Friday, June 26, 2015



Entrance Entrance Mixed media on paper 30 x 42 cm 2015
Entrance is a fantastic word. It holds meanings that play with nuance. One meaning for entrance is that of a literal entry, like a gate, an opening, a foyer...something that allows or guides arrival at a place. One can also sit entrance exams that upon successfully completing allow entry into an educational institution. There is also making an entrance. For example, a flamboyant person, upon arrival at an event can make an entrance by drawing attention to themselves with their behaviour, style, clothing. They distinguish themselves from others who arrive without notice or attention. And, another meaning of entrance is to en-trance...captivate, beguile, enthral, mesmerise.
A flamboyant person, arriving at the entrance of a mansion where a party to celebrate a friend's successful completion of university entrance exams, could make an entrance that was so delightful and captivating that people might be entranced!
Where AM I going with this?
When I was painting Entrance Entrance [above] I was thinking about space travel. Yep, space travel! I was thinking about people who are planning to go to Mars, a destination they are not likely to return from. That's if they actually arrive! I was thinking about the discoveries of potential Earth-like exoplanets that may promise safe harbour for humanity in the future. It will require intergalactic travel! I read about these things...and...I am captivated by the possibilities. They trigger the imagination is ways that take a way I am en-tranced!
In Entrance Entrance, a cosmic landscape is interrupted by what looks like a gate, fence or bars that obscure the horizons beyond. Does this indicate an entrance to the wonders of intergalactic territories? Maybe it's a warning to tread carefully? Or, maybe humanity has already travelled forth, but cannot return? Maybe 'home' is on the other side? After all, going through an entrance does not guarantee a return.

The colourful 'barrier' may simply be a suggestion to stop and think. Many commentators remark that the 21st century is a 'crossroad' where technology promises amazing things, if we monitor and question carefully. If we don't, there may not be a way to 'turn back'. Just because we can do something, does not mean we should. I love the potential for inter-disciplinary research and investigation, drawing scientists, economists, philosophers, artists, and more together, to pave the future's pathway with rigour and excitement.
Maybe the fantastic-ness of space travel and the promise of technological enhancements to and for humanity are like the flamboyant person arriving at a celebration...they have made an entrance into the 21st century and we are en-tranced.  Indeed, there is so much media coverage, popular and serious, of Mars trips, newly discovered Earth-Like planets, and seemingly extraordinary technological advances, including the potential of exponential artificial intelligence development. But, what if there are other 'arrivals' into the 21st century that have entered quietly without making an entrance? If they have, hopefully they are of the benevolent kind!
I am reminded of an article I wrote about recently. The article, Terminator Robots and AI Risk by Meia Chita-Tegmark, appeared in the Huffington Post in February. Chita-Tegmark is a PhD candidate at Boston University and a founder of the Future Of Life Institute, a research centre and think tank focused on existential risks posed by emerging technologies. In the article Chita-Tegmark writes about humanity's propensity to 'embody' fears in things we can see and warns that the real dangers may lie in the unseen. She writes, The risk of AI is very likely not going to play out as armies of robots taking over the world, but in more subtle ways by AI taking our jobs, by controlling our financial markets, our power plants, our weaponized drones, our media... Evolution has not equipped us to deal with such ghostly entities that don't come in the form of steel skeletons with red shiny eyes, but in the form of menacing arrangements of zeros and ones. 

Chita-Tegmark's article got me thinking...a lot. Shiny eyed and steel skeleton-ed robots or beguiling AIs like the beautiful Eva in the recent film Ex Machina or 30 year old Blade Runner's four awesome replicants are all examples of how making an entrance can en-trance humanity with extra-ordinariness and excitement. This entrancement somehow gives the impression that we are confronting our fears, lessening their influence. But, the outcome may be a diversion of attention from Chita-Tegmark's ghostly entities and menacing arrangements of zeros and ones. These arrive unseen and unnoticed, not attracting attention against the 'flamboyance' of 'embodied' manifestations.
We need to go beyond the surface...beyond entertainment ...beyond entrancement. Being entranced is a very human characteristic and whilst it can be extremely satisfying, it may be one of our most significant existential risks.  
You might like to also read these posts and see the paintings too:


Count Down To CODE
My forthcoming exhibition
Tuesday July 21 - Sunday August 2
Graydon Gallery, 29 Merthyr Rd, New Farm, Brisbane, Queensland, Australia.
Open Daily: 10 am - 6 pm or by appointment
Artist's Talk: Sunday 26 July 11 am - 12 noon
Below is a photo of 3D glasses I take to my exhibitions. Why? Well, it was pointed out to me a few years ago, by a visitor to one of my shows, that my paintings would 'go' 3D with 3D glasses. When it was first mentioned to me I thought 'SURE', but as it transpired, many of my paintings do separate into multiple dimensions when viewed with 3D glasses. It certainly acts as a talking point!

And below is a photo of four works on paper that have been recently framed in readiness for CODE!


Anonymous said...

...or maybe the bars are the bars of a cage, and we are in a zoo...

cf. my new Centauri Dreams post The Zoo Hypothesis as Thought Experiment

I was looking for images to illustrate this post, and had I known about this earlier I would have asked your permission to use this. I enjoy the ambiguity, as a set of bars dividing one part of the universe from another could mean that we are on either side of the zoo/zookeeper relationship.

Best wishes,


Kathryn Brimblecombe-Fox said...

Thank Nick, I have read your Centauri Dreams article...the thought experiment idea is very interesting and worthwhile. Indeed, a sobering read. I would say that coming up with various scenarios is, kind of, what I like to do with my paintings. I don't want to be didactic nor simply illustrative...for a couple of reasons. I am no expert, but I do know that art can trigger questions and conversations, that agenda driven activities cannot. I call art triggered conversations, agenda-less but not directionless.