Thursday, January 25, 2018


Follow Me, Says the Tree Oil on canvas 61 x 76 cm 2017

Regular readers know of my interest in the age-old transcultural/religious tree-of-life symbol. Follow Me, Says the Tree combines my interpretation of a tree-of-life with a few of my other interests. These include thinking about how landscape is mediated in the 21st century - the age of cyber and digital technologies, drones, perpetual war and the 'everywhere war'. 

The tree-of-life is a symbol of life - for the existence of life. But, how is human existence affected by accelerating developments in technology, particularly surveillance technologies and weaponised [or weaponisable] technologies? In other words, those technologies that deploy scoping capabilities to monitor, surveil and target. 

I attempt to reveal invisible scoping signals, transmitted and received by airborne drones. I do this to demonstrate that landscape is insidiously mediated by new but unseen signal topographies. These new topographies not only mediate landscape, they also influence, to a greater or lesser extent, how humans operate and live in the landscape and environment. For example, in some places in the world - war and conflict zones - loitering airborne [often weaponised] drones create a persistent fear of the sky. This fear is fueled by a drone's ability to quickly turn from monitoring and surveillance to scoping to target - for a kill. 

I have written this previously, but in an age where Voyager 1 travels in interstellar space, to have people on planet Earth afraid of the sky is an indictment on all of us. I will leave you to think more about this. Indeed, there is a lot to think about!

In Follow Me, Says the Tree I have depicted an eye painted in the sky. Its pupil in a shade of night vision green. It is an unblinking false eye, with 'lashes' that appear to be more like components from a computer circuit board. The signals that radiate from the eye penetrate through a surveillance net which is scaffolded by a night vision green CLOUD* - a false cloud. 

The eye is clearly not an eye, with all the connotations of human sight, insight, imagination, vision, dreaming, tears and laughter. The eye is a subterfuge - it is not an eye-in-the sky - it is a SCOPE-IN-THE-SKY. It  targets its prey with a precision that is aided and abetted by persistent surveillance.

However, what of the tree? It also penetrates the net of surveillance and the CLOUD, by reaching upwards towards the stars. It re-establishes perspective - the kind that can take humanity's endeavours into interstellar space. The tree's branching appearance contrasts with the clean lines of surveillance and targeting signals. Randomness, or seeming randomness, is presented as a complex decoy - but isn't that just LIFE! The tree not only erupts through the surveillance net, it also send roots underground. Where there's life there's hope it seems to say. Follow me, and life and existence will be ok. 

But, while life may continue into a contested future, it may not be human. 

There is more to say - I know! Again, I will leave this up to you. 


  • I was asked to write a visual essay for Dialogue: Taking Politics Outside the Box, an e-journal located in the School of Political Science and International Relations, University of Queensland. New Landscapes in the Drone Age was published last week.
  • Early alert: Cosmological Landscapes solo exhibition at Dogwood Crossing, Miles, Queensland, Australia: 28 March - 22 May. It is well over two years since my submission was accepted and the show is nearly here! More news about the show coming soon. 
  • I am on a panel "War Art: Museums, Militarisation and Militantism", to talk about my paintings, at the International Studies Association annual conference in San Francisco, in April. 
  • Plus other exciting events are planned in New York and the UK. Shall keep you up to date as things fall into place. 


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