Monday, January 02, 2017


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

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 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 


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


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