Saturday, May 28, 2016


I Am A Posthuman Gouache and watercolour on paper 42 x 30 cm 2016

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The code above appears in my new painting I Am A Posthuman. It actually 'forms', or maybe 'performs', or otherwise 'instructs' a structural element to the 'figure'. You can guess the translation for sure!

But, is this figure me? Maybe? It could also be a posthuman entity from a far distant future expressing itself through me? That's probably a bit far fetched, but worth considering, even if only playfully. However, if we are simulations run by posthuman entities, as per Prof Nick Bostrom's theory, then maybe not such a playful idea! It depends if you believe that the posthuman is something that will occur in the far distant future or whether you think we are already posthuman as a result of various things including drugs, technological devices such as pace makers, glasses, hearing aids and other health oriented devices. Then there are the augmentation or enhancement devices such as [again] drugs, wearable monitoring devices, certain sports gear, cosmetic surgery, developments in AI assisted activities and more.

Yet, are these various devices making us posthuman or is it more correct to describe them as part of a transhuman process? The prefix 'post' means after and whilst we humans may have changed over the centuries, unless we are all simulations, I think the 'posthuman' tagline is somewhat premature. Having said that, though, some of our activities may precipitate a human extinction event that does flip the whole idea of the human into the posthuman [ie: no human!] potentially rather quickly. Whilst the chance of such event/s occurring are considered to be very small, the outcomes are considered potentially irredeemable. This kind of risk concern has seen the formation of various research centres that examine existential risk posed by emerging technologies Future of Humanity Institute [Oxford], Center of the Study of Existential Risk [Cambridge], Future of Life Institute [US - out of MIT].

Being Human
If using technology that enhances and augments somehow makes us posthuman then have we been posthuman since our early ancestors picked up rocks and stones to make tools? One could argue that any kind of implement is a technology that enhances chances of survival and progress. Or, maybe just thinking differently about ourselves flips us from human to posthuman? But, history is a complex trajectory of many instances where cultural, political and social changes have triggered new ways of thinking about being human. Examples are feminism, Indigenous rights, post-colonial theories, democracy, science and more! I would argue that these processes are actually what makes us human...just like the cognitive impulses that saw our stone-age ancestors pick up rocks and stones to use as implements.

But, returning to existential risk posed by emerging technologies - the fact that multidisciplinary research in this area is taken very seriously should cause people to take notice. A literal post-human time may occur before we are ready to ensure some kind of human survival! 

I Am A Posthuman
Like some of my other recent 'posthuman' paintings this posthuman figure is formed with a combination of 'codes' ie: binary code and the tree-of-life. The figure seems to float in outer space. There is no horizon line nor indication of precise environment. Is this posthuman simply an entity embedded in a computer or is it a speck of stardust or is it at 'home' in outer space? Or, maybe its 'environment' is my imagination?

Recent other posthuman posts and paintings

Monday, May 23, 2016


Galaxy Strip Gouache an watercolour on paper 42 c 30 cm

I've been reading a lot about surveillance lately...especially about UAVs [unmanned Air Vehicles] otherwise known as drones.  French philosopher, Gregoire Chamayou writes about many aspects of militarised drones as surveillance and/or weaponised vehicles in his book Drone Theory. Fascinating and terrifying in many ways. 

The aerial view, though, is not new to me. I have for many years painted as I am the one flying above the ground. I've written about it before too - here is a sample of previous postings SUPER HEROES, MY LANDSCAPE AND SPAGETTIFICATION , FALLING OUT INTO IT.

Also, as a child and teenager I loved planning towns and suburbs as if I was the creator from above! Here's an example below of one of my teenage suburbs. 

Suburban design around late 70s.

The idea of technology infiltrating all aspects of our lives is an exponentially growing phenomena. Penetrating our private lives from a 'distance' that we do not understand is going on 24 hours a day. Yet, the images we see of Earth from space make us awe struck with the beauty of a perspective not readily available, unless you are an astronaut. There is nothing perplexing about this, unless you are an alien...perhaps! So, some kinds of surveillance provide pleasure and awe, whereas other kinds remain insidious and troubling. 

My new painting at the top Galaxy Strip combines a few of my interests and inspirations. Firstly creating this 'suburb' took me back to my teenage years when I wondered about the families who might live in the houses I designed. Secondly, though, as I painted this image I was hovering in my minds' eye much further afar than when I was a teenager. I was wondering about 'viewing' the galaxy as a series of habitats. So, whilst the strip of what looks like urban development might exist between vegetation zones, it might also be a metaphor placed against vast distance...the Universe. The strip of buildings or habitats seems to float above the background as if you could fly not only between and in front of things but behind them too. Yes, in my imagination I had gone way beyond Google Earth. 

Galaxy Strip  could be an artificial habitat created in outer space as an environment for humanity post-Earth? Indeed maybe a Dyson Sphere? It could be metaphoric galaxy? Or, it could be a suburb of Canberra, Australia's capital city - a city purposely designed, with green strips, lakes and more. 

I propose that aerial views in the 21st century take on a provocative energy that questions how far surveillance can go and how we might react to this. The downward gaze is repeated across the world as people gaze down to their phones, computers and iPads. As we gaze down, the surveillance from 'above' harvests our actions online, through GPS, imagery and more. Do we or can we notice? I wonder about this constant downward gaze! At worst it's akin to digging or wishing to dig an abyss - at best it's akin to navel gazing! 

What happens to a our ability to see multi dimensional perspectives where horizontal and upward gazes exercises our vision - literally and our minds - metaphorically?

Regular readers will recognise my interests in perspective, desires to un-tether landscape from Earth-bound horizons, cosmic possibilities, even the posthuman...and more.


Saturday, May 14, 2016


Runoff Gouache and watercolour on paper 30 x 42 cm 2016

My last post was called PLAYING WITH AUSTRALIA . In that post I uploaded two recent AUSTRALIA paintings - and - here's another new one for you. I have been working with gouache and watercolour on paper for a few months and thoroughly enjoying it too. However, for every painting I upload, there's a few that have been ripped up or painted over. The process of painting is an ebb and flow, of feeling that a work is successful - not successful - successful - not successful and so on. 

I have painted Australia as a series of colourful ribbon-like lines. The contours of the Australian continent seem to leak into what could be an ocean of water or an 'ocean' of space or an 'ocean' of metaphors claiming our imaginations. When I painted this image I was thinking of many things: our environment, current national and world politics, our national identity, globalisation, influence, brain drains, the environment, the future and more. 

I was inspired by some old photographs from my youth. These photos recorded a very serious flood that occurred in early 1981. The flood waters ripped gully-like contours into the deep black soil paddocks in and surrounding my parent's farm. Whilst it had rained heavily in our local area, it had also rained very heavily in the nearby Bunya Mountains. The runoff had traveled many kilometres onto the black soil Pirrnuan Plain where my parent's farm was situated. The erosion caused by the massive water runoff continues to scar the landscape. The photos below show you the extent of the water coverage. 

Pirrinuan Plain, Queensland, Australia Flood 1981

Pirrinuan Plain, Queensland, Australia Flood 1981

So, literal floodwater runoff got me thinking about currency - not only literal water currents, but also political currency, financial currency, contemporaneous-ness. What happens when things get out of control? When does political 'runoff' cause 'erosion' of confidence? Where does economic 'runoff' cause an 'erosion' of sustainability? There are questions about industrial and technological development and the 'runoffs' that erode environmental sustainability. What kinds of scars are our activities of the 20th and 21st century leaving for future generations?

Yet, water runoff as it travels to the lowest point can also replenish underground aquifers, dams, lakes and other water storages. In these cases abundance is not wasted, as the water is stored for future use. Thinking about this got me contemplating about how we might 'store' economic wealth in ways that ensure sustainability and equitable distribution to support social infrastructures. This is at the same time as allowing people to pursue their dreams.

How can we maintain political systems that provide a store of integrity that generates confidence? Are there ways to rebuild and then store, and therefore re-store, environmental safeguards eg: water, soil, air, flora and fauna?

I have a some experience with re-storing land. When I lived in Goondiwindi, further west than my childhood home, I was lucky enough to build two big beautiful  gardens. Both gardens were situated on a block out of town, beside a creek. However, the land had previously been overstocked, it had been eroded, and the only plants that seemed to thrive were prickly ones.

I had the land deep ripped. This is a process of digging deeply into the soil with a deep ripping machine towed behind a tractor. It allows air flow and water absorption, plus penetration of nutrients into the soil. I introduced nutrients by digging in rotten hay and cotton trash [leftover from the cotton gin]. I had large mounds of soil formed in big garden beds, and into these I planted hundreds of small tubular plants: eucalyptus, sheoaks and other native bushes and trees. They grew quickly as their roots were able to spread out and grow into the newly mounded and ripped soil. As time went by, the trees self-mulched the soil with their dropped leaves and I was able to plant smaller bushes and ground covers. Worms even reappeared! And, the prickly plants were largely eradicated.

Yes, we had floods in Goondiwindi too. Once my gardens and the remaining paddocks were deep ripped, and grasses and other foliage were restored, the flood waters did not strip the land, causing further erosion. Instead the water penetrated the soil and re-established sub-soil moisture profiles ie: stored water for the future! The runoff was collected...

Me starting one of the Goondiwindi gardens. The soil had already been deep ripped. 

So...I've written quite a bit - but I hope it helps you see how an artist draws upon a range of influences, experiences and thoughts. Runoff is a painting that proposes neither good nor bad outcomes, but I think it certainly triggers questions.


Sunday, May 08, 2016


Dissolving Gouache on paper 30 x 42 cm 

These two paintings are a continuation of my interest in playing with ideas of landscape and the Australian continent. You can see more of my Australian paintings in a recent post called AUSTRALIA - ONLINE EXHIBITION and another post called AUSTRALIAN LANDSCAPE CUTOUT

These two new works on paper 'play' with Australia - its sustainability - its identity - its contours - its relationship with landscape elements both on Earth and perhaps cosmically? You might think of other ways the paintings 'play' with Australia, linking them to a range of geographic, political and social events and ideas! I know I can think of a few tangents that are not initially apparent, but upon reflection make me giggle, frown, despair, be hopeful!

Australia Turned Upside Down Gouache on paper 30 x 42 cm 

Here in Australia we are on countdown for the next federal election on July 2. I am not looking forward to escalating pre-election sound bites that lure, repulse, ridicule, promise all kinds of offerings to electors. The news is saturated with stories, responses, predictions and more... all supposedly to help inform us. BUT, it becomes exhausting. 

This forthcoming election is a double dissolution one too ie: both houses of parliament, including the full senate are to be elected. You can read about it HERE  It has only happened 6 times since the the formation of the Australian parliament over 110 years ago. Yes, it's disruptive. Time will tell if the disruption is helpful or not. Can you 'see' how both new paintings can be 'read' as political? 

Dissolving and Australia Turned Upside Down are provocative titles.............................

In the meantime, I have just returned from a few days in Canberra, Australia's capitol city and our federal political centre. I steered away from the newspapers with coverage of the recent budget and forthcoming election- instead I visited the National Gallery, a couple of wineries, Mt Stromlo observatory, Beaver Galleries and lots more. I had a great time. 

Me at Long Rail Gully Wines - outside Canberra