Friday, February 26, 2016

VASCULAR SYSTEM FOR POSTHUMANS?


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


THE POSTHUMAN

I've been thinking about posthumans and posthuman futures. Regular readers of this BLOG will have noticed my interest!

I recently read Founder and Director of the Future of Humanity Institute at Oxford University, Prof Nick Bostrom's paper I Want To Be A Posthuman When I Grow Up . He makes some very convincing arguments about why it would be in humanity's best interest to welcome posthuman modes of being. Yes, very logical arguments pertaining to healthspan, cognition and emotion. So, we'd live longer and never get sick...cures for aging and sickness! We'd have enhanced ability to think, learn, deduce, create and appreciate. Plus, the posthuman would experience emotionally stable states of happiness and well-being, healthy relationships with self and others. 

All sounds pretty terrific to me! 

AND....

Envisioning the end game ie: posthuman beings of exemplary capacities is one thing, but how do we get there? The 'road' is a long and curly one! What if there are occurrences that render the best possible posthuman mode of being impossible, compromised, vulnerable? I mean, to be posthuman entails enhancements and augmentations to alleviate the constraints of biology, so there are processes to be developed and achieved. As Bostrom, in another paper The Transhumanist FAQ notes there are a few ways to become posthuman: 
  • “completely synthetic artificial intelligences
  • “enhanced uploads”
  • “result of making many smaller but cumulatively profound augmentations to a biological human.”  Nick Bostrom, “Transhumanist FAQ: A General Introduction Version 2.1” (2003), 5. 
I ask myself, what if all three posthuman ways of being occurred because consensus about choosing one mode was not successful? Would a hierarchy develop? Would a 'haves' and the 'have nots' develop? Would the utopic nature of the hoped-for outcome actually render it impossible, therefore exposing vulnerabilities? 



VASCULAR SYSTEM FOR POSTHUMANS

There are lots of questions to be asked. And, it's fun thinking about them. And, it's the asking of questions that has inspired my new work on paper Vascular System for Posthumans?

I've combined my much-loved age-old transcultural/religious tree-of-life with binary code again. As regular readers know, I see the tree's repeating branching patterns as some kind of template for the universe...even possibly one where posthumans 'roam'. 

In this painting an x-ray/scan type impression of a body is achieved. Yet, binary code 'instructing' Am I? repeats itself along major vessels in the human vascular system. These erupt into cascading tree appendages and a branching-expanded mind! As I was painting this image I thought it could represent the merging of human and machine or even a completely synthetic AI's curcuitry or maybe its idea of what it is...holding onto a remnant of represented human-ness in its synthetic 'brain'. I also thought maybe it could represent the 'picture in mind' of 'self' for an enhanced and uploaded mind, even if it does not have a 'body'? Or the image could illustrate "cumulatively profound augmentations to a biological human"...maybe the branching trees representing humanity's expanded presence throughout the universe...well lets stick with the galaxy first then we'll go intergalactic!

Other recent Posthuman Paintings

Picturing the Posthuman Gouache and watercolour on paper 30 x 42 cm 2015


Cheers,
Kathryn
www.kathrynbrimblecombe-fox.com 


Friday, February 19, 2016

AUSTRALIAN LANDSCAPE CUTOUT

Australian Landscape Cutout Oil on linen 50 x 70 cm 2015


AUSTRALIAN LANDSCAPE CUTOUT

This is a painting from last year, but I have not presented here on my BLOG yet. And, now here it is! I had fun with this painting - playing with cosmological ideas of landscape. As regular readers know I suggest that whilst Earth is our home, the Universe is our environment. In my work I attempt to untether landscape from Earth-bound horizons. In Australian Landscape Cutout the pale blue dot of Earth is placed against its Universal environment. And, the continent of Australia has been extracted to reveal the Universal embrace where star dust connects everything. 

Privileging a particular landscape is not my intention. Rather, I suggest that privileging a particular continental landscape becomes a myopic exercise when placed within the literal Universal environment, but also when placed against concerns about the future of humanity. Indeed, from a vast distance Earth's geography disappears. This was clearly illustrated by the famous photograph 'Pale Blue Dot' taken by the spacecraft Voyager 1 when as it left the outer solar system in 1990. Australian Landscape Cutout relates to another painting where I have extracted Australia from the Earth. This painting is called Privileged Landscape? ... notice the question mark!

With talk of settlements on Mars and discoveries of potential habitable exoplanets orbiting the so-called Goldilocks zone of distant stars, suddenly there is the possibility of humanity extending its reach beyond Earth and even our solar system. I suggest that for this to happen we need to orient ourselves by extending notions of landscape. After all, in language we have extended landscape in the way we describe features on other planets, moons and so on. We use terms such as valley, mountain, plain, haze and more. By coupling language with extensions of how we think about and represent landscape, I propose we can grapple with ideas of life after Earth, life after the human even!


                                        Privileged Landscape Oil on linen 80 x 140 cm 2015


SPACE AND POPULAR CULTURE - ADELAIDE

Regular readers will know that I recently participated in an exciting event in Adelaide, Sth. Australia. I was one of four panellists for a public event 'Space and Popular Culture'. The event was for the Southern Hemisphere Space Studies Program from the International Space University [ISU: Strasbourg, France] and co-hosted at the University of Sth Australia.

The four panellists were space archaeologist Dr. Alice Gorman, me, underwater performance artist and Everest mountaineer, Dr. Sarah Jane Pell, and comedian and Mars One astronaut candidate Josh Richards. 

Please read my last post HERE for more of the details, video link etc.


RADIO INTERVIEW

I was interviewed on Radio Adelaide a day or so after the event. You can listen to it HERE


COSMOLOGY

I read this amazingly interesting essay In The Beginning by Ross Andersen in Aeon Magazine. Please read it and you will understand why I paint the way I do, why I think about the things I do, why I feel a need to express them. Andersen wrote one line that particularly grabbed me "Art, literature, religion and philosophy ignore cosmology at their peril." 

Well...all I can say...with my hand over my heart is...I do not ignore cosmology.

Cheers,
Kathryn
www.kathrynbrimblecombe-fox.com 





Wednesday, February 10, 2016

SPACE AND POPULAR CULTURE - ADELAIDE



The welcome  to the 'Space and Popular Culture' public event for the Southern Hemisphere Space Studies Program - International Space University [Strasbourg, France] and the University of Sth Australia. February 4, Adelaide, Sth Australia. Dr. John Connolly, Head of Space Studies at the International Space University and about to return to NASA to be Head of Mars Human Mission Planning. Picture thanks to Julia Featherstone


THE EVENT


Space and Popular Culture
Last week I went to Adelaide to be one of four panellists for a public event 'Space and Popular Culture'. The event was for the Southern Hemisphere Space Studies Program from the International Space University [ISU: Strasbourg, France] and co-hosted at the University of Sth Australia.

The four panellists were space archaeologist Dr. Alice Gorman, me, underwater performance artist and Everest mountaineer, Dr. Sarah Jane Pell, and comedian and Mars One astronaut candidate Josh Richards. 

Before I continue I highly recommend anyone interested in Space to look into the ISU programs around the world. They are immersive, cross disciplinary, rigourous and highly stimulating. There's a program in Israel this year that looks like it would be amazing. 


Dr. Alice Gorman
Alice spoke about shadows. Fascinating topic to open the conversation. She used Giorgio de Chirico's 1914 painting L'enigme du jour to open her presentation. She has been studying Moon shadows looking at the shadows of abandoned artifacts. It's one way to tell that the object is still there. She also explained the significance of the astronaut boot-prints in the surface of the Moon. These photos are quite famous, but I never knew that the boots were designed to leave clear imprints where shadows could be detected easily. Alice finishes by drawing comparisons with the way shadows are viewed on Earth ie: more to do with dreams, fears etc. You can follow Alice on Twitter where she is known as DrSpaceJunk. She is a wealth of information and inspiration.





Space and Popular Culture video
Starts at 11.50 min mark.

Timing of the youtube video

The video action commences at 11.50 mins with the welcome from Dr. John Connolly, Director of Space Studies at the International Space University. 
Dr Alice Gorman starts at 15.20 mins, 
Me at 26.40 mins, 
Dr Sarah Jane Pell starts at 41.24 mins,  
Josh Richards at 1 hour.
Q & A at 1 hr 19 mins.


AND


Click for 


This is what they wrote about me:
Kathryn Brimblecome-Fox is a philosophical Brisbane-based visual artist who explores humanity through cosmic landscapes.


Dr. Sarah Jane Pell
Sarah Jane spoke about her fascinating and very physical work as a performance artist and contemplation artist [I cannot think of a better term for someone who incorporates action and reflection in the way Sarah Jane does]. She had some amazing images of herself immersed in various liquids. She also spoke about her intentions for performative work on Mt Everest. Her work last year was interrupted by the earth quake in Nepal. She was in Katmandu at the time. She will return though. Her work, amongst many things, reveals much about the human body and mind under stresses of various kinds. Breath and breathing are of particular importance. She collects data in a way that signifies life's amazing forces. Sarah Jane will  be heading for a suborbital flight [going to 103 km perigee, then falling back to Earth] in the not so distant future. Please check out her website HERE

Josh Richards
Josh spoke about his past in the military, his love of physics and his great desire to head for Mars. He is one of the 100 finalists for the Mars One Mission. Josh still has a few more hurdles to cross to get into the final 24, but he is a man who obviously confronts challenges with gusto and of course...humour. He is also a comedian! As I write this though, he is being housed in a glass box which has been placed on Circular Quay, Sydney. It is a simulated Mars habitat...well as much as one can achieve in down-town Sydney. He is there till Friday 12 February, 2016. You can read about it HERE 

If you are in Sydney, check him out! Josh's enthusiasm is infectious.



Me chatting away! Left to Right Seated: Dr. Alice Gorman, Dr. Sarah Jane Pell and Josh Richards. Picture thanks to Julia Featherstone.





A still from the video. Me at the moment I talk about the repeating universal patterns of the tree. Yes, tapping my head when I mentioned that our dendritic system branches like a tree. Also, the word dendron in Ancient Greek means tree!



PLUMMETED BACK TO EARTH

One day in Adelaide speaking to a crowd of people from around the world about how my paintings interact with a topic like 'Space and Popular Culture'...and...on my return home I am mowing the damn lawn! Not only once but twice...because the grass was so long I had to mow it with the blades up high and then again with the blades down low. This is Queensland for you...rain and sunshine and grass that seems to grow before your eyes! And, of course it's hot and humid, so pushing a mower around and getting grass clippings all over a sweaty body is not that enjoyable or attractive.

Just had a thought...there is no grass on Mars....that means no mowing lawns. Going to Mars is sounding a bit more enticing! 





 COSMIC PAINTINGS FROM THE 1990s

The following three paintings are examples of some of 1990s work. As you you can see my interest in the cosmic is not new. 

Please check out more of my BLOG posts to see recent work. 


 Energy Mixed media on paper 76 x 56 cm 1993


 Spirited Mixed media on paper 56 x 76 cm 1993


 A Place In Time Mixed media on paper 56 x 76 cm 1993


And, lastly...tune in if you are keen you can hear an interview with me on Radio Adelaide this Saturday 13 February on their Arts Program 9 -10.30 am [Adelaide time]. Not sure of the exact time my interview will be aired though. It will be about 15 minutes long.

Cheers,
Kathryn
www.kathrynbrimblecombe-fox.com

Monday, February 01, 2016

EXODUS

Mass Exodus Gouache and watercolour on paper 30 x 42 cm 2016


I've been thinking about the future. I know most people say we must live in the present, but I like to think about the far distant future too. 

I've previously painted images that 'speak' about an exodus of humanity from planet Earth.Whilst it does not take up all my thinking space, I do wonder about how, why and when exodus might take place...if at all. 

Some questions I ask are:
  • Will it be an exodus of necessity? If so, will it be because we humans have 'stuffed' planet Earth to the point of needing to escape it? Or, will there be an ordered and well thought through exodus to avoid the effects of the sun's demise and resultant solar system collapse?
  • If we need to escape before a planned and thought through process was undertaken, how do we choose who gets to go? Will a situation of 'the chosen' occur? That could get ugly!
  • If we escape in the far distant future will humans be recognisable as human or will we have morphed into posthuman modes of being either through biological mutation or assisted augmentation ie: artificial intelligence, downloading of minds and other introduced human-altering processes?
  • If and when we escape the demise of the Earth, how do we get to our chosen new planetary home in a far distant alternative solar system? I mean it will take a looooong time to get there, unless we've developed new speed-of-light transport systems. Or, maybe when we escape it's actually as some kind of mixture of DNA, and other additions deemed appropriate, that can be activated upon arrival at our new planetary home. Who or what would do the activating...robots of course! Then they'd be the nursemaids...just imagine!
  • What if other beings live on our chosen new home...and they don't want us? 
  • Or maybe as the sun starts its progressive deterioration, we develop extremophile   characteristics that prolong our habitation of planet Earth until it's just not viable. Then we return to the stars from which we came? 
 Now to my new painting Mass Exodus. 

So, what was I thinking about when I painted this image? All of the above actually. Plus, thoughts about the mass exodus of people from the Middle East and Africa. Yes, mass exodus here on Earth right now! 

Mass exodus is about life on the move, life escaping drastic situations, life trying to re-establish itself somewhere else, life severing ties to the known, homes left abandoned. It's about treacherous journeys. It's also about those who welcome or don't welcome strangers. It's about change.

In my new painting, I've taken  what is hopefully seen as positive spin on life leaving planet Earth...or maybe the small blue dot is symbolic of home, whether it be a house, a country or a planet? The colourful tree-of-life that emanates from the small blue dot signifies that leaving is perhaps part of the process of life. Like a tree in the forest, it reaches to it highest point. Over years its seeds are blown about in the wind, to land on new soil. Sometimes new growth occurs and sometimes not. I'll leave you there...I am sure you can see where my mind was going when I painted Mass Exodus.


NEWS
.......................................................

Reminder!

Thursday 4th February
'Space and Popular Culture'

Panel: Me, Dr. Sarah Jane Pell, Josh Richards 
with facilitator Dr. Alice Gorman
Public Event
Adelaide 
ALL INFO CLICK HERE

...........................................................................


A recent interview with me for the REMIX Project looking at Queensland ARI Heritage 1980 - 2000


Cheers,
Kathryn
www.kathrynbrimblecombe-fox.com