Saturday, December 10, 2016


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

The title and the painting, Combat Proven, Long-Range, Long-Dwell, were inspired by language 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 strangely 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 developments.

'Combat proven' is self evidentiary.

'Long-range' and endurance mean 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 enables persistent surveillance.

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 - 'instructed - 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 I 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.


* 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 a good resource. 

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