Saturday, February 10, 2018


Drone Spiral 2 Oil on linen 120 x 160 cm 2018

I have been working on Drone Spiral 2 [above] for some time. I started it last year. And, now I think it is finished. As you can see from the image below, this new painting relates to an earlier work on paper called Drone Spiral. This painting won the inaugural World of Drones Congress, Art Prize, held last year here in Brisbane. The organisers are gearing up for the WOD2018 congress

In my new painting I wanted the image to look like an overview of a new leafy suburb, with houses, gardens, parks etc. But, the houses are replaced with weaponised drones! I wanted a landscape-type appearance in order to generate questions about our Earthly environment generally. I also wanted to visually suggest that new technologies, such as unmanned surveillance and weaponised airborne drones, are changing landscapes and, thus, how we might operate and live in them. 

The spiraling appearance of the strip of droned landscape gives the impression of falling - but is it falling to Earth or away from Earth? Earth - here - being the pale blue dot! Also, maybe it depicts just one drone, demonstrating the different stages of falling - or - maybe there is a swarm of drones. If this is the case, maybe they are not falling, but in formation to optimise mission outcomes. 

Whether falling to or away from Earth, or on a mission, there is a sense of constant motion, even dizzying motion. This dizziness reflects the fast paced nature of drone technology development, including increasing advances in autonomous systems. Policy makers and lawyers are finding it difficult to respond to rapidly developing systems that impose potentially new impacts and risks on society and humanity.

The dizziness and sense of falling - to or from Earth - signifies that maybe we human beings are on a metaphoric precipice. As Lord Martin Rees wrote in his fascinating book Our Final Century  

I think the odds are no better than fifty-fifty that our present civilisation on Earth will survive to the end of the present century. Our choices and actions could ensure the perpetual future of life (not just on Earth, but perhaps far beyond it, too). Or in contrast, through malign intent, or through misadventure, twenty-first century technology could jeopardise life’s potential, foreclosing its human and posthuman future. What happens here on Earth, in this century, could conceivably make the difference between a near eternity filled with ever more complex and subtle forms of life and one filled with nothing but base matter.

Martin Rees, Our Final Hour: A Scientist’s Warning: How Terror, Error, and Environmental Disaster Threaten Humankind’s Future in This Century—On Earth and Beyond (New York: Basic Books, 2003) p.7-8

A plethora of thoughts tumbled through my head as I painted Drone Spiral 2. I do not have space to write about them all here - plus it would make for a long winded post. However, regular readers will identify that the viewer enjoys a cosmic perspective - my favourite perspective. The viewer is not caught in the spiral, but is, in fact, witnessing it. Have you fallen away from earth too or have you deliberately propelled yourself, in imagination, to a vantage point where you can turn the surveillance back onto the technology? 

What do you see? What do you dream? What to you imagine?

  • Drone Spiral 2 is another cosmic landscape, and a dronescape.
  • I've depicted a pale blue dot in many of my recent paintings. This references the famous photograph taken in 1990 by Voyager 1, as it started to leave our solar system. its camera was turned off soon after, to preserve energy as it departed on  its interstellar journey. Carl Sagan's sage words are an inspiration.

Drone Spiral Gouache on paper 30 x 42 cm 2016


No comments: