Saturday, July 14, 2018


21st Century Cloud Fantasy Oil on canvas 76 x 76 cm 2017 

The Cloud is a term used for the storage of data on remote servers housed in bricks and mortar buildings. The data is delivered and accessed via the internet. The Cloud is not a vapourous fantastical storage system. Rather, it consists of physical structures that have enormous energy needs to power servers and to keep ambient environments cool enough for their maximal operation. In his 2015 book A Prehistory of the Cloud Tung-Hui Hu describes The Cloud as a 'cultural fantasy'. (1) He also notes that cloud computing is a 'way of turning millions of computers and networks into a single, extremely abstract idea: “the cloud.”'(2)  Hu argues that The Cloud builds on older ways to wield power, and therefore militarising precedents are inherent in systems now dominated by speed and ubiquitous inter-connectivity. I highly recommend Hu's book to you.

The 'take-out' here is inter-connectivity, deployed through physical cabling, or wireless transmission ie: signals travelling via subterranean,undersea and sometimes above ground conduits, as well as via radio frequencies/waves on the electromagnetic spectrum.

Regular readers will know of my interest in revealing signals that ricochet around the world, between nodes positioned on land, in the sky and in space. I 'see' these signals as occupiers, even colonisers, of a volumetric environment extending from Earth, into the biosphere and beyond to geostationary and low Earth orbit.* In this way signals create new netted and potentially dense topographies across and in the landscape. I am particularly interested in how the increasingly dual-use nature of interconnected digital and cyber systems predisposes landscape, new and old, to processes of militarisation.

One aspect of this militarisation is that interconnected systems allow for a constant state of readiness for offensive and defensive activities, in other words, readiness for war. Things like the manipulation of elections, cyber attacks and the generation of fake news could be considered characteristics of 21st century war - maybe not outright war - but certainly barbed provocations. If we live in an era of ever-readiness for war, does that make us hostages? Do cultural fantasies obscure grim realities? These topics are for another post.

1. Tung Hui-Hu, A Prehistory of the Cloud ,Cambridge: The MIT Press, 2015, XXIV.
2. Ibid., XXVI.

* I have written about the occupation of landscape by signals quite a lot. Here is a link toe a recent post Occupied Landscape: Everywhere

**I thank Dr. Christine Agius, Senior Lecturer in Politics and International Relations, Swinburne University, Melbourne, Australia for stimulating my thoughts about how my work might reveal invisible aspects of an ever-present readiness for war. Hopefully, we will be building on the topic in the future - shall keep you posted!

 Fake Tree Oil on linen 25 x 35 cm 2017

The paintings I have included in this post each 'speak' to aspects of ever-readiness for war. 21st Century Cloud Fantasy [top] positions the pale blue dot, aka Earth, a the center of radiating lines and funneling night vision green clouds. Here, I am playing with ideas of ubiquitous surveillance...and more. In Fake Tree the tree's shadow is not real, and binary code 'instructing' FAKE TREE forms a fake horizon. Cloud Storage plays on the fantasy of digital vapour! And, Persistent Situational Awareness draws attention to always being aware of where you are, especially in tumultuous times, especially if you are a hostage.

 Cloud Storage Gouache on paper 30 x 42 cm 2016

Persistent Situational Awareness Oil on linen 100 x 70 cm 2017


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