Maybe the airborne militarised drone is a flying aerial weapon, a very sophisticated weapon, an interconnected matrix of sensoring, imaging, orienting, surveilling and targeting capabilities. Signals appear to be pivotal to this kind of weaponry. Where does the human being fit in this matrix? 

I am going to leave my rambling there. But, while I might be off tangent, I think it is important to scrutinise how nomenclature contributes to assumptions and beliefs about contemporary technology, particularly militarised technology. 

I think DRONE looks like a flying aerial weapon!

Cheers,
Kathryn