Monday, December 26, 2016

A VISIT TO THE AUSTRALIAN WAR MEMORIAL

The Australian War Memorial December 21, 2016. The Last Post ceremony is performed each afternoon. I was there for the commemoration for Norman Leslie Oliver, who died from wounds sustained during World War 1.


AUSTRALIAN WAR MEMORIAL
I've been to Canberra, Australia's capitol city, to visit the Australian War Memorial. I was there to do some research for my M. Phil studies at the University of Queensland. After meeting curatorial staff to see some of the paintings, currently held in storage, by the artists I am researching ie: George Gittoes and Jon Cattapan, I spent time in the Commemorative Courtyard/Roll of Honour and a long time looking at the Memorial's extensive collections. These collections encompass an array of material from various wars and conflicts Australia has been involved with. This includes Australia's most recent involvement in the Middle East. It also includes special mention of peacekeeping activities in various places over decades. Display items include newspaper clippings, old film footage, photographs, items collected by soldiers, actual weapons, actual aircraft, maps, simulations of battles, recordings, paintings, sculptures, medals, dioramas, and so much more - including a surveillance drone!

I spent all day on the 21st  December at the War Memorial - I  had to be asked to leave at 5 pm - I had lost track of time. I was inside a simulation at the time. It was a World War 2 bomber and the floor of the 'aircraft' was actually vibrating. The all-round sound was so effective it took the woman, asking me to leave, some time to get my attention!

Given my M. Phil research approach I was particularly interested in exhibits and commentary on militarised technology, both pre and post digital/cyber.


German Enigma - Code Machine - Spook hardware.



FOR COUNTRY, FOR NATION
This exhibition is a MUST SEE

"For Country, for Nation is thematic in structure. Within each theme are stories of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander experience during wartime and peace." 

I hope  For Country, For Nation  gets to tour around Australia. This exhibition is meaningful in many ways. It includes old photographs, memorabilia, commentary from current Indigenous service men and women, Elder commentary and artistic reflections by contemporary Indigenous artists. It is not a permanent show, but I was told it will be up well into 2017. 

Please visit the War Memorial's webpage for For Country, For Nation . Also, the Memorial's page Indigenous Service i Australia's Armed Forces in Peace and War - Overview 


SCANEAGLE DRONE
Of particular interest to me - regular readers will not be surprised - was the smallish surveillance ScanEagle drone suspended from the ceiling in the Middle East Display . This is a new display opened in October 2016.  There is also a photograph, attached to an nearby wall, of one of these drones being catapulted into the air by soldiers. The photograph is accompanied by didactic information which explains Australian use of airborne drone surveillance technology in Iraq and Afghanistan. 




Exhibition Didactic Australian War Memorial 


The Heron drone mentioned in the War Memorial's didactic information [image above] is an Israeli made drone which has been used by Australian forces for surveillance purposes. You can read more about Australian drone operation at the Royal Australian Air Force "Technology" pages HERE .


Look up, there's a drone! The 'figure' in the glass cabinet 'wears' bomb proofing gear.

I think some people would miss seeing the drone as the exhibit is quite crowded, housed in a small space and the drone hangs quite close to the ceiling. However, if you do notice it... it does provide a good opportunity to view the underside of the drone [Photo Below]. I could not get the whole of the drone's underbelly in my photograph as I only had my iPad turned onto 'Selfie' mode.



Underbelly of a surveillance drone - Australian War Memorial



AIR CAPABILITY - THE FUTURE?
The Memorial's Anzac Hall extension houses an array of air and maritime exhibits, including actual aircraft, moving images, etc. The Aircraft Hall  exhibits planes, photographs and other memorabilia. 

I could not help wonder how the airborne drone will feature in the future, not only at the Australian War Memorial, but in other museums and memorials around the world. 

Will Reaper, Predator, Gray Eagle and other drones, with their array of surveillance and weapon's technology, be included in exhibits dedicated to the history of aircraft or will they be included in exhibits dedicated to surveillance, military technology, weapons or...? Or, will there be "Unmanned Systems" exhibitions? 

Given the debates about unmanned systems and increasingly autonomous systems*, questions will need to be asked about remote killing, increasing asymmetry in combatant capabilities, terrorist tactics, increasing dual-use nature of cyber connectivity, civilian deaths and more. These questions will influence the way 21st century militarised technology and its effects will be exhibited. 

*The UN has agreed to tackle the issue of autonomous weapons in 2017.

SURVEILLANCE
Military airborne photographic surveillance has a long history. The photo below describes early aerial photography during World War 1. This didactic information was included in an interactive large-scale map of Gallipoli [Turkey] and surrounds. The original photographs, taken during the war, have been montaged together to form a very large interactive topographical map. Visitors to the War Memorial can access information by touching points on the large screen. Of course these early airborne surveillance activities were manned - and - in open cockpits! Very different to contemporary remotely piloted long range, long dwell systems with wide area surveillance capabilities, that currently rely on GPS and communications satellites.  

The contrast between the World War 1 surveillance exhibit and the airborne surveillance ScanEagle drone got me thinking [again]...what will militarised technology bring in the next 100 years? Considering the accelerating pace of technological development I'm not sure we can even imagine what it will be like. And, then again, there's the question astronomer and cosmologist Martin Rees raises in his early 2003/4 book Our Final Century    - will humanity survive the 21st century? Indeed, will militarised technology, by mistake, accident or in the hands of aberrant groups, lead to humanity's demise?




World War 1 exhibit: Aerial photographs of Gallipoli and surrounds.


ROLL OF HONOUR
The Australian War Memorial achieves a balanced approach to how it memorialises war and conflict. The gravitas of war's companion - death - is pervasive. And, it's not just about Australian deaths, but also casualties, military and civilian, on all sides. It is very sad.

The gravitas of death - regarding Australian troops - is solemnly felt when walking along the Roll of Honour. This long list of the names of the fallen runs around the two sides of the Commemorative Courtyard. Name after name, after name, after name - of young men and women who have been killed in war and conflict situations.

My paternal grandfather's older brother Louis Hugh Brimblecombe died in France at age 22, from gunshot wounds to his back. He enlisted in July 1917 and died August 1918. It was strange, but as I walked along the Roll of Honour his name jumped out at me. He is buried at Crouy British Cemetery, Crouy-Sur-Somme, France. 

My grandfather Wilfred John Brimblecombe CBE [1898 - 1973] did survive the war. He enlisted as a private in 1915 [age 17] and returned home as a Sargent [age 21] in 1919. He was initially in the 6th Lighthorse, but was transferred to the 2nd Lighthorse Machine Gun Squadron. He spent the war in the Middle East. On returning to Australia he and another brother farmed a large block of rich black-soil on the Pirrinuan plain between Dalby and Jimbour, Queensland, Australia. My grandfather was politically active, particularly in agri-politics, and became the Federal member for Maranoa [nearly 732,000 sq kilometers] in the House of Representatives in 1951, during Sir Robert Menzies second stint as Prime Minister. He retired in 1966.   



Louis Hugh Brimblecombe and other young lives lost during World War 1. 



THOUGHT PROVOKING
There is no way I could say a visit to the Australian War Memorial is enjoyable, in the sense of joy and laughter...thank goodness. Rather, it is a riveting, moving, sad, educational and thought provoking experience. 

Reading some of the didactic information about the fate of people in war and conflict situations is harrowing. Seeing re-enactments on film...I cannot watch them for very long. Old footage of Lighthorsemen atop their horses made me wonder if my grandfather was one of the soldiers. The Last Post, which is played each afternoon at the Last Post Ceremony  in the War Memorial's Commemorative Courtyard leaves you with a sense of sadness for all involved - for humanity.

My visit to the War Memorial has made me wonder even more about the future. Regular readers know that in many of my own paintings I have been juxtaposing the age-old transcultural/religious symbol of the tree-of-life with the military airborne drone to question humanity's fate in an era of accelerating technological development. Places like the Australian War Memorial attend to the past where humanity remains central - in loss, life and death, participation, invention, survival. What will the future bring? And, how can places like the War Memorial provoke questions that probe the future?



New Sky Gouache and watercolour on paper 56 x 75.6 cm 2016



Persistent Surveillance and Strike Gouache on paper 30 x 42 cm 2016



Combat Proven, Long-Range, Long-Dwell Gouache and watercolour on paper 56 x 75.6 cm 2016

Cheers,
Kathryn





Thursday, December 15, 2016

NOT A GAME

Not a Game Gouache and watercolour on paper 56 x 75.6 cm 2016


In Not a Game I have painted a colourful Reaper drone armed with four hellfire missiles and two guided missiles. Its wide area surveillance system is monitoring and recording the terrain. The footage it collects is relayed to other monitoring devices and sensors. A cityscape, a country homestead, and a drone's ground control station and satellite antenna are dotted along this terrain. The satellite antenna is connected to the communication satellite, a geostationary satellite parked at near 40,000 km above the Earth . The orbiting GPS satellite is connected to the drone, tracking it and enabling remote piloting. The need for connectivity to operate a drone is apparent. Connectivity, though, also enables the collection of data from our personal and public digital devices. These cyber pathways are invisible, pervasive and ubiquitous. It is not a game. 

A tree-of-life on the far right monitors the entire scenario. The cosmic landscape, in which the tree is situated, indicates a prevailing cosmological perspective - if attention is paid to it.


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Remote Control (below) completed earlier this year, also depicts the connectivity currently needed to operate a drone and its various payloads.


Remote Control Gouache on paper 30 x 42 cm 2016 


Cheers,
Kathryn

Saturday, December 10, 2016

COMBAT PROVEN, LONG-RANGE, LONG-DWELL

Combat Proven, Long-Range, Long-Dwell Gouache and watercolour on paper 56 x 76.5 cm 2016


POETIC?
The title and the painting Combat Proven, Long-Range, Long-Dwell were inspired by language that is used to describe military airborne drone technology and capabilities. This language is used by the military, drone manufacturers and associated commentators.* I have to admit that, whilst some words convey lethal capabilities, there is something almost poetic - yes poetic! - in the way words are put together to describe a drone's characteristics. But, herein lies a danger. Words can be seductive and exciting, colouring the way one might critically engage with discussions about drone use and continued development.

'Combat proven' is self evidentiary.

'Long-range' and endurance means the ability to fly long distances and stay in the air for long periods of time. Here's a link listing the 10 longest range unmanned air vehicles [UAVs] [2013]

'Long-dwell' is also about endurance. Its the ability to hover or loiter over a sight of interest. A more 'poetic' description is "persistent dwell capability" . This ability enable persistent surveillance.


COMBAT PROVEN, LONG-RANGE, LONG-DWELL
In my painting Combat Proven, Long-Range, Long-Dwell I play with the capabilities implied in the title. Yes, a drone might have them, but when you think about it - so might life, in its broadest cosmological sense!

In Combat Proven, Long-Range, Long-Dwell I have painted binary code for the word DRONE on the Gray Eagle drone. It acts as both an 'instruction' and a decoration. The drone's sensor signals are targeting LIFE - I have also painted the word LIFE in binary code. Yet, at the end of the 'ribbon' of  LIFE code there is a tree - a tree-of-life - perhaps indicating LIFE'S 'persistent dwell capability'? In the cosmic sky two strange half-trees hover inside an oval or egg shaped enclosure. Is it a planet, or a thought, a portal, another universe, maybe a mirror? Could it, in fact, indicate LIFE's sophisticated capabilities that bypass human-made technologies?

I ask, is LIFE - human life - being re-calibrated as coded instructions? If so, does this then make it easier for other coded processes to 'interact' with LIFE - surveil, target and attack? Is it a pragmatic intent to reduce everything to code and its contingent interactive capabilities?

Lots of questions? I hasten to add that have no answers, but I do 'enjoy' thinking about the questions - and painting some of the images that pop up in my my mind, as I do!


Cheers, 
Kathryn

* Christian Enemark in his fascinating book Armed Drones and the Ethics of War: Military Virtue in a Post-Heroic Age  discusses issues such as a drone's long-range and long-dwell capabilities. He thoroughly engages with concepts of 'just war' theory, proposing that contemporary times are a "post-heroic age".  Gregoire Chamayou in Theory of the Drone discusses similar issues extrapolating into propositions that drone technology has turned the world into a "[man] hunting ground". Enemark comes from an International Relations perspective and Chamayou from a philosophical one.

It's worthwhile to have a look at some of the drone manufacturing company websites - just Google - military drone manufacturers! You can also search government defence department websites too.

And, The Centre for The Study of the Drone   at Bard University, New York, is an amazing resource. 

Saturday, December 03, 2016

LIFE AND THE DRONE


Life and the Drone Gouache and watercolour n paper 56 x 76.5 cm 2016


PRECIPICE?
Have you noticed that the world seems to be on a precipice? Political instability, seemingly endless war and conflict in parts of the world, climate change [with the debates about whether it is real or not distracting from actual issues], financial and economic volatility, left and right divides becoming more extreme...and so on...all add up to a deep global anxiety. Advances in technology do not seem to help alleviate the anxiety! In fact, new anxieties about privacy and surveillance pervade as we increasingly use and rely on the internet, and other digital technologies, for a variety of daily and ongoing services and functions. 

MILITARISED TECHNOLOGY
As a result of my current research into militarised technology [as part of my M. Phil at the University of Queensland] I am concerned about research and development in weaponry, and military technology and systems infrastructure . These include advances in autonomy, where the human is minimally involved in the decision making loop or potentially completely out of the loop. The human would be replaced by advanced artificial intelligence with decision making and information gathering capabilities that could also include self-learning attributes. These kinds of weapons are called 'lethal autonomous weapons' [LAWs]. This problematic area is summed up in a recent article The Problem of Defining Autonomous Weapons by Ariel Conn on the Future of Life Institute website. You can find a lot of information on this site. 

THE DRONE
The figure of the military drone is symbolic of  our current era's dilemma. Currently operated by remote pilots, drones are used by various governments including the USA and UK for surveillance, targeting and attack purposes, in declared battlefields and counter-insurgency situations, in various regions of the world, including Yemen, Pakistan and Afghanistan.  The The Bureau of Investigative Journalism  can provide you with a starting point for more research.  The Australian Air Force provided drone surveillance support in Afghanistan, withdrawing in 2014.

Drones, or unmanned aerial vehicles [UAVs], certainly have positive civilian uses such as surveillance and targeted assistance in disaster situations such as fire and flood etc. However, I propose, that the dual-use ie: civilian/military capabilities of drone technology [whether air, land or sea based] muddies the seriousness of projected developments in military use of drone technology that is combined with increasing levels of autonomy. Additionally, as Martin Reese speculated in his fantastic and provocative book Our Final Century [2004] how do we ensure that technologies such as these do not get into the hands of aberrant individuals or groups? The answer seems to be...to stay one step ahead. Is that, in itself, a pathway to destruction? Or as Reese might postulate a pathway to human species extinction?

LIFE and the DRONE
In this painting I wanted to show/reveal two types of branching systems: that of the tree-of-life and that of a drone's scoping capabilities designed for surveillance, targeting and attack. The tree's branches represent life's systems - life supporting systems such as vascular ones, river systems and energy forces beyond Earth and perception. The drone's branching scoping signals represent technology. Are we replacing life with a simulation of life? If so, does the simulation make it deceptively 'easier' to develop weapons operated by artificial intelligence? 

There are a myriad of questions to be asked and I wonder how the arts can be involved in the questioning? I know I am trying....

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I remind the reader that I am not a technophobe - I grew up in a house full of gadgets and gizmos - my father was a very serious HAM Radio enthusiast who, as a teenager, tracked Sputnik 1, made our first television in the early 60s on the dining room table and so on. You can read more about my childhood surrounded by technology HERE

Cheers,
Kathryn
P.S. Please check out my latest e-newsletter Studio News and Christmas Greetings




Saturday, November 26, 2016

$URVEILLANCE

$urveillance Gouache and watercolour on paper 56 x 76.5 cm 2016


$$$$$
Surveillance is big business - the collection, storage, evaluating and packaging of data; developing and implementing surveillance systems of all kinds; developing and implementing security systems to thwart surveillance by known or unknown infiltrators; ensuring the delivery of cyber updates for ongoing security...and more.

The use of GPS and communications space assets [satellites] to enable civilian and military surveillance draws attention to the dual-use nature of contemporary technology. Regular readers will know of my interest in airborne drones used by the military for surveillance, targeting and attack purposes. Drone operations currently rely on both GPS and communications satellites. [Check out many of my recent posts for more on drones.]

$URVEILLANCE
In this large work on paper I have painted small $ signs to create emanating surveillance signals. I have done this to contest ideas of value. The 'value' flow goes up and down or from one place to another, demonstrating the financial gains delivered to the developers and operators of surveillance technology AND the 'value', to governments, advertisers, the military and others [malign and benign], of the collected data. Technology to collect data is like a 'data harvester' - the harvester collects the 'golden grain'. Yes, I am a farmer's daughter!

The small $ sign-signals could represent proxy rays of 'sunshine' - the new 'sun' in our new 'sky' of surveillance sensors! Yet, they could also represent the perspective of a 'ploughed' field - of data. Or, perhaps 'landing' lights on a 'runway' of data! 

The 'play' with perspective is a deliberate ploy - one I employ often in my work. The 'landscape' is undetermined and the viewer's orientation is also. Are you above, below, in front, or all simultaneously? 

Be aware!

Cheers,
Kathryn
www.kathrynbrimblecombe-fox.com 





Friday, November 18, 2016

HUMANMACHINEHUMAN

HumanMachineHuman Gouache and water colour on paper 57 x 75.6 cm 2016


HUMANITY AND TECHNOLOGY

I am really interested in the intersection between humanity and technology. It's an intersection which is increasingly blurred.

I am particularly interested in human/technology relationships and developments in militarised technology, where guiding principles are focused on developing and maintaining supreme advantage over enemy forces. Modern soldiers are equipped with various devices that connect to other remote devices. These devices detect external events and environmental conditions, as well as monitor soldiers' physical well being. Soldiers are walking, talking, breathing nodes of information and detection. Technical apparatus to enable a soldier to survive extreme conditions and situations, without losing tactical advantage continue to be developed, using a plethora of modern technologies. Robot soldiers that can carry great weights or can be deployed in precarious situations have been developed eg: DARPA's Legged Squad Support System.  The remote drone pilot, in a sense, has an external appendage that responds to his/her movements and instructions. If you'd like to read more about military developments in these areas visit various defence force science and research agencies. You can do the research! There's plenty of information out there. It's both fascinating and scary. 

HUMANMACHINEHUMAN

So, HumanMachineHuman does not depict a morphed transhuman soldier...for me this would be too illustrative and therefore, restricted. Rather, I prefer a play with symbols. I have painted a tree-of-life with cascading branches that morph into three weaponsied drones, as if they are extensions of humanity/life. The drones' scoping systems provide a new type of branching appearance...not quite as complex as that of the tree-of-life though - for now!

Two smaller trees-of-life, positioned at the bottom left of the painting, are slightly beyond the drones' scopes. Is 'capture' immanent? Maybe - maybe not? I'd suggest the white root-like system, that mirrors the red tree, offers some hope of escape. Maybe the small red tree has camouflaged itself to avoid detection? Maybe its colour - red - indicates that it has its own counter-surveillance systems? Maybe it acts as a jamming system, thwarting the drones' collaborative success? The white root-like upside down tree is like a lighthouse shedding light into the dark. Maybe it is seeking a new way, a new universe even? The collaboration between the small red and white trees is significant!

You, the viewer - are you in front of a landscape or are you below the drones looking up, or are you above the drones looking down? Whatever your perspective, it might be a good idea to pay attention! 

This painting is another of my cosmic landscapes, another 'dronescape' or possibly a droned 'skyscape', or a droned 'aerialscape'? It could also be a droned 'dreamscape'? Yes, I do have some fun thinking about these sorts of things.

Cheers,
Kathryn
www.kathrynbrimblecombe-fox.com

Saturday, November 12, 2016

NEW SKY?

New Sky? Gouache on paper 57 x 76.5 cm 2016


TECH AND THE SKY
New Sky? continues my exploration of the relationship between technology and how we might perceive and understand the sky, consciously and subconsciously, in the 21st century. In an earlier post I contemplated how the sky is now a contested place where surveillance and targeting by weaponised drones limits the freedoms and lives of those who live below them. This limitation is about literal life and death. It is about fearing the sky and what it might deliver.

In this painting,New Sky?, the viewer is unsure whether they are above or below the three weaponised drones. This ambiguity in perspective is a deliberate ploy, one that I have 'played' with for many years in many different paintings...regular readers know.... 

TREES-OF-LIFE
The trees-of-life, some upright and some upside down, enhance the ambiguous perspective. Are we looking up into a cosmic sky, the Universe opened up? Or, are we looking down upon a landscape where life, in many cases, is turned 'upside down'...destroyed?

 What does it mean if the transcultural/religious tree-of-life symbol is turned upside down? This question is bigger than me! I know I painted upside down trees-of-life, AND I felt compelled to do so, in this painting and others, but I leave it to you to find your own answers. 

BLUE DRONES
I have painted the drones in shades of blue to suggest their contribution to the 'new sky'. But, the geometric patterning deliberately hints at the artificiality of their sky impressions or camouflage. The geometric patterning becomes synonymous with pixels and virtual reality, algorithms and digital image making. In this way I have channeled the ubiquity of connectivity...the connectivity that contemporary surveillance relies upon. Our devices, personal, work related and incidental, are data suppliers, nodes of information, points of digital reference, markers of behaviour...all of these and more, provide fodder for data collection and analysis ie: metadata. This is used by advertisers, governments, the military and...

But, is it real? Again, you can seek your own answers. 

RED
The Hellfire and guided missile weapons on the Reaper drones in New Sky? are red, the same colour as the trees-of-life. The colour red is fervent, vital, energised. 

The fact that I have painted both the trees-of-life and the weapons red can be interpreted as a bad thing, but it could also be read as a good thing. It depends on which entity you think has the most power - LIFE or the weapons?


Cheers,
Kathryn
www.kathrynbrimblecombe-fox.com 


Friday, November 04, 2016

HELLO POSTHUMANITY?

Hello Posthumanity? Oil on linen 70 x 100 cm 2016


POSTHUMAN?
Hello Posthumanity? relates to some works on paper I did last year and earlier this year [see below]. In these paintings I used binary code, the tree-of-life and words, painted in cosmic environments, to grapple with the meaning of 'posthuman'. I have, however, bypassed the idea that it means a kind of re-calibration of human identity as a result of technology. Rather, I plummet straight into it being a state or place that exists after the annihilation of the human species...possibly due to emerging technologies. Here, the 'post' in posthuman literally means after-human-species-existence. Yes, somewhat different to a re-calibration. 

WHAT DOES POSTHUMAN LOOK LIKE?
So, what would this posthuman world look like? Would there ever be a chance of human revival, resurrection? Does God have a say? If we exist in a multiverse, would humans survive in other universes, if they exist there at all? Or, is the multiverse a parallel system, so that when something is extinct in one universe, it is also extinct in another universe? Even if humans were annihilated by misuse of technology, deliberate mal-use, accident or by machine design, would the ultimate demise of the Sun and the resultant destruction of the solar system, return us to the stars? Would this be a posthuman existence that is still 'human'? Would a posthuman world be one where humanity's digital residue remained long after mortal extinction? Would a posthuman world be one where artificial intelligence reigned...an AI that surpassed human intelligence in ways that were so far in advance that any connection to human intelligence was lost?

Regular readers will know that much of my most recent work is involved with landscape, weaponised airborne drones, cosmic perspectives and the figure of the tree-of-life representing LIFE threatened by accelerating developments in militarised technology. Yes, there is an undercurrent that connects these works with my interest in the posthuman.

HELLO POSTHUMANITY?
Hello Posthumanity? combines the tree-of-life, with binary code 'instructing' various words that I have also painted. The portal from which ribbons of colour emanate could indicate journeys into and from another universe? Maybe the trees-of-life are bits of 'human' star dust scattered across space? Maybe the binary code indicates digital residue? And, what about God? Well...your guess is as good as mine!

HOPE
I cannot help myself...but...this painting positions hope as a strong force. Hope is there - in the trees-of-life, in the the portal where the distances of time and space are retained, in the ribbons of colour indicating vibrancy...and...in the number of question marks, both '?' and '00111111'.

Cheers,
Kathryn
www.kathrynbrimblecombe-fox.com 


 Picturing the Posthuman gouache on paper 30 x 42 cm 2015 


 I Am Am I? Gouache on paper 30 x 42 cm 2015 


 Imagining the Posthuman Gouache on paper 42 x 30 cm 2016


Vascular System for Posthumans Gouache on paper 42 x 30 cm 2016


Saturday, October 29, 2016

BETWEEN EXISTENCES

 Between Existences Gouache on paper 30 x 42 cm 2016


Sometimes I feel the contemporary time we live in is actually a between-time. It's like humanity is on the edge of one kind of existence and another. The thing is - humanity may not be part of this other existence. But...it could be. I suggest it depends on how we navigate the contemporary space-time, the Antropocene. With my M. Phil research covering militarised technology, the development of autonomous weapons and current warfare and conflict, I am somewhat anxious about humanity's future. 

Lord Astronomer, cosmologist and one of the three founders of the Centre for the Study of Existential Risk [University of Cambridge], Martin Rees, wrote a fascinating book Our Final Century  in 2003. It proposes a number of catastrophic events that could see the annihilation of the human species. These events are not necessarily naturally occurring ones. They include those the might ensue from emerging technologies, due to mistakes, accidents, getting into the hands of aberrant groups or individuals. 

However....

Between Existences [above] is a hopeful painting! The tree of life stands as a beacon in a cosmic landscape. The blue river-like mass could be the 21st century - a space between, a hiatus in human development, a touch and go period, a challenge. 

BUT, the tree has sent its roots deep into time...they even extend beyond the painting, digging deep. There's hope for root suckers - root sprouts to revitalise existence!  Yet, the blue river-like '21st century' also extends beyond the paintings. It also has root-like extensions...maybe they extend into other universes?  


Trees-of-Life Vs The Drones Gouache on paper 30 x 42 cm 2016


Trees-of-Life Vs The Drones is similar to Between Existences in format - there is a top half and a bottom one too...a representation of a duality eg: humanity - technology, life and death, symbolism - fashion, reality and virtuality, time and space, civilian and military, war and peace. Yet, in this 'between time' of the 21st century dualities are blurred. Cultural theorist, Paul Virilio's commentary, on the accelerating speeds of technological interactivity, provides avenues to help us understand this blurring. With time and distance collapsed into near light-speed connectivity, dualities disappear, become unnoticeable, creating an inertia. Philosopher, Gregorie Chamayou's proposal that remote targeting and killing makes the whole world a potential manhunting ground certainly illustrates the blurring [hey! eradication] of the lines between things. Anthropologist, Hugh Gusterson's ideas about 'remixed war', as a result of militarised technology distributed through global networks that allow remote control and killing, exemplifies the collapse of the civilian-military divide. There's more...but I'll leave you to explore.

In Trees-of-Life Vs The Drones the weaponised drones look like an early computer game, little icons marching forward. The trees-of-life stand firm, their branches acting as an alternative network, outside the digital network connecting the drones. Note that there are two trees! AND, their roots are not evident - but they are there! I know, because I am the artist!

Cheers,
Kathryn
www.kathrynbrimblecombe-fox.com 


Thursday, October 20, 2016

FRAGMENTED & UNDERGROUND: DRONESCAPES


The Tree-of-Life Sends its Energy Underground Gouache on paper 30 x 42 cm 2016


TREE-OF-LIFE & DRONES
Here, I have two paintings where the age-old transcultural/religious tree-of-life stands as a beacon in landscapes that are threatened. Indeed, life is threatened. Unmanned air vehicles [UAVs] or drones loiter in dark skies. These Reaper drones are each armed with four hellfire missiles and two guided missiles.

My last post talked about the sky becoming a contested place...a place where surveillance and attack threats from above create an artificial sky. It is a sky to be feared...one where distance has collapsed and access to the beauty of cosmological perspectives is obscured. Here, in this post I offer the tree-of-life as a symbol of hope. It is a symbol which is shared by many cultures and religions, including the three Abrahamaic religions of Islam, Christianity and Judaism. Now, that's something to think about!

The tree-of-life can connect to hearts and minds. I experienced its powerful ability to connect when I had an exhibition at the Abu Dhabi Cultural Centre, [UAE] in 2006*. People from all over the region came to see the show. On a daily basis I had the most incredible conversations - all triggered by my paintings, particularly those that depicted the tree-of-life. These conversation I call 'agenda-less, but not directionless'. 

I suggest the power of age-old symbols is still fervent but, especially in the West, we have lost our connections to them. We prefer the transience of  fads and fashion delivered via gadgets and gizmos...at our peril!

In these two paintings, The Tree-of-Life Sends Its Energy Underground and Fragmented, the trees-of-life, representing all life, are vulnerable to attack. The drones certainly seem to be targeting them. Yet, the trees have scattered their seeds, sap and embedded their roots across the landscape. Potential new trees hibernate in wait, laying dormant until it is safe. The landscapes seem ripe, fiery and fertile, ready to re-charge. Yet... do these paintings offer alternative views? Indeed, the trees could be 'wounded', close to death, their 'blood' seeping into the landscape. Maybe? 

Do these paintings herald catastrophe or do they herald hope? 



Fragmented Gouache on paper 30 x 42 cm 2016

* I have previously written about my Abu Dhabi experience: Here are two posts:


REDLAND ART AWARD

This LINK takes you to a page where you can see pictures of all the finalist paintings, including mine Where There's Life There's...


Cheers,
Kathryn

Sunday, October 16, 2016

RAINBOW CAMOUFLAGE & DRONE CLOUDS

Rainbow Camouflage Gouache on paper 30 x 42cm 2016


NEWS
Firstly news - my entry Where There's Life There's... was chosen as a finalist in the $15,000 Redland Art Award. It is amongst some other terrific work. The opening and the announcement of winners was a few days ago. Congratulations to the winner, Pollyxenai Joannou. 


CLOUDS AND RAINBOWS
Rainbow Camouflage and Drone Clouds both refer to natural phenomena we see in the sky: clouds and rainbows. They also refer to the figure of the drone, a human-made 'phenomena'. I am really interested in how the figure of the drone is changing, and will continue to change, human perceptions of the sky and landscape. The figure of the drone literally represents unmanned air vehicles (UAVs). It also symbolises pervasive surveillance of our physical and digital actions and activities. For those who live in Yemen, Pakistan, Afghanistan and other conflict places, the sky has become something to fear. Why? Because, drones loiter - watching - tracking - attacking. 

RAINBOW CAMOUFLAGE
The posse of drones each painted with a colour from the rainbow are enroute to surveil and perhaps attack the the arced rainbow on the horizon. They are armed with Hellfire and guided missiles. The drones are camouflaged in an attempt to dupe the rainbow, but will they? But...maybe the rainbow is enticing the drones into a trap? The rainbow is fortified with the presence of trees-of-life, each painted a colour of the rainbow. The rainbow, of course can disappear, but its essence remains in the trees-of-life. What does this mean for the posse of rainbow coloured drones, representing 21st century fast paced and ubiquitous technological development, surveillance and more? I suppose that depends on us!

Is this a landscape or a skyscape? The sky is an arena of contest!

When I painted this painting lots of thoughts were running around in my head. But, I'll let your imaginations take flight now!


Drone Clouds Gouache on paper 30 x 42 cm 2016


DRONE CLOUDS
Drone Clouds was inspired by thinking about the increasing use of drones and how they create a kind of artificial 'ceiling' in the sky. This can be viewed as both a literal and a psychological 'ceiling'. If we develop a fearful mentality that the sky is a place of threat what happens to the beauty of cosmological perspectives? Regular readers know I have a fascination with cosmology, and the close and far distances it reveals. Threat from the sky is something that limits a fearless desire to look beyond horizons, Earthly ones  as well as universal ones. 

Eyal Weizman, an architect and Director of the Centre for Research Architecture at Goldsmiths College, London, writes about the Politics of Verticality  and threats from the sky, in the form of surveillance and air attack. Here's a telling quote These eyes in the sky, completing the network of observation that is woven throughout the ground, finally iron out the folded surface and flatten the terrain. From the air, everything can be watched – if you have the right kind of access.( Weizmann, 2002)

Drone Clouds, like many of my recent paintingswas also partly inspired by reading French Philosopher Gregoire Chamayou's fascinating book Drone Theory. The threat from above, represented by drones controlled and operated by remote pilots, makes the whole world a potential "hunting ground". The rhetoric around the development of autonomous weapons, makes the threat even more alarming. 

LANDSCAPE
I wonder what becomes of landscape if the world is perceived as a "hunting ground"? If perceptions of the sky change, landscape changes, distance loses perspective, horizons become sublime -filled with hope and horror, that is... if they can be glimpsed through hooded eyes. Does the underground offer safety - maybe not? Maybe exodus to other planets is another escape route?

As regular readers know I am interested in untethering notions of landscape from Earth-bound horizons, to embrace the perspectives that cosmology offers. I suggest that these kinds of multiple perspectives of distance provide ways to evaluate humankind's place in the universe, to critique activities such as the militarisation of technology and more. 

PERSPECTIVE
In Drone Clouds I play with perspective. Is the viewer below the drones looking up, or are they above the drones looking down? If it is the latter maybe the viewer is an alien watching humankind's dangerous play? Or, maybe humankind has developed another layer of surveillance - good or bad? Or...?

Cheers,
Kathryn
www.kathrynbrimblecombe-fox.com 



Sunday, October 09, 2016

THE EDGE

The Edge Gouache on paper 30 x 42 cm 2016


TECH REVOLUTION
I don't know about you, but I feel humanity is situated on the edge of the next revolution...a tech revolution. It could be an exciting future. But, then again, it may not be. 

AI and AGI - BENEFIT TO HUMANITY
Artificial intelligence is one of main areas of technological development where people are putting efforts into safeguarding benefit to humanity perspectives. The fact that emphasis is placed on benefit to humanity means there is a downside...where developments could be detrimental to humanity. Multi-disciplinary research centres like the Future of Humanity Institute [FHI]at Oxford University, the Center of the Study of Existential Risk [CSER}at Cambridge University and the more loosely formed Future of Life Institute [Boston] [FLI] all have initiatives to conduct research into AI and AGI [artificial general intelligence ie: expansive human-like intelligence rather than task oriented] where benefit to humanity is the key driver. Then there is the recently formed Partnership on AI: to benefit people and society . The partnership is Amazon, Deep Mind, Google, Facebook, IBM and Microsoft. 

So, there are a couple of things to think about. One is the importance technology and AI developers are placing on benefit to humanity issues. The downside is acknowledged risk, which whilst small maybe irredeemable. Here, I quote from the CSER website The field of artificial intelligence is advancing rapidly along a range of fronts and while it promises tremendous benefits, a growing body of experts within and outside the field has raised concerns that future developments may represent a major technological risk. With the level of power, autonomy, and generality of AI expected to increase in coming years and decades, forward planning and research to avoid unexpected catastrophic consequences is essential.

MONEY - LAW
Another thing to think about is - money. Beneficial AI will be lucrative for some, hopefully for many. Taking risks that might see the human species incapacitated in some way or worse, potentially annihilated, is not good business! There is a financial benefit in keeping AI beneficial to humans! This, of course, erupts into a whole set of other issues concerning equitable distribution and access, monopoly players, private vs public and more. Then there are questions about how legal frameworks will keep up with the ramifications of AI, AGI, autonomous weapons etc. The law is not noted for being a fast paced institution. Will it be left behind? Will AI replace practitioners and the judiciary? How can those who think about potential legal issues eg: law academics and legislators, keep up?


THE EDGE
My painting The Edge 'speaks' to all the issues I've written about...and more. Regular readers will know of my keen interest in the development of lethal autonomous weapons [LAWS]. This kind of development is a specific case of AI being used in ways that could pose major risks. These are not just mortal risks, but also risks that will erode what it means to be human, what it means to live in community, erosion of ideas about society and civilisation. I draw your attention to an Open Letter published on the FLI website Autonomous Weapons: An Open Letter form AI and Robotics Researchers

In The Edge I have used the figure of the armed drone. Six of them are half emerged from under something...they appear to be on the edge of emergence, ready and able to seek with their wide area surveillance systems and weapons. The drone is becoming a symbol of 21st century Western power and might, a symbol of a threshold in technological prowess where machines may be equipped with an autonomy that takes us into a scifi future. The symbol of the drone is, of course, a contested one. In parts of the world experiencing the outcomes of drone attacks, the drone is a symbol of inhumanity. 

In the painting, I quite like how the drones seem to be entering an abyss-like place. It seems to fall away from the foreground. It's like the drones have fallen off the edge of a ravine or cliff - rather than emerging from something? Yet, it may not be all bad! Maybe these drones are keeping Earth safe from alien attack? Maybe they are stationed in space? Maybe the 'landscape' is a cosmic one, rather than an Earthly one? The paint has created the 'scape' seemingly on its own. 

Maybe....?????

Cheers,
Kathryn
www.kathrynbrimblecombe-fox.com 


Friday, September 30, 2016

DRONE SPIRAL

Drone Spiral Gouache on paper 30 x 42 cm 2016


DARK THOUGHTS
I imagine a drone spiraling out of control. The cause - unknown - wind gusts, attack, hacking, electrical fault - who knows?

Yes, apparently military drones do crash. Check out this  article in the Washington Post 

But, of course, when they crash there is no crew to get hurt. The remote pilot is safely ensconced in his or her bunker, at home.

There is another thought - the drone as a symbol of civilisation's immanent dance on the edges of existence...? The drone has taken on symbolic tones, representing the cusp of human and non-human control, human controlled and autonomously controlled weapons of war. I imagine my drone in Drone Spiral spiraling in the space between!

Dark thoughts!


ENVIRONMENT
Apart from the dark thoughts this painting is another of my droned landscapes, where I attempt to conjure landscape as something untethered from normal concepts of landscape. Taking cosmological perspectives, I try to 'see' landscape in ways that may help address current and looming environmental issues. 

NEWS
My entry into the $15,000 Redland Art Prize is a finalist! I take it to the gallery next week and later in the week winners are announced. The finalists are listed HERE 

My entry is Where There's Life There's.... I have used binary code, the tree-of-life and landscape, inhabiting a cosmic scape in an ambiguous universe [that's if you thing multi-universes exist!].


Where There's Life There's... Oil on linen 92 x 102 cm 2015

Cheers,
Kathryn
www.kathrynbrimblecombe-fox.com 


Saturday, September 24, 2016

CAMOUFLAGE


Camouflage Gouache on paper 30 x 42 cm 2016

RESEARCH
As regular readers know, I am currently an M. Phil candidate in the School of Communications and Arts at the University of Queensland. My degree is a research one, thus I spend a lot of time reading and writing. My research topic came out of my own work as an artist and now the research is feeding back into my work. My practice is not part of the degree as it is not a practice lead degree. However, by the time I finish it I will have a large body of work that will reflect the research trajectory. Part of my studies includes research into militarised technology, particularly night vision capabilities and unmanned air vehicles [UAV], commonly called drones. Hence, my predilection for drones in recent paintings.

AUTONOMOUS WEAPONS
The initial impetus for my research came from my interest in existential risk posed by emerging technologies ie: those technologies not yet fully developed or even embarked upon. Whilst risk might be small, the possible outcomes could be cataclysmic. Thus, the risk is worthy of attention. For instance, there is risk in the coupling of AI or AGI with the development of autonomous weapons. Voila! You have a reason for why I am studying militarised technology...

CAMOUFLAGE
Camouflage is normally associated with military tactics-uniforms, colouration and patterning on vehicles, decoys, undercover work and so on. It is a tactic taken from nature where animals and some plants change in order not to be eaten by predators- think stick insects, for example. In a sense even trying to humanise AI is a kind of camouflage, albeit a tricky and potentially dangerous one. Just think of Ava in the recent movie Ex Machina. By making her human-like normal safety alerts and boundaries became vulnerable to erosion because humans emotionally connected with her.

TREE-OF-LIFE
Ideas of camouflage intersect with my very long interest in the tree-of-life, an age-old transcultural/religious symbol. Its branching appearance is repeated across life, land and the universe in seen and unseen forces and things. For example, think about our vascular system and river networks, think about leaves and ice flows on cold planets. I wonder if the tree holds clues to the template for the universe? Its repeating patterns are far more than mimicry or camouflage. 

I have painted the weaponised drone in Camouflage [above-detail below] the same colours as the two cascading trees-of-life to suggest a warning.  



Detail


DRONESCAPE
This painting is another of my dronescapes. They represent a sub-theme of my quest to re-consider what landscape means in the 21 st century. I suggest we need to untether landscape from earth-bound horizons by launching ourselves into universal distances, where we can evaluate Earth and humanity from new and multiple perspectives. The droning of the landscape, where surveillance mechanisms and infrastructure proliferate, is just but one of my considerations. 


Cheers,
Kathryn