Sunday, September 04, 2016


Target Gouache on paper 30 x 42 cm 2016

Firstly let's start with some great news: 

 1. One of my entries has been selected as a finalist for the $15,000 Redland Art Award . Prizes will be announced on the 14th October and the exhibition continues until 27 November. 

2. My painting Privileged Landscape? is a finalist [by invitation] for the $30,000 Tattersall's Landscape Art Prize.   The prize is announced 7 September. The exhibition will be at the Tattersall's Club 5 - 9 September and then it re-locates to the Riverside Centre 12 - 23 September.

As regular readers know I have been thinking about unmanned air vehicles [UAVs], more commonly called drones. More particularly I am interested in the weaponised drone used for military and counterinsurgency purposes. These are operated by remote pilots. The system of operation relies on a vast amount of technology and connectivity eg: communication satellites, GPS satellites, ground based antenna systems and control stations. The drone, in flight, sits between space-based and ground assets, acting like a conduit or node. You can find more information about the connectivity required to operate a drone here.

But, the aim of the drone, or more precisely, the aim of those who deploy drones, is to target. It seems to me there are basically two types of targeting, one is to target via a drone's various surveillance sensors to gather information and data, the other is to target to kill. Obviously the first kind of targeting is related to the second type. However, as weapons become more autonomous, who or what develops aims for either type of targeting comes under scrutiny. Currently there is debate about the development of lethal autonomous weapons, with arguments that there must be meaningful human control - whatever that might mean. If you are not aware of these discussion a good start is the Future of Life Institute, especially the Autonomous Weapons: An Open Letter from AI and Robotics Researchers which is displayed on their website. 

Gregoire Chamayou, in his book Drone Theory (2015) describes the drone as a “projectile-carrying machine” equipped with an “unblinking eye” that enables a “24 hour constant gaze” to undertake its “militarised manhunt”.1  

If you read more about militarised drones you will come across various other very blunt descriptions of them. 

                                      Remote Control Gouache on paper 30 x 42 cm 2016

So, you might ask, how can Kathryn find inspiration in such a macabre subject? Well, I do! 

I think about the drone with my landscape painter's eyes and mind, creating what I call dronescapes. I think about it in relation to age-old symbols, such as my much loved transcultural/religious tree-of-life. I think about the drone in relation to my interest in existential risk posed by emerging technologies. And, I think about it with my fascination for cosmology driving my attempts to use multiple perspectives to engage with it. Hence, my recent paintings, like the two above, juxtapose the figure of the drone with the tree-of-life, against backgrounds that appear to be cosmic landscapes. The tree, symbolises all life and existence. It also acts as a representation of systems, its branching appearance acting as a template for both human-made and natural ones. 

The armed drone seems to target the tree - my representation of the tree-of-life. Yet, the cosmic landscape indicates, perhaps, that this painting depicts something from another world of time and place. Maybe the tree targets the drone?

Remote Control
I have painted a satellite antenna, a ground-based control station, a communications satellite, a GPS satellite, an armed drone  - and - the target. Its a system and even though the tree-of-life is the target, it represents an alternative system. One of the trees is upside down. Whilst it is a tree, it also has a root-like appearance contained within a white circle. Does it mean new life? Is it a homage to past life? I don't know! What do you think?

1. Chamayou, Gregoire. Drone Theory, trans by Janet Lloyd (Penguin Books: London, 2015) 27, 32, 38.


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