Sunday, June 03, 2018


New Horizons Oil on linen 97 x 112 cm 2018

New Horizons continues my proposal that militarised and militarisable contemporary technologies, and their signaling systems and infrastructure, create new invisible topographies that crisscross and penetrate landscape. This landscape incorporates land, sky and space. The latter, in hosting various kinds of satellites used to transmit and receive communications, imaging and global positioning capabilities, is drawn into this extended landscape of signals. 

In New Horizons the weaponised drone, with its long expansive wings, creates a kind of horizon line. This line can be taken as a literal delineation. It can also be taken metaphorically. For example, with the development and use of weaponised drones, what kind of 'line' is crossed? Like any horizon, there is always something beyond it. What if this metaphoric horizon is time, the future? This poses further questions - Have we already militarised this future? Is there anything beyond the metaphoric horizon - is there a future?

In New Horizons I have also painted lines that seem to hover over the landscape, dissecting it into zones and co-ordinates. These lines mimic computer generated graphics, perhaps like those a remote drone pilot might see on their computer screens, to help surveillance and targeting operations. Is the ubiquitous computer screen, mobile phone and tablet screen, a new kind of horizon? 

In my painting the lines painted over the landscape offer a perspectival entrance into a netted topography that imposes itself upon the landscape. The layering and netting of land-based and atmospheric landscape with signals and nodes, such as drones, satellites, relay stations, mobile phones, suggests a kind of hostage situation. But, are we aware of this? In some parts of the world it is clearly apparent; in places like Yemen, Northern Pakistan, Syria, Afghanistan and Gaza, where persistent surveillance and the potential for airborne rapid response attack are constant.  

The underlying landscape in New Horizons is colourful and vibrant. Its liveliness contrasts with the spare linearity of the signals and the drone. Looking closely at the colourful landscape, multiple possible horizons exist. 

The interconnected nature of signals, ricocheting from node to node, could be read as some kind of constant readiness for war. Or, perhaps that we are already and persistently in a state of war. Here the ideas of perpetual war, and the 'everywhere war' [Derek Gregory] help us understand the stealthy role played by interconnected digital and cyber systems,and their appropriation for multiple-use civilian/military/security/policing activities. 

As an artist, I am interested in how landscape can be mediated and changed by invisible signals. Even considering landscape as an environment the extends from land, to sky and into space disrupts traditional notions of landscape. The idea that signals pose new topographies adds to this disruption. By viewing landscape as an extended environment, I see opportunities for new approaches to examining ideas of colonisation and occupation. Additionally, these intersect with neo-capitalist imperatives to economically quantify spaces and places in terms of ownership and value. The appropriation of signals by militarising forces poses interesting and alarming questions in a potential era of neo-colonisation. The unseen nature of buried and undersea cabling also intersects with this stealthy appropriation.

General unawareness of invisible and unseen enabling systems, particularly for those of us who live outside active war and conflict zones, means we may not understand the potential for insidious manipulation of human behaviour? 

Maybe we have already crossed an horizon we did not know was there?


P.S. Have you read Federica Caso's article about my dronescape paintings Visualising the Drone: War Art as Embodied Resistance ? I responded to it in my last post Exposing the Invisible

No comments: