Tuesday, January 14, 2020

LIFE, AT THE FRONT

Life, At The Front Oil on linen 56 x 112 cm 2020


Against a current backdrop of tension and disaster, such as the catastrophic fires in Australia, dangerous flooding in Indonesia [and even Dubai], and heightened tensions in the Middle East, there is also an overlay of political dissonance. As belief systems and politics are twisted and provoked by social media and fake news, opinion collapses into binaries of good and bad, right and wrong. It feels like LIFE is on the front-line of a battle. This battle seeps into our homes and workplaces via the screen - computer screens, iPads, mobile phones, and other devices. That these devices are networked and interconnected allows the binaries to accumulate at extremes, where complexity is lost. Near light-speed transmission of news, opinion, data, Tweets, comments [and photos of cats] keeps us on a fast moving treadmill, that goes nowhere. It creates a kind of inertia. 

No time for complexity. 

No time. 

With little time to think what happens?
I am reminded of Paul Virilio when he described the screen in Open Sky (1997) as “the square horizon” that causes “confusion of near and far, of inside and outside, disorders of common perception that will gravely affect the way we think”.(1) 

Life, At The Front and the Screen
In Life, At The Front I have tried to channel the impression of a screen. The orienting white lines mimic those that could be seen on a remote drone pilot's computer screen. Or, perhaps it is a computer gamer's screen? As the title suggests a battlespace exists. Is it real or virtual? Does it really matter? It could be both?

Squares of colour mimic pixels. These 'pixels' provoke questions about how contemporary images are generated, the veracity of images, how we are trained to look at images...and more. Please note my use of the word 'generated', rather than 'created', to describe the production of contemporary images that require screen-based platforms for production, exhibition and storage. 

The ubiquity of digital imagery and its generative digital and cyber processes, requires and causes standardisation, thus enabling the efficiency of streamlined globalised consumption. Here, my thoughts are informed by Virilio's commentary on standardisation and synchronicity in his 2012 book The Great Accelerator, where he also writes about a resultant inertia. He remarks that inertia threatens a "paralysis or, rather, the sudden tetraplegia of the societal body”. (2)

TREE-OF-LIFE
A multicoloured burning tree - a tree-of-life - seems to be part of the orienting graphic overlay, but this is unclear. Maybe the tree, on fire, is a warning, just like the catastrophic fires in Australia. It warns, not only of fire, but of other catastrophes caused by not paying attention to science, by not thinking in complex ways, by not being prepared, and not looking into a future beyond a political cycle.........................

A red tree - another tree-of-life - sways in the wind on a distant horizon. Perhaps another warning?

HORIZONS
The landscape beyond the white-lined graphics, tumultuously unfolds into multiple horizons. And, with multiple horizons, there are multiple potential perspectives. Here, I think of horizons and perspective in literal and metaphoric ways. The fake perspective of the white targeting graphics is prosaic by comparison. Virilio again provides a way to critically think about the effects of ubiquitous screen-based technology. He comments, "What is the danger of globalzation? There is no perspective. There is an optical correctness being set up, and there is a generalized tele-surveillance that comes from the military with its drones, etc". (3)

PERSPECTIVE
The question of perspective is one that has preoccupied me for a couple of decades. It is not a new interrogation. In my cosmic landscapes of the past I have invited viewers to fly in their imaginations, to play with perspective, both literal and metaphoric. 

My recent work dealing with militarised and militarise-able technology still invites viewers to 'fly' into cosmic realms. My work still plays with literal and metaphoric perspective, to re-enliven it, to provoke it - as a form of resistance.


1. Paul Virilio, Open Sky, trans. Julie Rose (London and New York: Verso, 1997), 26.
2. Paul Virilio, The Great Accelerator trans. Julie Rose (Cambridge and Malden: Polity Press, 2012),18.
3. Paul Virilio and Sylvere Lotringer, The Accident of Art, trans. Michael Taormina (New York and Las Angeles, Semiottext(e), 2005), 74.


NEWS

I am presenting at the


 Interdisciplinary conference 
University of Sheffield, UK 
7-8 February.

My painting New Horizons is the conference image!
And, it has been printed onto the conference tote bags
I am excited by the fact that as delegates walk around Sheffield, and return home on trains, planes and buses, these tote bags will be spread around the world!




Cheers,
Kathryn




Wednesday, January 01, 2020

ARE WE PREPARED?


January 1, 2020, Are We Prepared? Oil on linen 30 x 35 cm


Fire and Smoke
Catastrophic fires continue to burn in Australia, around the continent.* Exhausted fire services and volunteer fire fighters have valiantly fought these ongoing fires, some fires morphing into fire storms that scorch the earth as they shoot flames upwards into trees where the canopy becomes an elevated fast moving fiery hell. Daylight turns to red and then black, smoke drifts across the Pacific Ocean to New Zealand, and Australia records some of the worst air quality in the world. 

Were we prepared for the cataclysmic nature of this Summer's fire season? When hundreds of homes are destroyed, lives are lost and emergency evacuations of whole townships happen, we have to address the changing nature of the climate, how the landscape is inhabited and current risk mitigation management systems. Clearly extreme fire risk mitigation management has been lacking or, worryingly, not supported. 

The ongoing dire situation with the fires has revealed a dangerous political disconnect between government and expectations from the population. This disconnect will, likely, continue long after the fires have subsided. Any ensuing political instability will add fuel to unrest, protest, disorder and disappointment. Are we prepared for home-grown extremes of potential political and civil turmoil? 

Risk
The extent and ferocity of the fires have been described as unprecedented. Risk management must include attention to potential worst case scenarios - the unprecedented. With this in mind, what does the current cataclysmic fire situation tell us about other potential cataclysmic or unprecedented risks? Clearly environmental risks such as fire, drought and flood should have taught Australians a lot about risk mitigation. Are there other risks that we remain oblivious to, ignore or find too hard to comprehend? I was thinking about this kind of question when I painted January 1, 2020, Are We Prepared?

January 1, 2020, Are We Prepared?
I finished January 1, 2020, Are We prepared? today - January 1, 2020. I have painted it over the last couple of weeks, as the fires burn around Australia. Most people in Australia will likely know someone directly affected by the fires - for example, as the majority of a family member's property burned, the house was saved by a fuel reduction burn [about 2 hectares of a 10 hectare property] undertaken and organised during the previous Winter. The family member commented on the difference between the surface fire conducted during the fuel reduction burn and the ferocity of the fire that swooped though the property a few weeks ago. The Winter burn did not scorch the soil, the Summer out-of-control burn did.

This morning I listened to a Future of Life Institute podcast conversation between Prof Max Tegmark and Prof Huval Noah Harari. I have followed both for quite some time, and read a reasonable amount of their work. The podcast is an hour long, and it was a great way to start the first day of the new decade. Tegmark and Harari discussed - grounding morality and issues of consciousness, global health, animal suffering, existential risks and the ethics of the long-term future, nuclear war as a neglected global risk, near term AI and artificial general intelligence, creating new stories for the 21st century, risks of big data and AI enabled human hacking, and what does it mean to be human and what should we want to want. Early on in the conversation Harari asked a question about whether we are prepared for the future. Ah ha, this consolidated my ideas into a title for my new painting!

In January 1, 2020, Are We prepared? a fiery background is a literal reference to the current  Australian fires, and a metaphorical reference to an urgency to think deeply about other potential future risks. Regular readers will know of my long-term interest in existential risk posed by emerging technologies, and my more focused interest in contemporary and emerging militarised and militarise-able technologies. 

January 1, 2020, Are We prepared?, like Australia: December 2019 [below] also refers to the RAAF's confirmation of an order for SkyGuardian weaponisable drones. As weaponisable drones are acquired or manufactured by an increasing number of countries, are we prepared for the kind of war the future 'promises'?

Pixels, Parody and Perspective
In January 1, 2020, Are We prepared? the airborne weaponised drone is painted in small colourful squares that mimic pixels. The colours of the pixels a lolly-like - unreal, but seductive. They contrast with the fiery colours in the background, demonstrating the drone's distance from reality. Is the figure of the drone idealised? If so, what are the risks of idealisation, digital idealisation? The painting also parodies a computer generated image of a drone on a screen, perhaps a remote pilot's screen. It also references the digital imaging technology embedded in a drone's surveillance and targeting systems. Perhaps the fiery background is a war zone, either real or simulated? 

In January 1, 2020, Are We prepared?, are you, the viewer, looking down upon the drone and a fiery landscape below, or are you below the drone looking up at a hellish sky? As you fly, in imagination, around, below and above the drone 'imaginational metaveillance' returns veillance, as a kind of play with perspective, to the human. What kinds of unprecedented risks are revealed when perspective and imagination mingle? Are we prepared to not only to address these risks, but also to look for them?


Australia: December 2019 Oil on linen 23 x 62 cm 2019


* I have not included any links to the fire situation. There are many, and easy to find if you Google.

Kathryn

Sunday, December 22, 2019

GOD?


GOD? Oil on on linen 41 x 51 cm 2019



No answers
Only questions

Colourful zeros and ones
'Instruct'
The word
GOD


This painting depicts an algorithmic representation of the word GOD  
01000111 01001111 01000100. The painting also depicts an ambiguous landscape with diagonal lines that cut through it.

So, is the binary code - the string of colourfully painted zeros and ones - a representation of GOD? Note the question mark in the title of the painting. But, there is no question mark, or instructed binary code question mark - 00111111 - depicted in the painting. Is this GOD a proxy?
  
Here are a few more questions! Is the painting a representation of GOD in a landscape or GOD as landscape? Is it a real landscape or a computer generated landscape? Perhaps the diagonal lines convey orienting graphics on a computer screen, maybe the screen of a remote militarised drone pilot? Maybe it is a computer game? Is there a target?

What does the binary code 'instructing' the word GOD mean? I don't have an answer - there was a lot going on in my head when I painted it! However, this question can, perhaps, be addressed with other questions, such as  - where, what and how is GOD in the age of the algorithm, the era of the drone, and the epoch of ubiquitous surveillance and increasingly autonomous systems? 

Regular readers will know where these questions come from.

A recent post HUMAN or Algorithm has more of my paintings depicting colourfully painted strings of binary code that playfully, but critically, 'instruct'.

I'll leave it to you now.


-------------------------------------------------

NEWS
Check out the Aesthetics of Drone Warfare project, University of Sheffield, UK
And, particularly check out the project's forthcoming conference, February 2020.
I am speaking.
And, you will notice that my painting New Horizons is the conference image!



Cheers
Kathryn
www.kathrynbrimblecombe-fox.com



Tuesday, December 10, 2019

AUSTRALIA: DECEMBER 2019 - FIRE AND DRONES

Australia: December 2019 Oil on linen 23 x 62 cm 2019


In Australia, as 2019 closes:

Fires rage across a dry country. 

The RAAF's MQ-B9 SkyGuardian weaponisable drones have been ordered. 

...................................................................

Fire changes and disrupts landscape, environment and lives.

The airborne militarised drone, a paragon of 21st century techno-power, changes war, and therefore, life.

......................................................................


I had a lot of thoughts rumbling in my head when I painted Australia, December 2019. But, predominantly I was reacting to current news events, the type of events that can define the future. 

Do we let these events define the future - are we letting them, define the future?

.....................................................................

Australia, December 2019

Flames

Hot

Dry

Landscape

War

Future

Landscape, war and the future.
Landscape, real and virtual.
War, networked and everywhere.
Future?

Flames

Politics

........................................................................


Update January 1, 2020
Another fire and drone painting is discussed at
ARE WE PREPARED?  January 1, 2020


And, some paintings from 2017.


Hot Gouache on paper 56 x 76 cm 2017


Fire and Flood, Extremus Gouache on paper 56 x 76 cm 2017


Anthropocene Gouache on paper 56 x 76 cm 2017



And, the Aesthetics of Drone Warfare project's conference is in February. Here, is there promotional flyer for the conference, with my painting New Horizons as the central image. 



Cheers, 
Kathryn

Wednesday, December 04, 2019

THE WIND ASKS, WHICH DIRECTION?

The Wind Asks, Which Direction? Oil on linen 81 x 102 cm 2019


This new painting The Wind Asks, Which Direction? is connected to another painting called Beware, Whispers the Wind [below]. 

In both paintings I am interested in how virtual landscapes and/or landscapes with superimposed screen-based computer graphics mediate our relationship with, and understanding of, environment. In The Wind Asks, Which Direction? red and white lines mimic computer graphics overlaid onto a landscape which could be real or not real? Is this an image from a computer game, or maybe an image on a remote drone pilot's computer screen? A compass exposes a tension between the real and not real, its four cardinal points are all 'N'. But does this 'N' mean 'north', or does it mean 'no direction', 'nowhere', 'nihilism', 'nothingness'? The compass has no dial.

Tree-of-life
Red trees-of-life, positioned in the background landscape, sway in the wind. However, one sways one way and the other sways in the opposite direction. Does this mean there is turbulence out in the landscapes of reality, the wind agitating for our attention? Does it indicate that when the wind blows in one place, it can blow another way in a different place - like in real life? Maybe the trees attempt to restore reality by demonstrating that the wind still exists? But, could these trees be sending a warning, that direction is lost in a world where the fake compass, a metaphor for the 21st century, has wielded its influence? The red trees-of-life differ from the white trees 'planted' on the red line graphic. The white trees are the same colour as the compass. The trees are as fake as the fake compass. What are we witnessing?

Pixels
The tension between reality and the virtual is also indicated by the small squares of colour that appear to form parts of the landscape. These squares mimic pixels. Are they indicators that the background landscape is a computer generated image? Or, do they indicate that this landscape pretends to be virtual, as a subterfuge - a strategic measure of exposure. Or, do they warn us that pixels are indicators of images formulated and generated for humans by machines - after all, machine learning and AI tools do not really need a generated image to scope for data?  

Resistance
As a painting The Wind Asks, Which Direction? act as a resistance. It does so by not relying on digital and cyber platforms for creation, exhibition and storage. Although not reliant on these platforms painting can still critique - and - from a distance, where there is room for perspective.

The Wind Asks, Which Direction? and Beware, Whispers the Wind are examples of my attempts to visually think through how militarised and militarise-able systems, platforms and devices occupy,  mediate and militarise landscape and extended environment. 

My Painting I Painted The Wind [bottom] was painted in 2001.

Cheers,
Kathryn

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



I Painted the Wind Oil on linen 80 x 120 cm 2001

Sunday, November 24, 2019

GHOST LANDSCAPES


Ghost Landscapes Oil on linen Oil on linen 23 x 40 cm 2019


Ghost Landscapes was triggered by thinking about digital images of landscape - recorded images of real landscapes and computer generated virtual landscapes. Given that landscape is the foundation of our lived real-world environment, does the presentation of landscape on a screen mediate our experience of our real-world environment? For example, I am thinking about GPS assisted graphics on screens, such as embedded screens in a car, or a mobile phone. Being told where to go using screen-based guidance systems [often augmented with audible instructions] reduces the need to fully orient oneself within the environment. By this I mean, looking out a car window or looking up from a phone to identify topographical or built environment cues to assist in getting from one place to another. 

Ghost Landscapes was also inspired by thinking about the increasing habit of using screen-based technology to 'entertain' ourselves while travelling as a passenger. If not 'entertaining' ourselves, we continue to work - email, write or examine reports etc. These diversions also reduce real-world interactions with landscape. Simply looking out the window, except momentarily, is a rarity. 

Ghost Landscapes was also inspired by thinking about targeting and surveillance imaging technology, for example, used on an airborne militarised drone. Viewed through targeting and surveillance devices landscape is preemptively positioned as a site of potential mal-intent, misdemeanor, battle, death-in-waiting and/or necro-site. Overlays of computer graphics, such as orienting and targeting graphics, change landscape with occupying intentions and forces most of us are unaware of. 

So, why give this new painting the title Ghost Landscapes? If landscape is occupied, but this goes unnoticed by over-entertained or over-worked people, does this represent a death of landscape? If screen-based representations of landscape become proxy environments, what happens to considerations of real-world landscape as a foundation for environment? Does increasingly persistent surveillance render real-world landscape a place of hostage? If surveillance leads to targeting to sell or targeting to kill, how can landscape provide places of refuge and safety? 

Landscape is falling away from us...........................................

And, as we fall too, there is more to say ..................................

Maybe the ghosts will catch us?



Cheers,
Kathryn

******************************






Thursday, November 14, 2019

HUMAN OR ALGORITHM?

HUMAN and a Tree Oil on linen 25 x 20 cm 2019 


NEWS:

HUMAN OR ALGORITHM?

Related previous post is PAINTED ALGORITHMS

As regular readers know I often incorporate strings of colourful binary code into my paintings. I see this as a playfully subversive way to comment on our increasing reliance on digital and cyber systems. I see it as a way to draw attention to data gathering and capture activities that enable the formation of what I call proxy identities. That data assists in targeting activities undertaken by advertisers, governments and social media companies is a concern. Of greater concern is targeting for attack by state and non-state militarised organisations. I am reminded of something Jean Baudrillard wrote when he described a digitally coded destiny where it will be “possible to measure everything by the same extremely reductive yardstick: the binary, the alternation between 0 and 1". (1) And, this recent article "The Captured City The “smart city” makes infrastructure and surveillance indistinguishable" by Jathan Sadowski, highlights concerns about data capture and how data is used. 

HUMAN - Human
Over the years I have created a few paintings that include the word HUMAN or Human 'instructed' in binary code. Lots of ideas have gone, and still go, through my mind when I paint these images. My latest painting is HUMAN and a Tree (above). The 'human' is the string of red zeros and ones, 'instructing' HUMAN. Is this a sign of a human being targeted by software that allows autonomous identification and potential action? Is the code a representation of human species demise, its remnant data-remains stored in 'surviving' digital systems? 

A human body when it dies returns to the Earth, either in burial or as ash. What happens to our digital data after we die? In HUMAN and a Tree I have also included a tree. As regular readers know, this is my interpretation of the age-old transcultural/religious tree-of-life. The tree in this painting is also red, blood red. It draws attention to the mimicry and subterfuge of the instructed HUMAN code. The tree stands as a beacon on the distant horizon. What kind of warning is it sending?

TREE-OF-LIFE
The tree-of-life is also an important element in HUMAN [below]. This painting parodies a computer screen, perhaps a remote drone pilot's screen, a gun or camera scope. The computer graphic-like lines and markings clearly indicate that a targeting exercise is under way. The binary code at the bottom of the painting 'instructs' HUMAN. While the painting may portray individual human figures, the larger question is - is humanity under siege? 

Unusually for me I have depicted human figures. They are under immanent attack, the cross hairs just need to lock-on. However, the tree-of-life shadows provide some kind of hope. They indicate, to me, that the targeting systems cannot detect or identify everything that constitutes a human being - imagination, love, desire and more. This painting has three types of human identification - the figures, the trees-of-life and the binary code. Which one/s is/are real? You can read more about this painting HERE on a previous post.  


HUMAN Oil on linen 30 x 35 cm 2019


TWO HUMANS IN AMBIGUOUS LANDSCAPES
Two Humans (below) is a 'landscape' with two 'humans' forming unusual topographies in the landscape. The strings of binary code 'instructing' the word 'Human' attempt to occupy the landscape, albeit an ambiguous one. This painting sold recently to someone who totally 'got' it. I get so very excited when people 'get' the parody, the visual puns, the subversive intent!

Both Two Humans and Two Humans: Uploaded [below Two Humans] playfully critique ideas about posthuman uploading of - well - posthuman entities. Things like uploading human minds or memories, so a person can 'exist' forever. Both paintings critique ideas of data identification, data proxy, life in the algorithmic 21st century and discussions about posthuman futures.  

You can read more about the inspiration for these two paintings on a previous post HERE.



Two Humans Gouache on paper 30 x 42 cm 2015


Two Humans: Uploaded Gouache on paper 24 x 32 cm 2015


AND, NOW TO MY POSTHUMANS!
In both these paintings binary code 'instructs' 'Human'. This code forms part of the posthumans' 'bodies', and in the case of My Future Posthuman [below] it also forms the posthuman's 'head' in the shape of a question mark.

I had so much fun with my posthuman series, painted a few years ago now.


My Future Posthuman Gouache and watercolour on paper 42 x 30 cm 2016


 Is this a Posthuman?  Gouache and watercolour on paper 42 x 30 cm 2016


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


Cheers,
Kathryn
Podcast interview with lead researcher of the Aesthetics of Drone Warfare project, University of Sheffield, UK

Wednesday, October 30, 2019

GAMED LANDSCAPE


Gamed Landscape Oil on linen 23 x 62 cm 2019


REORIENTATION OF LANDSCAPE
I was thinking about  my last post Stealthy Techno-Colonising Forces and my claim that invisible signals occupy landscape and environment in a manner that colonises it. While visualising normally invisible signals is one of my aims, so is examining how screen-based graphics reorient notions of landscape. That some screen-based graphics are informed and generated by data delivered by signals cannot be ignored. For example, data and imagery received from an airborne drone is managed by a remote pilot via a screen, or a number of screens. The image on the screen is overlaid with lines, circles, numbers and letters indicating orientation, targeting, speed, direction, scale and more.

Does a reliance on screen-based delivery of information, images, data, communications etc, change our perception and experience of landscape and environment? Do computer games change or mediate how we think about landscape? Does a GPS in a car or on a phone mediate our experience of landscape? Regarding the latter, there are, for example, odd stories about people driving off the end of jetties because they have relied on GPS directions that were wrong. What happened to looking out the window, identifying landmarks, critically thinking about a terrain? Here, I am reminded of cultural theorist Paul Virilio's suggestion that an outcome of screen-based technologies is "sightless vision" the "production of intense blindness that will become the latest and last form of industrialisation: the industrialisation of the non-gaze". (1)

GAMED LANDSCAPE
This brings me to my new painting Gamed Landscape. I have painted a landscape overlaid with the new topographies of the industrialised image. This painting is inspired by a few things, and regular readers will recognise that it is reminiscent of some other recent paintings, for example Lethal Landscape: False Horizons, HUMAN and Mission Capable Landscape . However, recent investigations of computer games stimulated by watching Harun Farocki's Parallel I - IV * got me thinking about gaming. And, perversely, a new film called  Hustlers  got me thinking about being gamed. Farocki's film is a short history of how computer generated imagery for computer games has developed since the 1980s. It demonstrates how CGI manipulates landscape and how figures move through strangely real, but unreal, environments. Hustlers is the story of strippers who, during the GFC, devised a way to 'game' - by flattering, flirting with and drugging -  rich men into spending massive amounts of money. 

Just as targeting graphics impose a lethality and a status of mission capability onto landscape, orienting graphics, whether imposed on a real or computer gnerated landscape, gamble and play games. That the history of computer games is entwined with military training techniques cannot be ignored. Here, Virilio's "industrialisation of the non-gaze", reaches out into every pixel, amalgamated with others, to produce an image. The industrialised non-gaze is, perhaps, exemplified in the notion of machine vision or drone vision, the production and surveillance of pixel data. Human beings are the consumers of this data - consumed via the screen. Is this the ultimate hustle of industrialised "sightless vision"?

In Gamed Landscape, red and white lines mimic computer graphics. Along with these lines, an orienting compass, creates a net-like shroud across the landscape. This is a form of occupation. That compass-like graphics are often visible in computer games is an intriguing thing. On the flat surface of the screen, the compass is, for me, the exemplar of a subterfuge, the pretense of dimension. The pretend virtual compass is the clue to the game - of being gamed. 

Have you noticed how many people have no idea of where north, south, east and west are - in the real environment? 

_________________________________________________________________


* Thursday 14 November, at the IMA, Brisbane, I am on a panel "Landscape and Computer Generated Imagery" with Baden Pailthorpe. The panel discussion will be facilitated by curator, Kyle Weise. A screening of Harun Farocki's Parallel I - IV will follow the discussion. More details are available HERE


1. Paul Virilio, The Vision Machine (London and Bloomington: British Film Institute, 1994), 73.

Cheers,
Kathryn


* Please contact me through the 'contact form', upper right of blog, for any inquiries about this or other paintings.