Thursday, July 20, 2017

THE NEW CLOUDS

The New Clouds Gouache on paper 56 x 76 cm 2017



I've previously painted airborne drones as 'clouds' and here is another painting where clusters or swarms of weaponised drones create cloud-proxies in the sky. 

I am playing with ideas of fluffy clouds that literally dance around our skies - and - THE Cloud where, with a click or two on our various cyber devices, we share and send photos, documents, data etc to be 'stored' remotely in ways that are accessible to us. But, who or what else can also access our data? 

TARGETING
In my mind, are also thoughts of targeting! Here, in The New Clouds I've 'targeted' one of the drones and it erupts in flames. But, the remaining drones continue with their proxy 'dances'. They do not seem to detect that they are being watched - by you and me. Here, I've attempted to turn pervasive surveillance, with its targeting agenda, back onto the drones. We - you and me - could be everywhere - above the drones, below them, in front of them or even behind them! 

THE CLOUD
With regards to THE Cloud, it offers another kind of opportunity to 'target'. Advertisers, corporations, governments and so on, can access data that includes our online patterns of behaviour, to 'target' us with goods, services and promotions. There's a plethora of uses for this kind of data - and it is not always as benign as an advertiser targeting your Facebook page with Landrover Discovery ads moments after you have searched online for your dream car! Yes, I am keen on Discos - the old version.

That THE Cloud's operations actually exist and occur as a result of material infrastructure belies the notion of fluffy vapourous clouds. Massive servers require space in huge buildings. Servers suck energy, and they need to be connected and interconnected with cables that cross continents and oceans to ensure backup, rerouting and instantaneous reactions. The harnessing of space based assets to assist connectivity adds another layer of material infrastructure beyond Earth's atmosphere. And, in one way or another, all this infrastructure is used for both civilian and military purposes, thus blurring the lines between battlefield and city/home. 

AWARENESS VERSUS DETECTION
Like the drones in The New Clouds, are we oblivious to the pervasive surveillance into our daily activities? The drones cannot be aware or unaware, because they are not sentient. Their sensor systems simply detect or not. Yet, we have powers of awareness, but are we using them? Do our devices, constantly accompanying us in our pockets, our handbags and embedded in our cars etc transform us into nodes in a system that ultimately renders awareness obsolete and detection capabilities pragmatically more efficient?



The New Clouds is another of my dronescapes or cosmicscapes - or - maybe it's a skyscape? Whatever it is, it reflects upon the technical, philosophical, political and historical research, into contemporary militarised technology, I have undertaken for my Master of Philosophy at the University of Queensland. Happy to report that I submitted my thesis this week! And, I have around 90 works on paper, completed over the last nearly two years, that track my research progress. Now to find somewhere to exhibit them!

---------------------------


NEWS
My entry, Universal Code, for the inaugural $35,000 Ravenswood Australian Women's Art Prize has been selected as a finalist. The Award is announced on August 4.


Cheers,
Kathryn



Drone Clouds Gouache on paper 30 x 42 cm 2016


Cloud Storage Gouache on paper 30 x 42 cm 2016


Sky-Drone-Net Gouache on paper 30 x 42 cm 

Thursday, July 13, 2017

CROSSING THE RUBICON

Crossing the Rubicon Gouache on paper 67 x 56 cm 2017



POINT OF NO RETURN
The term 'crossing the Rubicon' means, being at the point of no return. Historically there is a background story. In 49 BC, Julius Caesar's army crossed the Rubicon River in north east Italy. It was considered an act of insurrection and treason, and a declaration of war against the Roman Senate. 

When I painted the new work above, I was also thinking about the event horizon, a cosmological term to describe the 'point of no return' at the entry of a black hole. However, a black hole emits nothing, not even light, and my new painting reveals a fire - is this a hopeful sign? 

FIRE - HEAT - LIGHT
Despite the fire in Crossing the Rubicon indicating light, the tree-of-life seems threatened, not by a black hole's event horizon, but by another kind of possible point of no return. This point relates to climate change commentary regarding global warming. At what point will it be too hot for humans, and other creatures and plants, to survive? Will we all have time to adjust? Or will we be like the proverbial frog placed in water that is brought to the boil - not noticing how hot it is until too late! Should we develop extremophile characteristics? Maybe we are already mutating? Extremophiles are organisms that survive in extreme environments and temperature conditions. Fascinating critters! Yet, maybe transformation into transhuman/robotic entities is the only way we might survive?

In Crossing the Rubicon a tree-of-life is drawn towards a place where it suddenly erupts into fire. However, whilst fire is destructive, it can also symbolise renewal. Maybe the point of no return can be avoided or maybe it triggers something else, another way of being? Maybe the point of no return, 'crossing the Rubicon', is about social and political will? 

Crossing the Rubicon may indicate no return, but it does not negate a future - of some kind. 

COSMIC LANDSCAPE
Crossing the Rubicon is another of my cosmic landscapes. You could be looking down from space upon a literal landscape, maybe not even Earth! Or, you could be looking up at a 'spacescape', witnessing cosmic events unfold. Or, maybe looking into a landscape - somewhere. Cosmic perspectives offer intriguing ways to view ourselves, our planet and our universal environment. 



Please check out COSMIC FIRE and THE BODY POLITIC

Cheers,
Kathryn

Saturday, July 08, 2017

THE BODY POLITIC

The Body Politic Gouache on paper 76 x 56 cm 2017


THE TERM 'THE BODY POLITIC'
The term 'the body politic' is used as a metaphor to describe a nation, a sovereignty, a corporation where people are organised, or considered as a group, subjected to laws pertaining to notions of citizenry. 

In a globalised world 'the body politic' can be considered as being all of us. 

The notion of a body to describe a group of people, and the systems that organise them, is intriguing. There is a fascinating history - but that's another post! 


THE HUMAN SECURITY FORUM
I've been stimulated to think about 'the body politic' after attending a terrific one day workshop "The Human Security Forum" hosted by Griffith University and facilitated by Dr. Samid Suliman, here in Brisbane, Australia. One of the presenters was a visiting scholar, Dr. Stefanie Fishel, from Alabama University, USA. Her book The Microbial State: Global Thriving and the Body Politic  is launched this month. [Check it out for the historical and philosophical background to ideas of 'the body politic' too]. 

After hearing Dr. Fishel speak at the workshop, and a few days later at an event hosted by the Queensland School of Continental Philosophy, the metaphoric capabilities of the body [human and non-human] were expanded, but also made more material. In making the metaphor more material, the body's relationship with its environment became more evidently important - for survival. In the age of the Anthropocene, this opens up more penetrative ways to think about 'the body politic's', ie: humankind's, relationship with Earth, the atmosphere and space. As I have previously written, Earth is our home, but the universe is our environment.* By blurring the lines between body and environment, making porosity evident, it becomes evident that they are interchangeable. This interchangeability is metaphoric, visceral and corporeal.

Ah, Ha! The spiritual notion of oneness has a catalytic essence, amongst others - of course! 


TREE-OF-LIFE
So, after mulling over ideas that popped into my head as I listened to Dr. Fishel, the age-old transcultural/religious tree-of-life symbol kept returning to me [regular readers will not be surprised!] as a motif that straddles the nano and the vast, linking body and environment. As the tree's branching appearance mirrors our human body's internal systems it also mirrors water, plant and landscape systems of Earth. The branching phenomena, above and below the ground, is also reflected in our eyes, on the palms of our hands and in finger prints. Other animals share body functioning traits, as they also share this planetary environment with us. Further afield, the tree's branching appearance is reflected in images of space, from nebulae to even large scale computer simulations of the structure of the universe. And, one wonders about multi-universes as branches and roots from a primordial 'tree' of no end or beginning! 


THE PAINTING - THE BODY POLITIC 
In The Body Politic I have painted another of my cosmic landscapes. The 'body' of the 'landscape' is on fire. This 'landscape' represents all kinds of environments, from the body itself - to a personal address - to a cosmic one - and more. The fire could be taken a couple of ways. Is it a destructive fire, or is it symbolic of renewal? The trees-of-life, moving up the centre of the painting, inhabit what I'd imagined as a kind of airway through the fiery 'body/landscape'. Here, the trees act as filtering follicles that keep air moving, making individual and collective breath possible. That trees literally produce oxygen is a key to the osmotic relationship between breathing bodies, the environment and even organisational concepts, such as the 'body politic'.

The Body Politic can be read as a 'landscape' of a human body - even a slice of it - like an x-ray or other internal views, such as a MRI scan. It could also be read as an multi-perspectival view of a literal landscape. Are you looking into this landscape, almost caught? Or are you above it, looking down upon it, like a remote pilot operating a drone, monitoring successful strikes? Or, are you below it, looking up towards a fiery atmospheric battlefield? Maybe it's a cosmic sky - a future 'scape' of the demise of the sun and the solar system, with the trees representing our scattered star dust - the foibles of human politics now meaningless...?

DATA-PROXY 'BODY POLITIC'
From a technological point of view, the branching appearance of the tree, also mirrors human-made systems, such as computer circuitry. In fact, the tree's branching system is used to 'visualise' flows of data, behavioural patterns and other information. Artificial intelligence systems incorporate what is called 'tree-logic', based on ideas of decision and learning trees. In the age of digital and cyber technology, the 'body politic' extends into realms of technology, where the 'body' is no longer living, but is presented, in subterfuge, as a re-assembled data-proxy. That's another post!

Cheers, 
Kathryn

P.S. Check out this article in The Conversation written by Assoc. Prof Anthony Bourke and Assoc Prof. Stefanie Fishel Politics for the Planet: Why Nature and Wildlife Need Their Own Seats at the UN.


* Selection of other posts where home and environment are mentioned.

Friday, June 30, 2017

AS I FLEW PAST EARTH, I NOTICED EVIDENCE OF DRONES

As I Flew Past Earth, I Noticed Evidence of Drones, Gouache on paper 76 x 56 cm, 2017



In As I Flew Past Earth, I Noticed Evidence of Drones I have imagined being in a spacecraft, or being a speck of star dust, or being some kind of super force flying around the universe. As I pass by planet Earth I notice evidence of drones, their surveillance and targeting signals. How many drones - I cannot tell. 

I also notice signs of life, human and non-human - fragmented, turned upside down, hidden. However, there are also signs of defiance, regeneration, hope.


AERIAL PERSPECTIVE
Regular readers will observe that in this new painting I've taken an aerial perspective, yet again. Indeed, this perspective is evident in most of my work. I like to fly! I also like to think I can take the viewer with me, way beyond Earth, but also perhaps right up close, even inside its crust. This kind of imaginative flying could be a really significant capability in the 'drone age'. As airborne drones loiter in skies, hovering above terrain, scoping with their various surveillance capabilities, our horizons are netted with signals and vertically delivered potential threats. 

PANOPTICON
The airborne drone channels ideas of a panopticon with an intent to observe without being seen. Eighteenth century social theorist Jeremy Bentham proposed a panopticon as an institution designed for inmates, where a single guard could observe prisoners without being seen. That the guard could not be seen meant that prisoners were never sure if someone was observing or how many might be observing. Are we and other living creatures 'inmates' on a planet increasingly surveilled by drones? Should we also think about how satellite infrastructure, currently conscripted to aid communication and environmental awareness for drone operation, is utilised for surveillance and other potentially more lethal purposes? I claim we need to fly beyond our droned skies and beyond orbiting communication and GPS satellites,ie:  way beyond low Earth orbit, geostationary orbit and high Earth orbit, to get some perspective! 

So, if we can 'fly' around the drone and space-based enabling infrastructure then maybe we can subvert the power drone capabilities insidiously deploy. We can, with imagination, turn ourselves into observers with truly full spectrum temporal and spatial agency. 

The trees-of-life in As I Flew Past Earth, I Noticed Evidence of Drones are showing us how - don't you think?

Cheers,
Kathryn  



Thursday, June 22, 2017

THE LEAVES ARE LEAVING

The Leaves Are Leaving gouache on paper 56 x 76 cm 2017


THE WORLD
As masses of people flee their homes, due to war, conflict, drought, famine, poverty and suppression of many kinds, what does it mean for the soul of humanity? Displaced people flee homes in one country to seek refuge in another, some leave homes to live a homeless life in their own countries, and others never find new homes except in camps and settlements for displaced people. Others, die trying to find a new path. 

As the world runs amok people retreat to extreme beliefs, setting up polarisations that neuter balanced political traction, social cohesion and cultural understanding. Retreat to extremes represents another kind of exodus. A kind of exodus that seems to make things worse.

THE LEAVES ARE LEAVING
In the Leaves Are Leaving a mass of people are on the move, their silhouettes atop a hilly horizon. All the people are red. A flame-like swathe of red leaves shoots upwards into a turbulent sky which is dotted with groupings of red dots. I've deliberately painted the people, the leaves and the dots red - because they all represent the same thing - life. 

Regular readers will know that the leaves are from the tree-of-life, a recurrent theme in much of my work. Here, the tree is not portrayed. It has relinquished its leaves, sending them to seek refuge and safety in realms beyond. 

SUN/DRONE AND DUAL USE
The colourful radiating rays peeping through the stormy clouds could be a sun, but regular readers will realise that they could also be the surveillance and targeting signals of an obscured drone. These rays are symbolic of the insidious infiltration of militarised style surveillance that pervades our physical and online lives. That the rays could be a sun or a drone's surveillance signals demonstrates the increasingly blurred lines between civilian and military use of digital and cyber infrastructures and systems. Two days ago I watched a new short documentary produced by Dr. Ian Shaw. The film is called Remote: A Documentary About Drones and Humans and it demonstrates very clearly how militarised surveillance, under the guise of policing and security, has seeped into our everyday lives. Do watch the film!

Cheers,
Kathryn



Friday, June 16, 2017

CAN THE LEAVES STILL DANCE?

Can The leaves Still Dance? gouache on paper 56 x 76 cm 2017

A STORY
When my eldest child was about two and a half we were sitting on our verandah which looked over a creek. This S. E Queensland [Australia] rural setting was complete with grassy fields, cattle grazing and gum trees lining the creek banks. A faint breeze was stirring. My toddler turned to me and said "Look Mummy the leaves are dancing". The leaves were rustling in the breeze and the sharp eyes of a two year old noticed. I will never forget this moment for a number of reasons.

I was thinking about dancing leaves when I painted Can The leaves Still Dance? 

21st CENTURY
In an age where environmental issues plague us and droughts cause mass migrations of people, even if trees have leaves - would people notice them dancing in a breeze? In an age where we are glued to our digital devices, do we look up and around to notice leaves dancing in a breeze? In an age where cities are congested, as we traverse busy streets, sip coffee in trendy cafes and work in interior designed offices do we notice any trees, let alone their dancing leaves? 

In the 21st century, the age of simulation, drones, surveillance and monitoring can we still appreciate leaves dancing as a breeze rustles through a tree's branches. What if we took 'dancing leaves' and a 'breeze' as co-metaphors for life transmitted symbolically in the age-old transcultural/religious tree-of-life? In  Can The leaves Still Dance? I've included references to many trees - trees-of-life - some upright and some upside down. One tree acts as the figures' shadow. It is a shared shadow, the shadow of all humanity - past, present and future. There are 'rivers' of leaves too. Are they fallen leaves now dancing to another life tune? Or, maybe they are escaping? In the background radiating lines appear sun-like. But, could they be the surveillance and targeting signals of a hovering drone?

I'm sure you have stories to tell, thoughts to entertain, memories to remember and dreams to dream - so I'll leave you to think some more about Can The Leaves Still Dance? 

________________________________________________________________________________


This is another of my cosmic landscapes. Also, a dronescape. Interesting, though, that country Queensland is still there - launched to other realms of the universe!

Cheers,
Kathryn.
Please follow me on Instagram to see more images of paintings, studio shots etc. 


Thursday, June 08, 2017

SPACE NET

Space Net Gouache on paper 56 x 76 cm 2017



Space Net is related to another recent painting Code Empire  where I have painted Earth [or another planet?] and its moon with strings of binary code. I have not used binary code in Space Net but I was thinking about signals emanating from Earth into space - and signals emanating from space to Earth. 

AERIALS IN SPACE
In Space Net the circle could be Earth, but it could also be another planet, or it could be the centre of a space ship! The triangulated prongs could be signals or some other kind of technical infrastructure, physical or digital, that enables communication, orientation and surveillance. I painted them to look like the huge aerials my father had built beside our house on our grain farm in the middle of the Darling Downs, Queensland, Australia. These aerials facilitated reception and transmission for my father's HAM radio communication signals. In a sense I've uprooted them and sent them into space! Here in Space Net they represent structure, even if it is unseen; the kind of digital and cyber structures that net our skies, that net the space between Earth and satellites orbiting Earth, and in some cases extending beyond. An example of the latter is Voyager 1, now travelling in interstellar space. It still sends signals that NASA can receive. That's actually quite amazing! Something human beings made is now beyond our solar system...

Space Net conjures a few thoughts - if the circle in Earth, something or someone has us covered! The planet is completely connected and surveilled, cloaked in a net of signals that create unseen avenues for power and control, but by who or what? Has the planet been colonised by the forces of the algorithm, the originators lost in time? Or, is this image a spaceship carrying humanity to its next planetary home? If so, is humanity continuing its urge to colonise or is it escaping an unsustainable Earth? 

AIRBORNE MILITARISED DRONES
As regular readers know, over the last 18 months or so, the figure of the militarised airborne drone has entered my paintings. If I don't depict the actual drone, I paint its signals, to expose their presence, to aestheticise them in ways that draw attention to them. These painted 'signals' are symbolic of the increasing persistence of monitoring, surveillance and scoping of life by remotely operated and increasingly autonomous systems. Space Net can also be read as one of my dronescapes, where drones circle the Earth casting surveillance and ever-ready targeting 'nets' across the planet.


------------------------------------------------------------


NET - SURVEILLANCE is an earlier post with 2 paintings where I have exposed a drone's signals.

DRONESCAPES     Please check out my designated DRONESCAPES page. 

Cheers,
Kathryn

Thursday, June 01, 2017

COSMIC FIRE - Online Exhibition


 HOT Gouache on paper  56 x 76 cm 2017 


COSMIC FIRE is an online exhibition of a selection of my paintings that refer, either directly or indirectly, to fire. Not any old kind of fire though, and not necessarily real fires. I am thinking about cosmic fire, the kind that precipitates or represents the birth or death of solar systems, the kind that erupts when landscapes change, when volcanoes spill forth a planet's buried entrails. Or, fire as a symbolic warning that human activities can have catastrophic outcomes.

Do we want to stir the dark chasms?

I have selected a few recent works on paper and placed some of them with older paintings. I've done this to demonstrate how some themes continue in an artist's practice, albeit often not in direct ways.

INFLUENCES
Recent paintings have been influenced by my research into militarised technology. Older work that was influenced by my interest in cosmology resonate with my recent cosmic landscapes - often harbouring loitering airborne weaponised drones The tree-of-life is a common element in many of the paintings. It streams hope. Ultimately, my interest in cosmology has extended an interest in another theme, that of perspective, both literal and metaphoric. My influences are woven through my paintings and over time a fabric of images has emerged.


PRICES
If you are interested in buying please contact me through the "Contact Form" upper right of this post.

And, if you are interested in my dronescapes please visit DRONESCAPES


DARK CHASMS


Stirring the Dark Chasm Gouache on paper 56 x 76 cm 2017


Perpetual Beginning Oil on linen 80 x 120 cm 2011


Firmament Gouache on paper 30 x 42 cm [51 x 62 cm framed] 2011


ANTHROPOCENE


 Anthropocene Gouache and watercolour on paper 56 x 76 cm 2017. 


 Cosmic Testimony Gouache and watercolour on paper 56 x 76 cm 2017


Planet $ Oil on linen 30 x 30 cm 2011


BIRTH AND DEATH OF WORLDS


 Star Blood Gouache on paper 56 x 76 cm 2017


Greener Pastures Oil on linen 50 x 50 cm 2014


Birth of Landscape oil on linen 138 x 168 cm 2014

FIRE AND FLOOD 


                            Fire and Flood: Extremus Gouache on paper 56 x 76 cm 2017 NFS


Storm Oil on linen 85 x 150 cm 2012


SECRETS

I've 'curated' Secrets as the last painting because, whilst not directly referencing fire, it contains some hopeful ideas - but it depends on how you read it.


Secrets Gouache and watercolour on paper 56 x 76 cm 2017


Cheers,
Kathryn

Friday, May 26, 2017

CODE EMPIRE

Code Empire Gouache on paper 56 x 76 cm 2017


In Code Empire I have painted Earth and its moon in binary code that repeats/instructs the word EMPIRE. But the full code is not seen, as it wraps around the planet and the moon. Various satellites are positioned in space, and signals radiate into - or - from outer space. 

Code Empire is a continuation of my interest in trying to portray and reflect upon the influence of contemporary digital and cyber technology in our daily lives generally, and in war and conflict specifically. A recent article "U.S. Empire, Warfare, and Geopolitics in the Robot Age" by Ian Shaw directly spurred me to create Code Empire.(1) In the article, which has been accepted for publication in the journal Security Dialogue, Shaw discusses "more-than-human geopolitics" by drawing nonhuman entities, cyborgs, artificial intelligence and algorithms etc, into the realm of geopolitical influence, particularly regarding warfare. The notion of empire is applied to the way contemporary technology enmeshes the planet in a way the sets preconditions for a future dominated by algorithms, artificial intelligence and robotic forces. Shaw uses terms such as "planetary technics" and "robo-mesh". I particularly like "robo-mesh"! His article raises a plethora of questions about the future of war, security and surveillance, and humanity's place in a world where technology not only changes where and how humans live, but also notions of human agency, power and involvement.    

The World Needs Artists
As regular readers know, I have a keen interest in contemporary weaponised technology, especially airborne drones, increasing autonomy in weapon systems, swarming capabilities and ubiquitous surveillance technology. Code Empire channels all these interests as well as my interest in cosmological perspective. I propose that cosmic perspectives, albeit imagined, are useful ways to critically view current global geopolitical machinations. When I say "imagined", I know some people find it hard to transport themselves beyond the here, now and the obvious - that's why the world needs artists!

Cosmic Perspective
With a cosmic perspective, a few readings of Code Empire are possible. Maybe it exposes the infiltration of militarised surveillance facilitation beyond Earth's atmosphere to dual-use communication and GPS satellites; the digital 'empire' already extended into space? If this is the case it is not just the planet enmeshed in code, but also our atmosphere and beyond. Human endeavours regarding technological development are to be marveled, but ultimately is there a human cost, perhaps not initially apparent? Researchers at the Center for the Study of Existential Risk, the Future of Humanity Institute and others have certainly determined that there are risks with accelerating developments in new technologies, including artificial intelligence. 

What if...?
Whilst Code Empire might depict Earth and the moon, it may not be an image of anything in our solar system at all! It could be another planet in another star system or galaxy - or universe, also enmeshed by code! Or, it could be 'evidence' that Earth, and possibly the universe, may be a simulation run by posthumans. My painted signals may not be radiating out from Earth, but into it from some kind of external/remote motherboard entity. Here, I am thinking of philosopher Nick Bostrom's simulation theory, which I have previously written about.* It is useful to think about the idea of a posthuman simulation, because it implies that the human species no longer exists. If we are not a simulation, thinking about a post - human world might trigger more critical and urgent examinations of the role militarised-capable technology plays as a threat to not only human agency but also human species existence. 

As Shaw notes in another article, "Policing the Future City: Robotics Being-in-the-World" Understanding the worldliness of algorithms is to view them as forces embedded in the flesh, texture, steel, stone, and undulating atmospheres of our more-than-human co-existence.  (2)

Co-existence - for now!

___________________________


(1) Ian Shaw, A pre-corrected draft version of Shaw's article "U.S. Empire, Warfare, and Geopolitics in the Robot Age" is currently available on Shaw's Academia.edu page. It has been accepted for publication in Security Dialogue.
(2) Ian Shaw, "Policing the Future City: Robotics Being-in-the-World", a paper presented at Intervention Symposium – Algorithmic Governance Organised by Jeremy Crampton and Andrea Miller, published in Antipode: A Radical Journal of Georgraphy, 5.


* Some other paintings where I reference Nick Bostrom's simulation theory. 
And, my designated page:

Please also visit my DRONESCAPES page.

Cheers,
Kathryn

Thursday, May 18, 2017

FOREVER WATCHED

Forever Watched Gouache on paper 56 x 76 cm 2017


In Forever Watched a group of human beings stand together under a cage of yellow rays. Is the source of these rays a spotlight, a protective force-field, surveillance signals from an obscured drone or maybe a computer-graphic rendering of a kill zone? Maybe humanity is being lit by a star on a cosmic stage? Is it God sending divine light? Is it magic? 

This painting is another of my cosmic landscapes where I play with perspective, literal and metaphoric. With cosmic perspectives events such as conflict and war are clearly futile and over consumption of natural resources seems like a death wish. Risk takes on new dimensions when we really think about the fact that, for the time being anyway, Earth is our only home! Looking after it and ourselves seem like sensible things to do.

But, there are forces afoot that create and maintain tension.

The 21st century is an era of pervasive and ubiquitous surveillance. In the 22nd century will the 21st century be considered the beginning the 'forever watched epoch'? 

Surveillance occurs when data is collected from  GPS systems and mobile phone usage. Internet usage and browsing history delivers more data. Crowd monitoring in shopping centers and at events gleans even more data. We are under surveillance at airports, our documents cross-checked, our bodies and belongings xrayed and our movements around the globe recorded. 

There is a plethora of ways for people to be watched, passively or aggressively.

In some areas of the world airborne drones monitor individuals and groups for signs of behaviour that, for those watching, may indicate malign intent. This kind of surveillance acts as a type of quasi-military policing, placing fear into those who are constantly watched and monitored. That a drone could quickly turn from surveillance mode to killing mode couples surveillance with lethal weaponry in one device. The drone then becomes a multi faceted dexterous device - private detective, witness, analyst, prosecutor, judge and executioner combined!

Being watched, however, can be considered a way to ensure citizenry safety - a protective practice. Yet, there is something rather creepy about being under constant scrutiny. And, have things become bad enough to require constant scrutiny/protection?  Arguably, being forever watched could be considered an insidious way to insert mechanisms of control across domains. Welcome to the "everywhere war"(Derek Gregory, 2011).


Cosmic Testimony Gouache on paper 56 x 76 cm 2017

Cheers,
Kathryn

Thursday, May 11, 2017

COSMIC TESTIMONY

Cosmic Testimony Gouache and watercolour on paper 56 x 76 cm 2017


WITNESSING
Giving testimony is that act of providing evidence of an event, an occurrence, a behaviour or even a phenomenon. Maybe it is an eyewitness testimony? Or, it could be a "flesh witness" testimony from someone who has an immersive experienced in something, rather than observational one? Yuval Noah Harari's article "Scholars, Eyewitnesses, and Flesh-Witnesses of War: A Tense Relationship," is a terrific introduction to the nuanced differences between an eyewitness and a "flesh witness".

In Cosmic Testimony a number of questions about witnessing are triggered. Is the image a projected future scenario that provides a chance to witness the future in order to preempt disaster? Here, I take my cue from Forensic Architecture's postulation that "forensic futures" are possible. Although, I do not use new media, digital data or documentary techniques to create my images, the idea of touching the future is really tantalising. Here's a quote from the Forensic Architecture website, "forensic futures sets out to document the enabling conditions of violence, and offers an archive that may be called upon to testify in the future." Here, a key idea is "enabling conditions of violence". The Forensic Architecture website mentions patterns of behaviour that are likely to be repeated in the future as an indication of "enabling conditions".

REPEATING PATTERNS
In Cosmic Testimony there are hints of a number of repeating patterns - extreme climate events - increasing presence of surveillance - the presence of ever increasing developments in militarised technology ie: drone capabilities. But, there are no real answers - it's a painting after all! Rather than answers, there are questions. Was the fire caused by the small but lethally armed red drone - its Hellfire missiles erupting in massive destruction? Depending on your answer you might read the human figures, enclosed by a cage of yellow rays, as either captured or protected? Are they captured in surveillance signals of an airborne drone? Maybe they are targeted and a kill zone is delineated around them? Or, maybe the yellow rays are protective, some kind of divine force keeping humanity safe? The fire may be an Australian firestorm. Indeed, firestorms and floods seem to occur with increasing frequency around the world, presenting evidence that extreme climate change is potentially a major existential risk to humanity. Yet, the fire is inspired by my childhood memories of my father burning off crop stubble.* 

COSMIC PERSPECTIVE
With a cosmic perspective patterns become obvious. This is at the same time it becomes clear that humanity has nowhere else to go if Earth is compromised to the extent it cannot support life. Distance provides the space for a kind of witnessing where "patterns of behaviour" by "familiar cast of characters" help to foretell a future where violence, ignorance and unsustainable practices could be the norm. 

TREE-OF-LIFE
However, in Cosmic Testimony I  have included my version of the transcultural/religious tree-of-life as another kind of evidence - of sustainable life! The presence of the tree and its roots, coupled with the fire symbolically speak of renewal, potency and rebirth. The spinney of leaves speak of time passing and act as a pathway for humanity. Ultimately, the painting presents a few possible futures for humanity - good and bad - each largely depending on choices we make here and now in the twenty-first century. This is one of the messages Martin Rees conveyed in his fascinating book Our Final Century: Will the Human Race Survive the Twenty-First Century? 



Stirring the Dark Chasm Gouache and watercolour on paper 56 x 76 cm 2017


Other fiery paintings:

Cheers,
Kathryn

Thursday, May 04, 2017

HOT

Hot Gouache on paper 56 x 76 cm 2017


CROP STUBBLE
Regular readers will have noticed a few fires in my recent paintings. The inspiration is drawn from childhood memories of my father burning crop stubble. Magnificent fires, over hectares of ground, lit as the sky darkened...the most still part of the day. These fires took over the horizon in ways that brought the Milky Way closer. Embers and stars seem to meet - fleetingly. The flat treeless plain, where my parents' farm was situated, provided fire with a 'canvas' of vast proportions.   

In my recent paintings I've transported my childhood memories into cosmic landscapes where orientation is somewhat ambiguous. I really like the sense of flying! In Hot I imagine I could be an ember or a star! You could be too.

SERIOUSLY, HOT
But, seriously Hot does engage with issues relating to global warming and environmental sustainability. Here, in Australia fires and firestorms seem to have become fiercer and more regular, particularly during our long hot summers. 'Heated' debates about how land is prepared or not prepared for fire possibilities occur, before and after fire events. Farmers, green lobbyists, environmentalists, government departments argue about the best ways to prevent fire occurring and spreading. But, we approach each summer with trepidation.

What if the fire in Hot is Earth's last remnant, consumed by cataclysmic devastation? Or, it could be a painting of the future, when the Sun meets its demise and the solar system is destroyed. Maybe Hot is the Sun's last gasp, Earth already non-existent? Maybe it's not Earth or our Sun? Maybe, it's a fire at another cosmic address?

Other fiery paintings:

Cheers,
Kathryn


Thursday, April 27, 2017

FIRE AND FLOOD: EXTREMUS

Fire and Flood: Extremus Gouache on paper 56 x 76 cm 2017


PLANETARY HOME
I have painted another image that speaks to our planetary home's current environmental dilemmas - extreme weather events, environmental degradation, pollution and more. What is not consumed by fire and heat will be subsumed by flooding waters - maybe? 

The type of landscape is unclear - it appears to be both sky and land, cosmic even. Is the fire a sign of earthly remnants burning off their last signs of existence? Is the flood the spilling of cosmic tears? Are we looking through tears down onto a landscape or up through them to an endless sky? Maybe the fire and the flood are ghostly essences, reminders that a planet once existed? 

But, maybe the fire and flood are signs of new life, a cauldron of possibility? Maybe fire, water and unseen forces are stirring universal alchemic processes that bring forth new possibilities? These new possibilities - material or spiritual...

INSPIRATION
Apart from thinking about our planet and its future, and therefore humanity's future, this painting was inspired by recent devastating floods here in Queensland, Australia, in the aftermath of super-Cyclone Debbie. I have personally experienced rising waters in four floods, one in Dalby where I grew up, two in Goondiwindi where I lived for eighteen years and one in Brisbane during the 2011 floods. Fortunately none caused major losses. However, I do know what it is like to be an island, completely cut off, snakes seeking the same high ground you are on, the dankness of mud as the waters recede...

The painting is also inspired by memories of the massive fires my father and other farmers lit to burn off crop stubble. This practice was stopped at some stage and farmers then started to plough stubble back into the soil. However, I still have vivid childhood memories of fires that covered whole paddocks. Flames leaped into the air, into darkening skies. These flames seemed to lick at the stars, teasing them. Dusk and at night were the safest times for the farmers to set fire to stubble...the air is still then. 

The dark night skies of my childhood are the entry points for my cosmic travelling - imagined in my paintings. 


RECENT NEWS
The Center for the Study of the Drone, Bard College, New York conducted an interview with me about my dronescapes. The interviewer is Maggie Barnett.  Portfolio: Dronescapes by Kathryn Brimblecombe-Fox

Cheers,
Kathryn

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

STIRRING THE DARK CHASM

Stirring the Dark Chasm Gouache and watercolour on paper 56 x 76 cm 017


Fiery environments have featured in a few of my recent paintings. Here in Stirring the Dark Chasm a swarm of weaponised drones seem to be engulfed by flames of their own making. But, are they flames erupting from bomb sites where destruction has ensued? Or, have the flames been released from some kind of abyss? Maybe both! 

But look closely, trees-of-life are also emerging from the flames, or is it an abyss? The trees are escaping the heat as they trail their branches across the cosmic sky. Safe passage for life and humanity, perhaps.

There is always hope!


COSMIC LANDSCAPE - DRONESCAPE
This is another of my cosmic landscapes. It is also a dronescape. The cosmic perspective enables the viewer to distance themselves in ways that may trigger new ways of looking at things. The viewer could be looking up at a sky, witnessing a battle taking place above a landscape. Maybe it's a battle of machine against machine at some stage in the future? Or, the viewer could be looking down onto the drones and their fiery bedevilment. In this case, the viewer maybe looking upon a landscape, where an abyss has opened with intent to consume unmanned forces. Skyscape/landscape!

As in many of my dronescapes and cosmic landscapes the viewer can, using imagination, fly around in my paintings. When I was a child I flew! Please check out my painting and post When I Was A Child I Dreamt I Could Fly

And, what are the metaphoric possibilities? Are accelerating developments in drone technology taking humanity on a high speed path to oblivion? Or, are increasingly autonomous systems offering us freedom, security, fulfillment? Or, are we replacing existing problems with a set of new ones ultimately even more difficult to resolve?  The abyss... is of course...metaphoric. But, the trees-of-life do offer hope.

Cheers,
Kathryn


Friday, April 14, 2017

A NEW SUN, A NEW DAY

A New Sun, A New Day Gouache and watercolour on paper 56 x 76 cm 2017



Geopolitics
Geopolitical agitations are currently heightened. We have the USA bombing Syria in retaliation for a chemical weapons attack on Syrian citizens. The identity of the perpetrator of this horrendous act is contested. One country points a finger at Syrian leadership and another points a finger at covert actions by others, ghosts that seep into imaginations, adding to a fear which cannot find a ground on which to orient itself. Additionally, we have Russia and the USA metaphorically 'fisting' each other, trying to show who has the biggest muscles. Syria seems to be the mega-giants' proxy battlefield where they have inserted themselves into a civil war that seems diabolically intractable. The Russian - USA 'situation' is compounded by ongoing allegations of shifty cyber world maneuverings designed to spy and gain advantage of the other. Then, we have the USA stirring the secretive North Korea, China sitting somewhere in the middle - and the USA dropping a massive bomb onto an alleged ISIS enclave in Afghanistan. And...all of this is in addition to a long list of intrigues, attacks, would-be attacks, aftermath of attacks and political posturings occurring all over the globe. 

The Media
The media positions itself as an informational source, a valuable contributor to societal awareness of politics and its posturings. BUT, the media is also now a contested entity. Fake news has eroded the the media's spine, left it desperately tying to stand up straight. Harm has been done. What are we to believe? Public confidence is low. A lack of ground on which to orient our fears is possibly both a result of and cause of the media's inability to stand as an informational beacon. Many of the ghosts that stir fear, shifting it from place to place, exist in the virtual world where unseen algorithms spread 'news' along digital pathways at near light speed. This 'news' pops up in social media sites, online news sources and so on, to be sent back along digital pathways in quick response to 'likes', 'shares', comments and emoji reactions. 

How can we humans keep up? The ground is seemingly swept from under our feet, replaced by a constantly shifting virtual one. And, without a ground on which to firmly stand, orientation of any kind is difficult - maybe that is the real crime, the real attack, the real covert success?

A New Sun, A New Day
This 'skyscape' painting suggests waking up to a new day where peace reigns and sustainability of all kinds flourishes. Just imagine a day, and another day and another, without war, conflict, threat, surveillance, hunger, environmental erosion and all the the other plights of life in the 21st century! Imagine the ground restored so we can contemplate a new day, watch its slow birth as the sun rises and sets.

Imagine

Let us be sure that the new day, with its new sun, is not a virtual reality, one delivered by screens designed to keep our attention away from strife in the real world.

Imagine

Maybe a new sun and a new day are signs of peace on Earth - but - maybe not. 

The new sun could indicate a new planetary home?

______________________________________


P.S. My last post was also about the sun - or a sun SUN - 01010011 01010101 01001110



NEWS

NEWS
International
* Dr. Christopher J Fuller's book  See it?Shoot It: The Secret History of the CIA's Lethal Drone Program has very recently been published by Yale University Press. Dr. Fuller is an historian at the University of Southampton, UK. In the lead up to the book's launch he was asked to write a post for the Yale University Press blog, "Yale Books Unbound". He asked to have one of my paintings head his post which is titled "The CIA's Drone Policy Under Trump". Dr. Fuller's post was published online at "Yale Books Unbound" (April 10, 2017).

* Very excited to tell you that my dronescapes feature in a book review of Ian Shaw's Predator Empire: Drone Warfare and Full Spectrum Dominance. The review was written by Kate Kindervater, from Dartmouth College, New Hampshire, USA. Ian Shaw is an academic at Glasgow University who writes about drones, populations, surveillance etc from a human geography point of view. Needless to say I am thrilled that my work has been contextualised within important social and political discussions about drone technology. The review can be read HERE.

Australian
My painting The Tree-of-Life Sends its Energy Underground is on the front cover of the forthcoming Australian Women's Book Review. If you click HERE you will be taken to the AWBR site where you can see the painting and also link to an article by me. 

Cheers,  Kathryn

Friday, April 07, 2017

SUN - 01010011 01010101 01001110

SUN? Gouache on paper 56 x 76 cm 2017


SIGNALS
I imagine our world increasingly 'marked' with invisible signals. These signals emanate to and from various electronic devices, digital and cyber devices, drones, and satellites. Airborne drones mark a kind of mid-point node, deployed to augment surveillance, targeting and and possible killing. In many of my recent dronescapes I attempt to make the insidiousness of signals visible. I paint signals emanating from drones, either visible or obscured. I paint signals and drones in cosmic skies to take the viewer's mind to places and perspectives beyond Earth's crust and atmosphere, beyond the low earth orbit of GPS satellites and beyond the geostationary orbit of communications satellites.

The cosmic appearance of my dronescapes enables viewers to 'fly' around drones, and their surveillance and scoping signals - to keep an eye on them! It is a defiant act!     

SUN?
In SUN? I have painted emanating rays that appear to be a sun's rays. But, take a closer look - the rays are painted with strings of binary code 'instructing' the word SUN - 01010011 01010101 01001110


Detail SUN?


Ah ha, the rays are not a sun's rays but the surveillance signals of an obscured drone - maybe? The ray-like appearance could be an attempt at decoy, camouflage, stealth, covert intent, propaganda. The binary code exposes the subterfuge.

By making code visible, even aesthetic, I try to expose the increasing influence algorithms have on life in the 21st century. I have a contrary enjoyment painting code by hand - it's never going to be perfect, although it might look good!

Why is the tree-of-life upside down? Well, there could be many reasons. It may have obscured itself from the surveillance by mimicking the ray's orientation. It may have sent its roots underground for protection. It may not even be on planet Earth! Maybe it's a sign that humanity has 'escaped' a roboticised Earth - or - maybe its an indication of alien life somewhere else?



NEWS
Very excited to tell you that my dronescapes feature in a book review of Ian Shaw's Predator Empire: Drone Warfare and Full Spectrum Dominance. The review was written by Kate Kindervater, from Dartmouth College, New Hampshire, USA. Ian Shaw is an academic at Glasgow University who writes about drones, populations, surveillance etc from a human geography point of view. Needless to say I am thrilled that my work has been contextualised within important social and political discussions about drone technology. The review can be read HERE.

Cheers,
Kathryn