Thursday, May 23, 2019

FIVE EYES AND THE REST

Five Eyes and the Rest Gouache on paper 56 x 76 cm


The Five Eyes is an intelligence alliance of five countries - Australia, USA, UK, Canada and New Zealand. Its formation stems from a post World War 2 "multilateral agreement for co-operation in signals intelligence (SIGINT), known as the UKUSA Agreement" signed in March 1946. Initially the agreement included the UK and the USA. Canada joined in 1948, and Australia and New Zealand in 1956. You can read more about its history HERE *

I am interested in the use of the word 'eyes', which in the post-war period meant that intelligence gathered by the five countries was for their 'eyes' only. One can assume that this meant human eyes. 

21St Century 'Vision'
In the 21st century, an age of accelerating developments in digital and cyber technology, networking and inter-connectivity, 'eyes' and 'vision' have taken on different kinds of meaning. Both have been assigned to the machine eg: the unmanned aerial vehicle or airborne militarised drone, satellites, machine learning/vision. The unmanned drone, for example, is often referred to as an 'eye in the sky'. Imaging technology used for surveillance and targeting is referred to as 'machine vision', 'drone vision'. Additionally, as autonomous systems, employing artificial intelligence and machine learning are increasingly employed, scrutiny of data and images for anomalies and patterns is no longer entirely the domain of the human being. That self learning systems can potentially also make 'decisions' based on algorithmic scrutiny begs the questions, where does the human being fit as a critical observer? 

The 21st century concept of vision, is increasingly one of detection, scoping and targeting. This is a concern, because human vision is not only seeing with eyeball and pupil, it is also daydreaming, using imagination, dreaming, and visionary thinking. Plus, we can detect, scope and target too! Jean Baudrillard's observation that "the real vanishes into the concept" helps us think about the implications of endowing machines with capacities of 'vision'. (1) Are we orchestrating our own disappearance? Are we being expelled, as Baudrillard implies, from an artificial world? 


Five Eyes and the Rest

In Five Eyes and the Rest I have used a cosmic perspective. From this perspective can you see any anomalies or patterns that might raise questions about increasingly persistent and pervasive machinic surveillance? Who or what is looking at who or what? 

With your eyes what do you see? I see 'eyes' everywhere! 


Cheers,

Kathryn

* Information about Canada's plans can be found HERE, New Zealand's HERE

Information about the UK's Reaper Drones can be found HERE
I have previously written about Australia's use of drones and future plans Pay Attention: The Drones Are Here
And, the USA's development and use of surveillance and weaponised drones is common knowledge

1. Jean Baudrillard, Why Hasn't Everything Already Disappeared?, trans, Chris Turner ( Seagull Books, London, New York, Calcutta, 2016), 12.


Thursday, May 16, 2019

CHARTING THE INVISIBLE

Charting the Invisible Gouache on paper 30 x 42 cm 2019


Charting the Invisible is another of my paintings that 'exposes' how signals operatively enable contemporary technologies to function in a networked and inter-connected manner. Without connectivity, many devices would be useless or near useless. By 'charting' the normally invisible connectivity and inter-connectivity of the modern technological world this painting can be understood as a kind of counter-map. Here, I focus on the 'map' as a subversive exposure and demonstration of the connection between militarised and civilian technologies. When you consider that security and policing activities are increasingly blurred with military activities, the militarise-ability of civilian technologies is an issue. Does this make everything dual-use? Additionally, while security, policing and military activities are generally considered necessary by many, malign entities using networked and inter-connected systems are more than unwanted interlopers. 

NODES AND DEVICES
Like my last painting and post Martial Map I have painted lines that join nodes and devices. These lines represent signal connections. For example, a ground control station is linked to an airborne weaponised drone. This control station is also linked to a communication satellite, which is also linked to the drone. The drone is linked to a mobile phone, also linked to the GPS and communication satellite. The phone is linked, then, to a car, and a computer. Some nodes and devices send signals beyond the edges of the painting, to indicate connection to other devices and nodes. And, there are more connections between all the devices, and some connections are still invisible!

TECHNO-COLONISATION
While the painting can be read as some kind of map, the cosmic landscape background positions the viewer in an ambiguous perspective. Is the viewer above or below, in front or behind, the net of signals? If they are below, the sky is netted, if they are above the planet is netted. If they are in front or behind the nets act as walls. Here, the netted appearance is important to me, as I 'see' this signal-net as an imposition on landscape, an occupier of space and a sign of a new kind of colonistion, a techno colonisation that holds us all hostage. Given the militarise-ability of civilian technology, in addition to designated militarised technology, does this colonisation come with a persistent readiness for defensive and offensive actions? If so, are we in a constant state of war preparedness, where the near light-speed delivery of data and instructions via signals expunges time for peace?  

On that 'happy' note.

Cheers,
Kathryn


Monday, May 06, 2019

MARTIAL MAP

Martial Map Gouache on paper 30 x 42 cm


I have returned from overseas. In Toronto I presented on a round-table, themed to war preparedness, at the International Studies Association annual conference. I then had meetings in London and Berlin. 

EXHIBITIONS
And, I saw a lot of art, from the Rembrandt exhibition at the Rijks Museum in Amsterdam, to Is This Tomorrow at the Whitechapel Gallery in London, to Hito Steyerl's Power Plants exhibition at the Serpentine Gallery, London. Two exhibitions at the KW Institute in Berlin still occupy my thoughts. The exhibitions showed works by David Wojnarowicz and Reza Abdoh. Both artists brutally, honestly and sensorially reflected upon the AIDS crisis of the 1980s/early 1990s. I saw a number of exhibitions in Berlin, including Cian Dayrit's thought provoking counter mapping/cartography exhibition Beyond the Gods Eye at Nome Gallery. And, at C/O Gallery I saw two provocative photographic exhibitions - Double Take by duo Cortis and Sonderegger, and Before Sleeping/ After Drinking, a survey show of work by Boris Mikhailov. Matthew Day Jackson's exhibition Pathetic Fallacy at Hauser and Wirth, Somerset was a highlight. This quote from the gallery site gives you an idea about Day Jackson's motivation in this exhibition, "The overarching conceit is an interest in our compulsion to document, map and systemise our natural world as a method for understanding nature." Day Jackson's exhibition and Dayrit's exhibition were both highlights.

COUNTER MAPPING?
Since returning home the idea of counter cartography or mapping has occupied my thoughts. Are my paintings, where I expose signals that enable drone operations, a kind of counter mapping? In many of my paintings I paint proliferating nets of signals as imposed topographies that occupy landscape, from land into space. This volumetric occupation, I 'see', as a techno-colonisation of landscape and environment, facilitating an insidious control and manipulation of human behaviour and movement. I call my paintings 'new landscapes in the drone age'.

By exposing the nets of signals that enable militarised and militarise-able technologies I manifest a kind of map. These paintings expose the invisible, thus resisting techno-military forces by drawing attention to the insidiousness of inter-connectivity and networking. Additionally, the medium of painting enables the exposure of signals without relying on contemporary technologies that utilise connectivity, networking, for example, cloud storage, downloaded software - the internet. While I might upload images, the process of creation remains discrete. 

Martial Map 
The idea for Martial Map was inspired by reflecting upon IR scholar Antoine Bousquet's book Eye of War: Military Perception from the Telescope to the Drone. In this book Bousquet provides a compelling historical perspective on what he calls the development of the "martial gaze", the human eye's conscription into surveillance, targeting and destruction. But, the human eye cannot see signals. Yet, once Heinrich Hertz first transmitted and received radio waves in 1886, radio communication opened the door to modern day connectivity and networking, the enabling signal forces of contemporary militarised and militarise-able technologies. 

The word 'martial' describes something that is related to or suitable for war, related to military life or inclined to war. Martial Map shows how various nodes can be linked, and inter-linked. I have painted various nodes; GPS and communication satellites, credit cards with chips, a cruise liner, home security technology, a digital tv, a drone's ground control station, human beings holding a mobile phone, a car, 'cloud' storage in the form of a huge building, a fitbit, a street surveillance camera, airport security apparatus, a relay aerial and three weaponised airborne drones. The painting suggests how civilian technologies can be conscripted into the militarised network. Dual-use is clearly  a highly problematic and diffused concept in the contemporary world. 

Cheers,
Kathryn





Saturday, April 20, 2019

AI: POSING QUESTIONS?

At the Barbican


Last week I attended an event at the Barbican, London. The event was “Collisions” a virtual reality production by Lynette Wallworth. “Collisions” takes the immersed viewer into the traditional lands of Australian indigenous elder Nyarri Nyarri Morgan. Without didacticism or preaching, but with great story telling, Wallworth provides insight into Britain’s nuclear testing in Australia. “Collisions” is ‘part of “Life Rewired”, a season at the Barbican exploring what it means to be human when technology is changing everything’. “Collisions” ends 20 April.

AI

While I was at the Barbican I saw promotion (image above) for a forthcoming program, also part of the ‘Life Rewired’ season. This program is called “AI: more than human”. I wish I was going to still be London for this.

The title “AI: more than human” got me thinking. Without a question mark it presents as an assumption, that artificial intelligence is ‘more than human’, the word ‘more’ indicating abundance, betterment, enhancement. But, what is enhanced or bettered, in abundance? Does it mean the good, the bad, or the good and bad? While I am sure serious questions will be raised by the artists, scientists and researchers involved in the program, I wondered if a simple question mark at the end of the title might have been more speculatively interesting.

Another immediate thought I had, was, why not “AI: other than human”? And, with a question mark, “AI: other than human?”, the speculative possibilities are further opened up.

Then, I got to thinking about a whole range of phrases, with and without question marks, that prompt speculation about AI. I have written some alternative phrases about AI, in the mind-map image below. The question marks in brackets indicate that one could be applied or not. While a question mark subtly changes a phrase, I suggest it prompts further perspectives. I propose that these phrases or questions, highlight the assumptive limitations of  “AI: more than human".




The second mind-map image (below), expresses thoughts that are informed by my research into contemporary militarised and militarise-able technologies. The fact that machine learning and artificial intelligence are already incorporated into aspects of modern surveillance, targeting and weapon capabilities raises questions about the role assumption plays in how we might accept, or not, accelerating developments in, and uses for, artificial intelligence. With this perspective, language that presents assumption is a significant risk. By presenting as a fair accompli, an assumption can blind us to alternative ways of thinking and acting.






In the third mind_map (below) the A and I are returned to full words: ‘artificial’ and ‘intelligence’. This enables a game of word separation and alternative word coupling. Thus, further questions that disarm assumption are posed.





I think we have to be careful with the way we use language to describe contemporary technological capabilities, such as artificial intelligence. Many terms anthropomorphise technology, and in doing so we are drawn into a relationship that may not allow the critical space we need to identify and critique assumption.

I'll leave it up to you now.

Cheers,
Kathryn
















Sunday, March 24, 2019

BEWARE, WHISPERS THE WIND

Beware, Whispers The Wind oil on linen 61 x 97 cm 



Beware, Whispers The Wind 
An armed Reaper drone creates a false horizon across a landscape. The drone's wings slice through the air. Its wide area surveillance system hangs like a bulbous probe below the aircraft's chassis. Four Hellfire missiles and two guided missiles are poised ready for release. 

Orienting graphics impose a virtual map under the drone. This map penetrates the landscape, its virtual presence indicating that it can operate anywhere, everywhere. From screen to screen, its data driven operation isolates kill zones as the drone's sensors harvest more data to facilitate full spectrum dominance.

The drone's sensors are invisibly connected by signals to enabling devices on land and in space. Operational signals instruct the harvesting of data from other networked devices; domestic, civilian and military. An invisible cartography of signals nets planet Earth with instructional codes operating outside human dimensions of space and time.  

With Beware, Whispers The Wind I wanted to play with the tension between reality and virtuality. The white drone and white lines mimic the appearance of computer graphics. Is the painting an image of a computer screen? Or, is the tumultuous and colourful landscape real?  The viewer could be facing the drone, on a screen, from another aircraft or maybe you are a bird? The viewer could also be looking down upon a drone that soars upwards, the orienting graphics creating a virtual abyss. Maybe the drone is coming into land, somewhere on a screen, on a tarmac or on our collective subconscious?

But, on a distant horizon the red tree-of-life stands as a beacon. As it leans to one side it shows us the presence of the wind. Does the wind exist in a virtual world? Is the tree-of-life and the wind sending us a message? 

What do you think?


                                                 NEWS

I am on a roundtable at the International Studies Association annual conference in Toronto. The roundtable will be discussing "Researching War Preparedness: Challenges, theories and inter/disciplinary possibilities". Wednesday 27th 8.15-10 am.

I am thrilled to be talking about my paintings where I suggest that signals represent a techno-colonisation of landscape from land, to sky, and into space! That these signals enable networking and interconnection  across civilian and military systems poses the question - are we in a perpetual state of war preparedness/readiness, for offensive and defensive activities? 

DETAILS 
Researching War Preparedness: Challenges, theories and inter/disciplinary possibilities

Participants:
  • Chair: Mark J. Lacy (Lancaster University)
  • Discussant: Maria Stern (University of Gothenburg)
  • Discussant: Mark J. Lacy (Lancaster University)
  • Participant: Christine Agius (Swinburne University)
  • Participant: Helen Dexter (The University of Leicester)
  • Participant: Kathryn Brimblecombe-Fox  (University of Queensland)
  • Participant: Victoria M Basham (Cardiff University )
  • Participant: Hannah-Marie Chidwick (University of Bristol)
  • Participant: Sara Matthews [Wilfrid Laurier] 
Abstract: 
This roundtable examines the possibilities and (interdisciplinary) prospects for advancing knowledge on war preparedness. In international relations and security studies, an overwhelming focus is on conflict and warfare, and while work on conflict prevention has a strong presence, war preparedness if often overlooked or only briefly addressed. War preparedness has been confined to military strategizing and predictive schemas and historicised too, with dominant associations focused on Cold War nuclear planning or civil defence during the Second World War. Preparing for war, however, is not solely an activity or ethos that is authored by state militaries. It requires the inculcation of citizens, public and private spaces and technologies, and is an ever-present part of everyday practices, images, discourses, and ideologies. Understanding war preparedness is vital for grasping how we theorise war and violence over time and space. Importantly, identifying how war preparedness is operationalised and rationalised requires critical engagement with dominant ideologies and material developments. This roundtable will explore the possibilities for theorising war preparedness and how interdisciplinary approaches may inform new approaches to understanding war preparedness and what this can also mean for peace.



Cheers,
Kathryn

Sunday, March 10, 2019

PAY ATTENTION: THE DRONES ARE HERE

 Pay Attention: The Drones Are Here Gouache on paper 30 x 42 cm 2019


AUSTRALIA AND DRONES
Australia is playing an increasingly active part in the development and procurement of airborne drones for military and associated purposes. Airborne drones are used for intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance [ISR] purposes, with certain types of drones also capable of carrying weapon payloads.

Examples are::

Reaper Drones are on order. These are weaponisable. You can read about Australia's purchase HERE in an Australian Financial Review article , and HERE is a Defense News: Asia Pacific article.

Triton surveillance drones are also on order. You can read about this news on the Australian Airforce website HERE

And, another drone will be manufactured here in Australia in partnership with Boeing. Currently called the "Wingman Project" you can read about it on the ABC News site HERE. And, an announcement on the current Defence Minister, Christopher Pyne's website HERE. And, on Boeing's website HERE

Australian defence forces have used surveillance drones for some time. For example the Scan Eagle drone has been used in Iraq and Afghanistan. You can read a 2007 article about the Scan Eagle drone HERE at Defence News. You can also read about a Scan Eagle drone now in the Australian War Memorial's collection HERE


 Not Waiting For The Future Gouache on paper 56 x 76 cm 2018


QUESTIONS
As Australia becomes more involved in militarised drone operations, procurement and developments, questions that are already being debated globally need to be debated here too. For example, questions about remote operations - surveillance, targeting and killing. The use of unmanned aircraft with sophisticated ISR capabilities, and possible weapon payloads, raises questions about asymmetric warfare. Increasingly autonomous systems employing machine learning and AI raise questions, for example, about human-in-the-loop decision making and the ethics of machine killing. The contemporary 'warfighter' could be a human being, but also an [semi] autonomous  machine. 

The appropriation of technological infrastructure and systems for surveillance and targeting purposes raises questions about the neutrality, or not, of contemporary interconnected technologies. What part does interconnected technology play in preemptive activities? The increasingly blurred lines between military, security and policing activities raise questions about the nature of  contemporary warfare, and its battle fields and spaces. The accelerating nature of technological development stimulates questions about the future of war, and the future of humanity. Are we in a new arms race? Questions about the role of science and technology come to mind. As do questions about legal and ethical frameworks that can be applied to accelerating developments. The speed of technological operation raises further questions that feed into debates about asymmetric war, human involvement, networked systems, social vulnerability, geopolitics, and more...and more.

Since 2015 I have been thinking about these types of questions. I have also undertaken formal research, completing an M. Phil [University of Queensland] that included research into contemporary militarised technology, particularly airborne drones.  

FIVE PAINTINGS
In this post I have included five paintings that reflect upon Australia and airborne drones. 

Pay Attention: The Drones Are Here [top] is my newest painting. An armed drone is pointed towards an upside-down Australia. Is the drone a new arrival, soon to join its Australian fleet? Maybe it is an Australian drone, maybe not. Australia is upside down on purpose, actually a few purposes! The small squares give the impression of pixels. Is the image a simulation? Are you another drone gazing down upon the scene? Is the painting a screen shot? Or, are you a human engaging your imagination in a way that turns human surveillance back onto the drone? Regular readers will recognise the cosmic perspective I love to use here - like in the other four paintings too. Lots of interesting questions and scenarios!

I'll leave you to ponder now. 

Cheers, Kathryn

 Aeropolitics Imagined Gouache on paper 30 x 42 cm 2016


 What If? Gouache on paper 30 x 42 cm 2016


Hot Spots Gouache on paper 30 x 42 cm 2016

Wednesday, February 27, 2019

CATASTROPHE OF CIVILISATION

Catastrophe of Civilisation oil on linen 61 x 61 cm 2019


War, Art and Visual Culture
I have just returned from Sydney here I attended and presented at the War, Art and Visual Culture symposium.  It was a stimulating symposium with attendees and presenters from around the world. It was a honour to have had my presentation proposal Art and Resistance: New Landscapes in the Drone Age accepted. And, I am very happy with how it was received.

Catastrophe of Civilisation
Imagine you are a space traveler from another solar system or even galaxy. You pass by Earth, what do you see? What vibes do you get from what you see? Is there hope or no hope for this planet and its occupants?

Here are two possibilities, one hopeful, the other not so much. You may think of a few other possibilities.

Possibility one: Yes, you see fire, flood, drought, mass exodus, coral bleaching, pollution, warfare, surveillance. These all indicate perils for the planet and those that live there, human and non-human. They also indicate ongoing and accelerating activities that have exacerbated the erosion of habitat and civilisation. 

But, you also see red trees-of-life seemingly forming a tunnel, a passage that leads to the white circle. Is this a passage to salvation, to a cleaner, friendlier outcome for this planet? Maybe? Like the filtering follicles, or cilia, that line a respiratory system do the trees-of-life promise some kind  of filtering, cleansing process, a second chance? Maybe?  

Possibility two: Yes, you see all the catastrophic events and happenings described above. But, while the trees can still be trees-of-life, do they offer hope? Or, are they witnesses to the demise of civilisation on this planet Earth, as it heads towards the white light, the passover, death? If you believe in some kind of life after death, then this may not be so catastrophic? The alternative is, however, very confronting. The existential threat posed by the collapse of civilisation and planetary habitability, is clear.

As a space traveler, you make a note to yourself to pass by planet Earth in one hundred Earth years, to see how things are going. 


On that note....
Cheers,
Kathryn

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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.

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