Saturday, September 23, 2017


Swarm Clouds, Brewing Oil on canvas 36 x 45 cm 2017

Drone swarms - you might think this is a scifi suggestion - but no, it is not. Just Google "drone swarm technology" and you will find out about drones operating in groups or 'swarms'. It is a relatively recent technology, but one with an array of possibilities for civilian and military uses. As regular readers know, I am interested in militarised airborne drone deployment. 

I am seriously perturbed by the fact that there are people in the world who are afraid of the sky. In places such as Yemen, Pakistan, Afghanistan and more, the sky is a place that harbours persistent surveillance and threat, due to the deployment of weaponised drones. In an age where a human-made machine now travels in  interstellar space ie: Voyager 1, it is an indictment on ideas of progress that even one person is afraid of our sky. Although -  there could be an argument that we human beings have now not only managed to pollute Earth, and low Earth orbit with 'space debris', we have also started to 'pollute' interstellar space! 

Cosmic perspectives
The fact remains, though, that we have a capacity to take on cosmic perspectives. These are based on scientific research of our solar system, our galaxy and galaxies beyond. Even notions of a multi-verse, based on scientific possibility, imagination and curiosity, indicate abilities to think beyond the limits of our Earthly environments. Yet, we invent machines - unmanned, increasingly autonomous ones - that create 'false skies' that limit perspective. 

Country Queensland Skies
I grew up on my parents' grain farm between Dalby and Jimbour, S. E Queensland, Australia. The farm was situated on a treeless, black-soil plain. As a result of the emptiness of the landscape, the sky dominated as a vast space. It was variously relentlessly blue, or tumultuously grey with storm clouds, or velvety black with the Milky Way glistening like an array of scattered jewels. For me, to even think about being afraid of the sky is deplorable. The skies of my childhood were so enormous, that to have them harbouring persistent threat, is a nightmare thought. For me it is only a thought - but for others on this planet it is a ghastly reality!

Swarm Clouds, Brewing suggests that swarms of drones create new sky elements, such as clouds. These false clouds threaten, as they create a kind of ceiling in the sky - one that inhibits perspective. This inhibition is literally real for those on the ground. For those who perpetuate increasing colonisation of the sky with systems designed for persistent surveillance and attack readiness, the inhibition of perspective is metaphoric, and dangerous. It is dangerous because perspective is not just about space, it is also about time. If the future is already militarised, then what?

Earlier Drone Swarm post and painting The New Clouds 


War Art: Museums, Militarisation and Militantism panel has been accepted for the International Studies Association annual conference in San Francisco, April, 2018. And I am on the panel to discuss my dronescapes. Very excited to be presenting about my work in such an environment. There are five speakers, plus the Chair and a Discussant. 

Shall keep you updated.


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