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

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

Friday, March 31, 2017

ANTHROPOCENE

Anthropocene Gouache and watercolour on paper 56 x 76 cm 2017


In Queensland, Australia, where I live, we have just experienced Cyclone Debbie. Luckily I live south of where the eye of the storm hit, but this cyclone was so massive that it has affected the entire Queensland coastline. Take a look at images taken from the International Space Station HERE

So, with Cyclone Debbie in mind, my new painting Anthopocene 'speaks' to what seems to be an escalation in natural disasters not only in frequency, but in size and ferocity over the last few decades. The term Anthropocene has entered our lexicon to describe a new geologic era, one where human activities have influenced atmospheric, geologic, biospheric and hydrolic systems on Earth. You can read more about the Anthropocene on various websites including Anthropocene   and Smithsonian . com

ANTHROPOCENE
I started Anthropocene well before Cyclone Debbie threatened. Why? Because, things like drought, mass forced migration of people, floods, coral bleaching and firestorms intersect with increasing surveillance, political tensions, social schisms, terrorism and war. These in turn intersect with increasing developments in technology, emerging new technologies, exploration of space and neo-liberal hijacking of seemingly everything in order to monetise it. All sounds rather dire really!

In Anthropocene I take a cosmic view of human activity! There's fire, coral bleaching, flooding rains, drought, mass forced migration/exodus - and - cross-hair targets, a weaponised Reaper drone and space based assets [GPS and communications satellites] representing their dual-use civilian/military status. Then, there are some fervent red trees - trees-of-life, their branches turned inwards as if creating an airway where their filaments-leaves can filter invasive forces - a promising breathing space. Even the radiating surveillance rays of an obscured reconnaissance force cannot infiltrate the breathing space. 

Perhaps life has other plans for us? 


NEWS

My painting The Tree of Life Sends its Energy Underground is the front cover of the next Australian Women's Book Review Please click on their website where you can see the image, plus read my artist's statement. And, you can order the review! 

In February an interview Portfolio: Dronescapes by Kathryn Brimblecombe-Fox I did with Maggie Barnett from the Centre for the Study of the Drone, Bard College, New York was published on the Centre's fabulously informative website

Cheers,
Kathryn
www.kathrynbrimblecombe-fox

Saturday, March 25, 2017

SOMEWHERE

Somewhere Gouache on paper 56 x 76 cm 2017


Somewhere may be on Earth, but then again it may not. 

It could, however, be evidence of life on another planet, an exo-planet enticing human beings with promises for life after Earth - or - post-Earth as I like to call it. 

It could be a simulated landscape experienced via virtual reality. The lively colours a distraction from the erosion of our earthly home? Imagine sitting inside your driverless car, windows blackened so you can enjoy your virtual landscape of choice! Looking out the window, what a novelty!

Or, maybe it's a remnant of Earth flung into the universe upon the fiery demise of the sun and the solar system?

SCIENTISTS' EXCITEMENT
Over the last few days I have attended some fascinating events at the second World Science Festival held in Brisbane. I've heard some very excited scientists talking about the future of autonomous vehicles of all kinds, new ways of urban living, robotic companions for the very young and very old, 'fail-safe' artificially intelligent systems and more. The scientists' excitement is infectious. Their expertise and imaginations are to be admired - indeed many scientists seem more imaginative than artists! Somewhere could be a future landscape where the downward emanating rays are signals from benign interconnected systems designed to assist society in a variety of ways [protected from hijacking/hacking by malevolent forces, of course]. The trees may indicate a preserved/restored natural environment, the small crosses could be autonomous vehicle parking and recharging hubs, The upwardly trailing string of variously sized dots could be a holiday route to the Moon! Whether its our Moon or not, is unknown.

CONTESTED FORCES
And, here's another possibility, one where contested forces battle. Regular readers will guess that the trees are my representations of the tree-of-life. As they branch upwards, the downward emanating rays could be the scoping signals of obscured airborne surveillance drones, possibly armed? There are so many though! The small crosses may be target points or the cross-hair markings of unmanned sniper drones? Leaves and small dots cascade across the landscape. What do they 'know'? Are they seeding new life for a safer future - ready to regrow and send up new shoots when the time is right? Is the upwardly trailing constellation of coloured dots and circles a sign of escape or seepage - like blood loss? 

I 'see' Somewhere not as one landscape, but many. Each one presenting lots of questions. I also think there's something about it being quite beautiful. 


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


You might be interested in previous posts:

and


Cheers,
Kathryn

P.S. I also attended a robot programming workshop at the Queensland University of technology [QUT] that was part of the World Science Festival. My team of three programmed our robot to 'draw' a tree. I have a bit of an issue with describing what the robot did as 'draw', but I thoroughly enjoyed the workshop. I am working through some thoughts and will probably write about them at some stage.






Saturday, March 18, 2017

STAR BLOOD

Star Blood Gouache on paper 56 x 76 cm 2017



The Cosmos is crying.

Tears of star blood.


_______________________________________________________________

Are you below or above the tears?



For clues 

and 



Cheers,
Kathryn

Friday, March 10, 2017

ANOMALY DETECTION

Anomaly Detection Gouache and watercolour on paper 56 x 76 cm 2017


The term anomaly detection is a technical one. It is an automatic system for detecting unusual behaviour, patterns or occurrences in, for example, live or stored data, such as film footage. Anomaly detection can allow preemptive actions. Regarding military drones the identification of anomalous behaviour, for example multiple vehicles moving at speed from different directions towards one destination, can trigger an alert for increased surveillance and readiness for potential attack. A drone's wide area surveillance capabilities mean expansive areas can be surveilled, and sophisticated detection and recognition algorithms are employed as another layer of surveillance monitoring. In civilian arenas anomaly detection systems are useful for a variety of monitoring requirements that range from security to environmental protections and more.

In Anomaly Detection I have turned drone surveillance on its head. Here, I have painted the drones as if pixelated, as if a detection and recognition algorithm has detected the anomalous behaviour of three armed drones converging on the tree-of-life hovering at the center of the image. The viewer of the painting could be monitoring the drones from the ground, looking up - or - from the sky/space looking down. In this way the viewer becomes aware of the power of perspective, even in imagination. 

COSMIC PERSPECTIVE
Cosmic perspectives implore us to seek distance, both close and far, as a way to examine ourselves and the planet. From vast distances it becomes obvious that planet Earth, despite discoveries of possible habitable exo-planets, is our only home for the foreseeable [and beyond] future. We need to look after the planet and ourselves. By exploring perspective and engaging with multiple perspectives maybe we'll discover more anomalies that highlight risk in ways that trigger precautionary, preemptive, restorative and pro-actionary activities?

I am really pleased with this painting - I actually think it is quite beautiful - in a way that achingly screams for the tree-of-life's survival in the face of potential destruction.



* Please check out the recent interview Portfolio: Dronescapes by Kathryn Brimblecombe-Fox with Maggie Barnett from The Centre for the Study of the Drone, Bard College, New York.

Sunday, March 05, 2017

BODIES OF WORK


   
Screen shot from the Center for the Study of the Drone, Bard College, new York  interview with me about my dronescapes. You can read the entire interview HERE  


I am very excited about the interview the Center for the Study of the Drone conducted with me. The Centre is “an interdisciplinary research institution that examines the novel and complex opportunities and challenges presented by unmanned systems technologies in both the military and civilian sphere”. 



BODY OF WORK


 
 
 

Top: Through the Mists of Time                Alternative Ways of Being 
Middle: Between Existences          Persistent Surveillance and Strike
Bottom: Swarm Surveillance                          Across Time and Space


Not all my recent paintings feature the figure of the drone. However, some feature a drone's surveillance features, such as signals. Others feature the tree-of-life in cosmic landscapes. Whilst individual paintings can stand alone, a body of work gives space for paintings to play off each other. By playing off each other certain aspects of imagery take on 'loaded' meanings that may not be otherwise evident.

It is often interesting to look at much earlier work to place it with recent work. I don't know about you, but with the figure of the drone and its capabilities in mind the paintings below take on an urgent reminder of our need to look after ourselves and the planet.



 Elemental 2009

Halo 2009



Cheers,
Kathryn

Thursday, February 23, 2017

DIORAMA - THE FUTURE

Diorama - The Future? Gouache and watercolour on paper 56 x 76 cm 2017



Please check out the interview The Centre for the Study of the Drone, Bard College, New York conducted with me about my dronescapes Portfolio: Dronescapes by Kathryn Brimblecombe-Fox .
I am also thrilled that a research centre such as the Centre for the Study of the Drone believes my work has something meaningful to contribute to current debates and conversations about drone technology.

I also want to report that my reading at Wild Readings earlier this week went very well. I read short paragraphs about three of my recent paintings, New Sky, Combat Proven, Long Range, Long Dwell and Through the Mists of Time. I then read a slam drone poem I have written. 

(Below) Here's a photo of me reading. The painting you can see is Through the Mists of Time.







DIORAMA - THE FUTURE
Diorama - The Future? is not unlike two earlier and smaller works on paper Fragmented and The Tree-of-Life Sends its Energy Underground

The patches of red in Diorama - The Future? can indicate a few things - blood lost, life's fertility, energy lost, or maybe energy dispersed for later retrieval. These red patches act as landscape elements too, albeit possibly cosmic landscape ones. They could be mineral deposits, contour indicators, pools of energy, multiple glimpses of sunsets, bomb blasts on distant and close horizons....

The oscillation between positive and negative interpretations is deliberate. It reflects the ambiguity of orientation in the painting. Is the viewer above the landscape or are they looking down upon a landscape, or are they in front of one or maybe behind? This sense of flying around the landscape, and importantly the Reaper drone, forecloses any priority that might be given to the drone's so called 'vision'. 

The viewer's orientation is disturbed by the upright and upside-down trees-of-life, the two white ones and the row of yellow ones. The white trees act as illuminating beacons. But, the drone is also white? Ah ha! Its failed attempt to camouflage itself is revealed! The emanating rays that appear on the top left look like the rays of a sun - but - they could be the scoping signals of a drone. They contrast with the upside down white tree with its emanating branches that reveal a more complex array of networks and systems than those signaled by the emanating drone rays. Again, perhaps an attempt to camouflage a drone's intrusive surveillance and possible targeting capabilities is revealed. 

EYE IN THE SKY
By playing with orientation and ambiguous perspective the viewer becomes the 'eye in the sky' even if its in your mind's eye - imagination. Given the title of the painting Diorama - The Future? maybe the viewer is transported to the future - in imagination? Given that developments in militarised technology, such as increasingly autonomous systems, are already focused on perceived future of war needs, thinking critically about how the future might unfold is important. In some ways it is already militarised and in some minds so is imagination!

Rather than the word 'vision' to describe a drone's surveillance and targeting capabilities, I prefer the word 'scoping'. This removes the questionable habit we humans have of anthropomorphising non-human and non-living things. Scoping is a more technical term- related to targeting and surveillance. Vision, however, implies a lot more that we humans need to retain for ourselves, particularly imagination - our mind's eye!

Cheers,
Kathryn
www.kathrynbrimblecombe-fox.com 
 P.S please take a look at my new DRONESCAPES page.





Friday, February 17, 2017

SECRETS

Secrets Gouache and watercolour on paper 56 x 76 cm 2017


Upright and upside down trees-of-life - roots - multiple mini landscapes - emanating pink rays - glistening stars or are they galaxies?  - skies - clouds - landforms - the cosmos - and ---- secrets!

If you are new to my blog you are likely to 'read' this painting quite differently to those who visit often - initially anyway. 

NO DRONES - MAYBE?
For those who do visit often they will notice the absence of airborne weaponised drones. They will, however, think twice about the emanating rays in the distance. Are they signs of hidden drones loitering beyond sight, their long range and long dwell capabilities enabling persistent surveillance? Or, are they evidence of suns in the far distant reaches of the universe? Regular visitors might also notice how these rays contrast with the pale green roots, and the upright and upside-down trees. 

New and regular visitors will notice an ambiguous perspective - are you above, below, inside, outside, in front of a landscape? Is it a 'scape' of the land or of the sky? Maybe, it's a 'scape' revealing multi-universes? 

WHY SECRETS?
I called the painting Secrets for a few reasons. One is to remind us that keeping secrets in the cyber and digital age of the 21st century is very difficult! Whether secrets are revealed now or at some time in the future is largely out of our hands. Algorithms will trawl through data and come up with correlations that 'reveal' biases, likes, dislikes, habits etc whether we like it or not! 

But, a painting with upside down trees, an ambiguous perspective, emanating pink rays, pale dots, green roots and an overwhelming sense of beauty keeps its secrets by being enchanting, even beguiling. Whatever secrets it might hold, they are there forever - so I am told!  

A BODY OF WORK
Once an artist has a body of work it is exciting to see relationships between works, even over decades. A body of work is a dynamic entity made up of equally dynamic parts. Yes, individual pieces can be appreciated separately, but connections between works can sometimes reveal - secrets!

Cheers,
Kathryn
P.S. Please check out my new DRONESCAPES page here on my BLOG and my updated 'galleries' on my website

Saturday, February 11, 2017

CRADLE

Cradle Gouache and Watercolour on Paper 56 x 76 cm 2017


HOT
As I sit here in my office in sweltering heat I ponder the state of the planet. Here in Brisbane we have experienced days of drastic heat - one after the other. All over Australia people are sweltering under record high temperatures. The odd hot day or two is bearable, but day after day of heat + humidity is debilitating. The relentlessness of the heat is significant, because to me at least, it demonstrates change in weather patterns. I grew up in Western Queensland, Australia. Then as an adult I spent 18 year further west, before moving to Brisbane 16 years ago. Yes, it got hot out west, but I don't remember weeks of relentless heat - like we are experiencing now. I noticed it last year too, but had not previously noticed it 

So, are we humans like a frogs put in water that is slowly brought to boiling point - but the frogs do not notice they are being cooked?! Maybe?

POLLUTION
In the 60s and 70s when I was at primary school we learnt about pollution; air, water, soil, land etc. Yet, here we are a few decades later still talking about the effects of pollution - humanmade pollution! Even if humankind's pollution is ultimately not a major contributor to climate change/global warming it cannot be helping! Even if it is a minor contributor, what if it is the thing that causes the balance to tip - the last ingredient - AND - so something that demands to be addressed - by all of us? Arguing about addressing human generated pollution seems pointless because one way or another it is a major problem.

Added to environmental turmoil the world is also experiencing other kinds of turmoil - economic, political, social and cultural. My guess is that they are all connected.

CRADLE
So, I painted Cradle with humanity and the tree-of-life linked in a vast landscape as a way to envision Earth - our planet - our home. After all, it is ACTUALLY our 'cradle' as it nurtures us in every way. Let's look after it and each other....



Below is another 'cradle' work from 2015 In the Cradle 

 
In the Cradle Gouache on paper 30 x 42 cm 2015



NEWS

Red Rain on the front of Hecate and What I think About When I am Planking featured on conference material. February 2017

My painting Red Rain  is featured on the front cover of HECATE Hecate is a journal that prints material relating to women. It is is an internationally circulated refereed journal. It is published twice a year by Hecate Press, in association with the Research Group for Women, Gender, Culture and Social Change Research, in the School of Communication and Arts at the University of Queensland.

My painting What I Think About When Planking  is featuring in printed and online material for the international conference Excess Desire and Twentieth to Twenty-First Century Women's Writing  


Cheers,
Kathryn
P.S Please check out my new DRONESCAPES page 

Sunday, February 05, 2017

MANHUNTING IN THE DRONE AGE

 Manhunting Gouache on paper 56 x 76 cm 2017


NEWS

1. I have made a designated DRONESCAPES  page here on my blog. There are 18 of my dronescape - cosmic landscape paintings.

2. My painting Red Rain  is featured on the front cover of HECATE Hecate is a journal that prints material relating to women. It is is an internationally circulated refereed journal. It is published twice a year by Hecate Press, in association with the Research Group for Women, Gender, Culture and Social Change Research, in the School of Communication and Arts at the University of Queensland.

3. My painting What I Think About When Planking  is featuring in printed and online material for the international conference Excess Desire and Twentieth to Twenty-First Century Women's Writing  


____________________________________________________


MANHUNT

I first came across the term "manhunt" in regards to airborne drone surveillance and targeting in French philosopher Gregoire Chamayou's book Drone Theory. He makes the startling and horrific claim that in the age of the drone the whole world is potentially a manhunting ground.(Chamayou: 38, 52-53) And, let's not forget that in some parts of the world 'manhunts' conducted from the air already occur. In many cases targeting is based on patterns of behaviour or data collected from devices such as mobile phones, GPS and so on. In these cases a target may not even have a name - this is called a 'signature strike' rather than a 'personality strike'. (this information is available in numerous places including newspaper article as well as books like Chamayou's Drone Theory)

I have come across the idea of manhunt/manhunting in other articles and books a number of times since reading Drone Theory. The threat from above informs architect Eyal Weizman's theory of the verticality of threat and international relations academic Alex Danchev's provocatively titled article Bug Splat: The Art of the Drone . Media studies academic Mark Andrejevic writes about the ubiquity of targeting surveillance in a number of articles and essays. And, there are others.

In the last few weeks I have read two articles by lecturer in human geography at Glasgow University, Ian Shaw. These articles are The Great War of Enclosure: Securing the Skies and The Urbanisation of Drone Warfare: Policing Surplus Populations in the Dronepolis . Both of these pieces are wake-up calls about the threats posed by accelerating technical, operative and usage developments in drone technology. Increasing autonomy and swarm capabilities trigger many questions about drone use in both military and civilian situations. The insidious thing is that the divide between civilian and military is becoming increasingly blurred.


Combat Proven, Long Range, Long Dwell Gouache on paper 56 x 76 cm 2016


Manhunting and Combat Proven, Long Range, Long Dwell 

I painted Manhunting after reading Shaw's two articles and I painted Combat Proven, Long Range, Long Dwell before reading the articles. Shaw's ideas about the reduction of some populations to a "surplus" category where data often acts as a proxy for the human really resonated with me.

Binary Code
Both paintings depict life and humanity in painted binary code. How? In Manhunting I have painted Human in binary code at the bottom of the painting, over and over. This represents a population under surveillance, potentially targeted.

In Combat Proven, Long Range, Long Dwell I have painted the word LIFE in binary code at the bottom of the painting. And, the word DRONE is painted in binary code on the Gray Eagle drone.

In both paintings 'signals' emanate from the drone, a Reaper drone in Manhunting.  They are simultaneously surveillance and targeting signals, on the one hand 'sucking' in our data and on the other hand perhaps lasers pinpointing targets? Both the Gray Eagle drone and Reaper drone are armed with missiles. They are ready to attack. The targets below the drones are strings of binary code acting as proxies for humanity and life. There are no names, just code...data contained in the reductive 'space' between zeros and ones.

BUT 

I have deliberately painted the binary code in attractive colours to make the strings of code look like ribbons, to inject personality, to stir the pot so-to-speak. Hand painting the code also means the zeros and ones are not perfect. Can code really represent life and humanity in all the foibles and amazing attributes that come with flesh, blood, emotions, spirit, creativity...?

In Combat Proven, Long Range, Long Dwell I have also included trees-of-life to act as beacons to guide us. In Manhunting there is no tree. But, I look at the empty space on the far right of the strings of binary code in two ways. One is that human life completely ceases and autonomous artificial life systems rule the world! The other is that life covertly goes underground, ready and waiting for regrowth some time in the future.


A Selection of related posts.
REGROWTH and DRONE STAR
FRAGMENTED and UNDERGROUND: DRONESCAPES
SCOPED

and

my 'gallery' DRONESCAPES


Cheers,
Kathryn



Saturday, January 21, 2017

THROUGH THE MISTS OF TIME

Through the Mists of Time Gouache and watercolour on paper 56 x 75.5 cm 2017


As regular readers know, my recent paintings have been influenced by my M. Phil research into contemporary militarised technology. Recent work has featured the figure of the unmanned air vehicle, commonly called the drone, often in juxtaposition with my interpretation of the age-old transcultural/religious tree-of-life symbol. 

However...

This new painting Through the Mists of Time does not feature a drone. Rather, it focuses on humanity - unplugged from all cyber and digital technologies.

A result of my research focusing on contemporary militarised technology is a counter balancing re-focus on questions associated with what it means to be human in the 21st century. That's why the tree-of-life figures so strongly in my work, with or without drones! The tree, as an age-old transcultural/religious symbol 'speaks' of all life and its systems. 

In Through the Mists of Time I wanted to place humanity, as represented by the male and female figures, in a cosmic seemingly timeless landscape. The figures seem to 'cast' a tree-of-life shadow, or new root system, at the same time as they project a tree-of-life into the sky - the endless future. A 'stream' of leaves gives the impression of time passing, the white oval shape alludes to renewal and birth, while the small round tree hovers like a fire fly, ready to illuminate, play, guide, tease. Small dots make up various parts of the painting - are they stars, new universes, energy particles, past and future histories? 

I am interested in investigating human agency in an age where unseen algorithms influence so much of our lives. I suggest that in an age of increasing automation, and developments in robotics and artificial intelligence, questions about human agency are important.

POEM
I was a fare way into completing this painting - and it did take some time - when I decided to re-read some of my Mother's and Grandmother's poems in their joint anthology Out There (1986). Well, one of my Mother's poems 'sang' to my new painting. In fact, I took its title from a line of my Mother's poem. The poem is:

Grafting Time
by Elsie Brimblecombe 
Published in Out There by D. E Ross [my grandmother] and Elsie Brimblecombe, Elise Publishing, Dalby, 1986.

If I squeeze the golden fruits
Of time, and suck the juice
Till from the leathered skins
The pith and core and rind
   fall free

The seed beyond the centre
Of that fruit will score
Their mark and drop
Beyond the pearly orchard gates
   and grow

There is this land crossed by days
And falling within the season's drop
Those fruits will bear
Upon the hour, the stop
And go of earth's frantic measure

But if I could graft the trees
Of time and from that union
Spring a growing season
Rooted in the current flow
I would grow and tree of life
   beyond record

A tree whose branches spread
Beyond our lives and those gone by
A tree which blossomed
Through the mists of time
And set its fruits to ripen
In the thinking of the wise.

______________________________

Please check out recent and older posts for more on my work figuring the drone, the tree-of-life and cosmic landscapes.

Cheers,
Kathryn
www.kathrynbrimblecombe-fox.com

Saturday, January 14, 2017

SHADOWY DRONE PLAY

Shadowy Drone Play gouache on paper 30 x 42 cm 2016


What was I thinking about when I painted Shadowy Drone Play? The answer is, a lot of things. 

I was thinking about the literal shadow a drone might cast. Perhaps the dark blue drone is a shadow? But, it cannot be the shadow of the checked drone, because they are going in opposite directions. Is there another drone above us that casts this dark shadow? Maybe it is not a shadow at all? Maybe it is a drone, camouflaged against the blue sky - a droned sky. The checked drone mimics an expression of pixels, possibly camouflaging itself for virtual representation? Or is Shadowy Drone Play a 'screen shot' of a game or possibly a remote pilot's screen where the digital signal is disrupted and the image begins to break down? 

Are we looking down upon these two drones or are we looking up at them? If they are, however, on a screen  we could be receiving images from another drone who is beside them or a even a satellite image which has been rotated? Maybe we are seeing only two drones of a much larger swarm of them, our image received by another swarm member? Regular readers know how I love to play with perspective. 

The word shadowy has other connotations other than casting a literal shadow. Words like covert, secret, clandestine, furtive and stealth come to mind! Yes, politically charged! Maybe the pixelated drone is expressing some kind of stealth capability with the other drone as a decoy? Lots of possibilities. 

This painting is deliberately ambiguous! That's not a surprise. I like ambiguity, because it holds the potential to open out into possibilities I have not thought about - by you! 

Cheers,
Kathryn


Sunday, January 08, 2017

NET - SURVEILLANCE

 Sky - Drone - Net gouache on paper 30 x 42 cm 2016

Surveillance is a hot topic. Cyber-hacking, data collection, Big Data, device monitoring, video surveillance, tracking by GPS systems, drone surveillance and lordy knows what other kinds! We have stories of the recent US election being influenced by another foreign country's surveillance, hacking, stealth! And, closer to home, after browsing the internet for holiday accommodation, I have social media sites advertising special deals in the very same places. There are some hot deals in Port MacQuarie!  Oh, and we now have a tracking device that we can attach to our cat, the one who thinks he is a person and sometimes a bird. This device can be monitored by a mobile phone. Even pets are subject to surveillance! Actually, this is going to make life a lot easier - I hope...

In this post I have two surveillance paintings. As regular readers know I am fascinated by the figure of the unmanned airborne military drone. Its surveillance, monitoring and attack capabilities are both sophisticated and alarming.There are many moral and ethical questions associated with remotely piloted unmanned drones, especially as autonomy in many of their operative systems increases. Political questions collide with moral and ethical ones. Various interests and debates seem to fall into a quagmire, but research and development into increasing autonomy, stealth capability, non-reliance on GPS or communications satellites etc continues. Politics, and definitely the law, play a game of constant catch-up!

In the meantime the public is subject to persistent surveillance. In some parts of the world ie: Yemen, Pakistan, Afghanistan, this surveillance takes on life and death perspectives.

I imagine an array of signals forming a net across the sky. Here, I take cultural critic Mark Andrejevic's idea of "the droning of experience" and call our contemporary skies "droned skies". In my imagination the sky is diminished, its endlessness restricted as fear mingles with the signals to create a tight and opaque 'net' the obscures perspective, distance, imagination.

Now that does not seem such a happy note to end this post on!

Please focus on my two paintings Sky - Drone - Net and Swarm Surveillance. In both it is unclear whether you are above or below the net of signals. There's hope! 
  

Swarm Surveillance Gouache on paper 30 x 42 cm 2016

Monday, January 02, 2017

SCOPING NEW SKIES

Scoping New Skies Gouache and watercolour on paper 30 x 42 cm 2016


THE SKY FALLS
Ubiquitous and persistent surveillance via visual and data monitoring creates a new layer of 'reality' whether we are consciously aware of it or not. Most people, however, are aware, albeit in varying degrees. People in Yemen, Northern Pakistan and Afghanistan are aware in an extreme way as they experience remotely piloted airborne drones that hover above their homes and territories. These drones provide surveillance, reconnaissance and intelligence to other, mostly western authorities, in the name of activities such as counter-insurgency operations. These drones can also target and attack. In a way the sky falls in! 

People in the west are monitored and surveilled via their use of digital devices, their movements across the world caught on surveillance cameras, their cars tracked by GPS devices and so on. Perhaps, rather than a new sky it is a whole new world? If it a whole new world, it will have a sky of sorts...? But, maybe this new sky acts like a blanket, a mechanism of suffocation. After all virtual reality gives the impression of 3 dimensions, but this is an algorithmic instruction. Maybe the 'sky' really has fallen - into the reduction that lies between zeros and ones? Here it is sobering to think about a statement made in 1994 by cultural critic Paul Virilio, in an interview with visual artist Louise Wilson. 

These new technologies try to make virtual reality more powerful than actual reality, which is the true accident. The day when virtual reality becomes more powerful than reality will be the day of the big accident.(1)   

SCOPING NEW SKIES
Scoping New Skies plays with all the thoughts expressed in the above paragraphs and more. 

In the painting, the drone scopes using co-ordinates, multiple electro-optical and data collection devices. It is also equipped with Hellfire and guided missiles. The tree-of-life sits atop a planet, maybe Earth? The tree's roots seem protected by the arced dome-like shape of the planet, but...maybe its actually more interesting than that? Maybe the dome is a kind of cosmic protector - one that the drone's surveillance systems cannot penetrate or even detect? The cosmic sky is a reminder that there is a universal space beyond the drone-space, and the orbits of GPS and communications satellites currently used to support a drone's operation. 

And, there's more...
But, I'll leave it to you now!

1. Paul Virilio. Interview with Louise Wilson "Cyberwar, God and Television: Interview with Paul Virilio", C Theory, December 1, 1994.  

_______________________________________ 

Please check out another 'sky' post and painting NEW SKY 

And 

Please check out my last post A VISIT TO THE AUSTRALIAN WAR MEMORIAL 

Cheers,
Kathryn