Friday, August 31, 2018


Lethal Landscape Gouache on paper 56 x 76 cm 2018

The landscape in Lethal Landscape does not look too lethal - does it? It does not even really look like a landscape. In fact, what parts of the painting are landscape? Is the landscape the background? If so, is this background a skyscape or a landscape? Is the viewer above or below the radiating lines, looking up or down? 

What are those lines? They are signals...

The lethal landscape is not the background. Rather, lethality lies in the new imposed twenty-first century 'landscape' of signals that operatively enable militarised and militarise-able technology. As invisible signals ricochet around the world from node to node, into the sky and also space, landscape as we know it, is increasingly under occupation. This silent and invisible occupation enables a persistent readiness for offensive and defensive activities, not only by military forces, but potentially, also by aberrant state and non-state individuals or groups. 

Connectivity and networking enable the new imposed landscape of the twenty-first century to be persistently operational. Sensing/sensoring and strike capabilities across cyber space and geographical environments are enhanced by near light speed connectivity and signalling. Remote operation, long range capabilities, increasing autonomy and distributed systems contribute to lethal capability. As the Chief of the Australian Army. Lieutenant General Rick Burr, in his "Futures Statement",  Accelerated Warfare   (8 August, 2018) observes, "Future conflict is likely to be across domains where networks and integration are the key to generating military power." (1)

Here, I want to ponder the Chief of the Army's choice of the word accelerated. I painted Lethal Landscape before I read Accelerated Warfare. But, as regular readers will know, I have previously mentioned cultural theorist Paul Virilio's ideas about accelerating developments in contemporary technology, and the accelerating speeds at which technology can operate. Speed closes distance, collapsing the space between private and public, civilian and military domains.(2) Here, we can think about cyberspace as an example of a domain where the lines between private and public, civilian and military are collapsed. The dual-use nature of technological infrastructure, including enabling signals, collapses the borders between discrete spaces. Who or what has control? As Virilio provocatively remarks in his book The Great Accelerator “acceleration of reality is now part and parcel of the loss of all self-control”.(3) And, his warning that “no technology has ever been developed that has not had to struggle against its own specific negativity” needs to be taken seriously. (4)

When I was painting Lethal Landscape the idea of acceleration was in my mind. Hence the sense of propulsion, whether you are positioned above a landscape of land and sea, or below a tumultuous sky. The broad array of signals seem to converge, but a persistent sense of movement means there is no destination. The viewer is drawn into the net of signals, trying to keep up, trying to focus, trying to gain clear perspective; but speed forecloses all horizons...there is no distance. 

The Chief of the Army writes "We must pull the future towards us rather than wait for it".(5) Perhaps, we are already too late? 


(1) Chief of the Australian Army in his "Futures Statement",  Accelerated Warfare   (8 August, 2018)
(2) Paul Virilio, “Cold Panic,” trans. Chris Turner, Cultural Politics 1, no. 1 (2005): 28-29.
(3) Paul Virilio, The Great Accelerator, trans. Julie Rose (Cambridge and Malden: Polity Press, 2012), 44.
(4) Paul Virilio, “Red Alert in Cyberspace,” trans. Malcolm Imrie, Radical Philosophy (Nov/Dec 1995): 2.
(5) Chief of the Australian Army in his "Futures Statement",  Accelerated Warfare   (8 August, 2018)

Sunday, August 26, 2018


Trees of Life Vs The Drones Gouache on paper 30 x 42 cm 2016

This week's political turmoil in Canberra has left many Australians scratching their heads. I will not go into the politics - that would be a never ending Alice in Wonderland rabbit hole type trip! You can Google for more information! However, for foreign readers, briefly, a sitting Prime Minister, Malcolm Turnbull, has been ousted due to recalcitrant forces from within his own party, the Liberal Party. This is not the first time in recent history that this has happened, for either a sitting Liberal Prime Minister or a Labour Prime Minister. 

But, apart from the politics, what about the distraction these kinds of events cause - distraction from more important issues, the issues politicians should be paying attention to? And, there are many.

Here's one that concerns me.

Since becoming interested in the burgeoning research area of existential risk posed by emerging technologies, I have become increasingly concerned by political inattention to growing and potential threats posed by advances in technology, either designed for military purposes, or appropriated by defence forces, or aberrant state and non-state individuals or groups. Examples of new and emerging technologies with the potential - due to mal-intent, accident or unintended consequences - to cause major mayhem, civilisation collapse or human species demise are biotechnology, nanotechnology and artificial intelligence. Combining or linking them could be a extremely worrying.*

Adding to the alarm is the apparent escalation in arms research and development utilising new and emerging technologies, including machine learning and artificial intelligence. There are many voices around the world who are concerned. Significantly, many of them are scientists. For example there are a number of AI researchers and developers, including,  Prof Toby WalshProf Stuart Russell and Prof Noel Sharkey, who are concerned about increasingly autonomous weapons ie: weaponry utilising machine learning and artificial intelligence. The Future of Life Institute, based out of MIT, has facilitated open letters clearly expressing that AI research and development must be for the benefit of humanity. These letters have been signed by thousands of scientists, philosophers, International Studies scholars and others. One letter is specifically targeted to address concerns about lethal autonomous weapons. I quote from this letter written in 2015 - three years ago, "If any major military power pushes ahead with AI weapon development, a global arms race is virtually inevitable, and the endpoint of this technological trajectory is obvious: autonomous weapons will become the Kalashnikovs of tomorrow."

The idea of a twenty-first century arms race is very worrying. So, today I was pleased to see that an interview by David Aaronovitch with historian Yuval Noah Harari was published in this weekend's Weekend Australian Magazine*. I have read Harari's work, but not Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind and 21 lessons for the 21st Century. These are on my list! In the interview Harari makes it clear that national political intrigues divert attention away from globally significant issues, such as potential outcomes of emerging technologies. Three years after the Future of Life open letter, here's a sobering quote from Harari, 

    "But in 2018, we are already in a very serious arms race. The Chinese realised it, I think, three 
     or four years ago; the Europeans are realising it now. But the world is in an arms race, and this 
     is terrible news because you cannot regulate this explosive technology if you are in an arms race."

It is ironic that Harari's interview appeared in the Weekend Australian Magazine, the weekend after a week of befuddling political shenanigans that clearly diverted attention away from proper government. It is likely that this coming week will be overshadowed by post-mortem examinations of the last week, intrigues about a new ministry, and what might happen to the so-called 'insurgents' within the Liberal Party. More diversions! Meanwhile, Australia, like the rest of the world, faces repercussions from extremely important issues relating to globally significant and accelerating developments in militarised and militarise-able technology. I have previously written about Australia and a global arms race. Please read my post DRONES AND CODE: FUTURE NOW The title of the post is also the title of a painting.

I have a long term interest in existential risk posed by emerging technologies research. This interest was focused on 2015 in research I undertook for a research Masters degree, an M. Phil, at the University of Queensland. Part of my research included examinations of contemporary militarised technology, including, unmanned drone technology, night vision technology, pervasive surveillance capabilities and autonomy in systems. While I was researching I became aware of how fast developments in militarised technology were accelerating. I also became aware that, as the months ticked by, more and more countries were either developing new technology or purchasing it.  And, I also became more aware of the increasing militarise-ability of civilian technology. An arms race, twenty-first century style, is not a fantasy!  

Trees of Life Vs The Drones (above)
This painting depicts a swarm of drones threatening two trees, trees-of-life. The drones represent 21st century militarised technology - unmanned, weaponised, and potentially equipped with some autonomous systems. The drones seem to 'march on' relentlessly! But, let's not give up, the trees-of-life declare! 

Our Bright Future (below)
The contours of the continent of Australia are formed by binary code repeating/instructing AUSTRALIA.  This painting was inspired by watching Kevin Slavin's fabulous TED talk How Algorithms Shape Our WorldAt one point he says "It's a bright future if you're an algorithm."


Our Bright Future Gouache on paper 30 x 42 cm 2016

* Check out the Centre for the Study of Existential Risk, The University of Cambridge. 
* Weekend Australian Magazine: if you have an account you can access the interview online.


Friday, August 17, 2018


The New Terrain Gouache o paper 56 x 76 cm 2018

As I have previously mentioned, I am interested in making visible the invisible signals that enable contemporary technological inter-connectivity. I 'see' signals wrapping the planet, extending into the sky and into space. Signals enable the operation of designated militarised technology, dual-use civilian/military technology and the appropriative capabilities of state and non-state entities, aberrant groups or individuals. Regarding the latter, think of election interference, cybercrime and so on.

In my view signals that ricochet around the world, from land-based, sky based and space based nodes, create a new type of landscape - a signalscape. This signalscape is an invisible colonising force that forms a dense net that volumetrically occupies the biosphere and extends to space-based assets in low Earth orbit and geostationary orbit. 

This net is not a neutral force, as it represents a persistent readiness for action which includes a  constant readiness for offensive and defensive activities. In other words we live in a world that is constantly ready for war, twenty-first century style. Seen this way the invisible signalscape holds us hostage. I wrote about this in a recent post called HOSTAGE.

In The New Terrain I have made visible a section of the new signalscape. It appears to be glimpsed between clouds. However, the clouds may be a ruse. Taking the nomenclature of The Cloud maybe the netting is too small for us to see, hence the cloudy appearance? Maybe the area I have exposed is closer to the viewer, just one layer if the volumetric occupation? 

As with many of my paintings, the viewer could be above the new occupying signalscape. Maybe you are beyond the busy orbits of enabling satellites? However, you could be on land looking up and through the signalscape, its layered nets wrapping around you, even stroking you as you move in your environment - unaware of your hostage situation.

I have deliberately used the word 'terrain' in the title for two main reasons. The first is that it is linked to ideas of landscape and landscape features, and secondly it has military potential.


Friday, August 10, 2018


Do You Know, Have You Met? Mixed media on paper 37 x 27 cm 1991

My daughter is getting married next year. With the flurry of excitement about planning for a wedding I have reflected upon life's milestones. When I was pregnant with this daughter, my first child, I painted a series of works about her immanent birth - certainly a milestone! My maternal grand-mother, born in the nineteenth century, passed away - another milestone, a sad one -  shortly before my daughter was born, making many of these images a kind of homage to ancestry and the cycle of life.

You will notice that the pregnant figure in a few of the selected paintings seems to have multiple shadows, or iterations of herself. Maybe these are ancestral figures, maybe they are multiple aspects of the expectant mother, maybe a plethora of interpretations.... 

My last blog post Twelve Years Blogging - Twelve Paintings was an online exhibition of twelve paintings, one from each year since 2006, when I first started blogging. 

BUT, there was life and painting long before Blogspot! 

The selected paintings in this new post are from 1991, the year we bought our first mobile phone, I got a home computer, and had a baby - in the twentieth century!

Homage Mixed media on paper 37 x 27 cm 1991

Regular readers will notice the cosmic appearance of these 1991 paintings. As you know, I still fly into the cosmos - and invite you to fly with me - in my work today! 

The babies, pregnant bellies and figures float against indefinite spaces, cosmological in possibility. In these spaces, circles and dots could be read as planets or atoms, star dust or thoughts. The tree-of-life also appears in these paintings. Here, though, the tree-of-life is linked to a familial tree, a more intimate one than the universal ones I depict in my later and more recent paintings. However, while intimate in intent in these 1991 paintings, the tree-of-life positioned in cosmic-like landscapes is never without universal potential.

Children Mixed media on paper 1991

If you think about these 1991 paintings and my recent dronescape paintings, you can possibly see where my concerns about the future of humanity, in the age of the drone and the algorithm, spring from. I will leave you to think about that...but...the first Gulf War erupted in August 1990 and officially ended in February 1991, a few months before my first child was born. This war, however, never really ended, it just morphed into ongoing conflict, with battlefields existing in real and virtual spaces. These distributed battlespaces blur the lines between military, counter-insurgency, counter-terrorism and security activities. War is now a hybrid of conventional and unconventional warfare, the latter appropriating civilian technological systems and platforms to perpetrate new modes of war, such as cyberwar. Airborne drones were used in the first Gulf War, for surveillance - they were weaponised in the second Gulf War, and continue to be used in declared and non-declared war/battle situations.  

So, in the years since the birth of my first child, the world has changed.

A Pure Life, Haunted Mixed Media on paper 1991

It is interesting to me, and I hope for the reader, to identify elements that continue to appear in my work over many years. Even though subject matter has changed, underlying themes have not. Some of these themes, such as cosmology, initially appeared before I had the words or terms to ascribe to them. 

As I have written this post, I am also struck by the links between my recent work dealing with the apparatus of war and conflict in the twenty-first century, and a personal life milestone that occurred in 1991, the year War did not really end. 

But, back to these 1991 paintings. They are joyous images. I am glad I still have some, especially as we are about to celebrate another joyous milestone.


Where Are You? Mixed media on paper 1991

Thursday, August 02, 2018


Cosmic Dreaming - Simulation Oil on linen 31 x 56 cm 2018

August 2018 marks twelve years since I started my BLOG. I have posted consistently, about once a week for twelve years. For regular readers I send you many thanks for taking an interest in my work.

To celebrate twelve years, I am uploading one painting for each year from 2006. I am not going to write more than these few sentences. I will let the paintings do the 'talking'. 

Cheers, Kathryn

Launching the New Horizon oil on canvas 60 x 92 cm 2017

Life and the Drone Gouache on paper 56 x 76 cm 2016

Privileged Landscape oil on linen 80 x 140 cm 2015

New World Habitability - Vacation Anyone? Oil on linen 70 x 120 cm 2014

Multiple Landscapes Oil on linen 80 x 140 cm 2013

Cosmic Ouroboros Oil on  linen 120 x 150 cm 2012

Meeting Place of the Mind Oil on linen 100 x 70 cm 2011

Phantom Water Gouache on paper 30 x 42 cm 2010

Halo Oil on linen 81 x 182 cm 2009

Lifeblood Oil on linen 90 x 180 cm 2008

Braid oil on  board 89 x 59 cm 2007
Self portrait

Totally Out There Oil on linen 180 x 120 cm 2006