Thursday, September 27, 2018


Lethal Landscape: False Horizons Oil on linen 70 x 100 cm 

In Lethal Landscape: False Horizons I have again tried to expose signals that enable interconnected militarised and militarise-able systems. Signals that ricochet around the world, into the sky and space are invisible, yet they net the planet. I 'see' this netting as an insidious new topography which colonises and occupies landscape in ways that transform environments. Horizons are obliterated by this volumetric occupation, yet false horizons appear on computer screens as lines that map and orient for surveillance and targeting purposes. 

In Lethal Landscape: False Horizons a ground-based satellite antenna sends a signal into space, while another signal is either sent or received by a weaponised airborne drone. The drone's wide area surveillance sends out rays of signals, making the drone look almost like a star...a false star. Other markings indicate a landscape infiltrated by multiple arrays of signals, including targeting signals. I have painted a few areas with small red or green squares, to mimic pixels that make up digital images. These areas either indicate a process of pixelation or perhaps de-pixelation - of reality returning or reality disappearing. Here, let's think about Paul Virilio who died earlier this month "matter is now being exterminated by means of acceleration, the specular bomb of screens, those mirrors of time that cancel out the horizon." The original Accident, trans Julie Rose (Cambridge UK, Malden US, Polity, 2007), pp. 49-50.


Tuesday, September 18, 2018


Not Waiting for the Future Gouache on paper 56 x 76 cm 2018

With accelerating developments in technology, including militarised or militarise-able technology, the future seems to be hurtling towards us. This is happening at the same time as technology's operative speeds are also accelerating. Here, for example, think about near-lightspeed transmission or processing of data via networked, always on, systems. How do human beings, living in human dimensions of space and time, keep up with accelerating developments and processes that 'play' in dimensions of space and time that are beyond our sentient or experiential reach? 

One domain that is attempting to keep up is the military. Is this a good thing or a bad thing? Surely, in attempting to keep up, the military is absorbed into the processes of speed and acceleration. Arguably, this is an ingredient for an arms race - the word 'race' indicating speed! But, if a nation's defence forces do not address the acceleration in technological development, and speeds of technological operation, their duty of care to defend their citizens and allies could be compromised. 

Discussions and debates about the use and development of lethal autonomous weapon systems [LAWS] have been taking place each year at the United Nations Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons [UNCCW] since 2013. LAWS are weapons or weapon systems, utilising machine learning and artificial intelligence, that enable various levels of management by the system/weapon itself. UNCCW Meetings have occurred in April and August this year - 2018. Debates about what meaningful human control means, preemptive bans on LAWS development, LAWS and International Human Rights Law, and more, have been discussed. 

But, the worry is that these debates and discussions, occurring in human dimensions of space and time, cannot keep up with the actual speed of LAWS development. The Future of Life Institute in its report on the April 2018 UNCCW meeting commented, The UN CCW is slated to resume discussions in August 2018, however, given the speed with which autonomous weaponry is advancing, many advocates worry that they are moving too slowly.

The Australian Chief of the Army, Lieutenant General Rick Burr, recently released a "Futures Statement" titled Accelerated Warfare. This statement briefly outlines the Army's response to issues posed by the future of war; a future where technology offers new ways of warfighting, new types of warfighters, as well as new dimensions/terrains in which warfighting will occur. The complexity of war, dispersed across multiple domains and capabilities, now and into the future, enhances the challenges faced by the military, and society more broadly. 

As speed and complexity combine, contemporary and future warfare, also presents potential heightened risk in an age where research into existential risk posed by emerging technologies warns of potential civilisation collapse or human species demise. * 

The Chief of the Army made a statement in his 2018 Futures Statement: Accelerated Warfare that sparked my imagination. He wrote, We must pull the future towards us rather than wait for it; My painting Not Waiting for the Future was inspired/provoked by Lt Gen Burr's statement. I have previously written that rhetoric surrounding the 'future of war' militarises the future. Certainly, the future is a dimension already inhabited by anxiety, if not strategy. 
In Not Waiting for the Future I have flipped the continent of Australia to indicate a kind of flipping of time. A satellite and an airborne drone occupy the sky/space, along with an array of signals. A cross-hair target is positioned over central Australia. Red and white dots appear to perforate the continent, perhaps indicating invasive signals, or the presence of other targeting devices. Or are they indicators of Australian defence systems aimed in all directions? 
Two strings of binary code 'instruct' the words FUTURE and LIFE. The unseen and invisible forces of contemporary life and warfare - code and signals - propel us into a future that we, perhaps, don't need to wait for!
This painting is another of my droned landscapes or militarised landscapes. It is also a cosmic landscape that propels the viewer to perspectives beyond the immediate. With cosmic perspectives the occupation of land, sky and space, by signals that enable the operation of militarised or militarise-able technology becomes apparent. Is this a future-scape? If so, is this a future we really want? 
But, what if this future has already arrived?


* If you are interested in research into catastrophic risk posed by emerging technologies, please start here, at the Centre for the Study of Existential Risk, The University of Cambridge. 


Sunday, September 09, 2018


Operational Landscape Oil on linen 41 x 56 cm 2018

Operational Landscape is a continuation of my interest in exposing what I call the 'signalscape' of the 21st century. This invisible 'signalscape' enables the operation of networked and interconnected digital and cyber systems - including systems that are militarised or militarise-able. I have spent many hours painting landscapes that are netted by signals, with skies occupied by weaponised drones and satellites hovering in space. I have come to realise that signals, ricocheting from node to node, from land to sky and into space, create a persistent readiness for offensive and defensive activities - an ever-present readiness for war. 

It was with great interest that I read the Australian Chief of the Army, Lieutenant General Richard Burr's recent Accelerated Warfare statement. In this statement he maps out a future trajectory for war and how Australia might respond to accelerating developments in warfare. The statement places emphasis on technology. This quote below is particularly pertinent re: my painting Operational Landscape:

"Threat. Our operating landscape is changing – adversaries, including violent extremist organisations and state-based threats can now control and influence all operating domains. The advent of rapidly evolving, easily accessed technology increasingly offers asymmetric capabilities to both established powers as well as non-state actors and even individuals. The ability to sense and strike from long range as well as swarming low-cost technologies are increasing the vulnerability of major military systems. Future strike capabilities will not just be physical but also digital, executed often at the speed of a mouse-click."

In Operational Landscape, an ambiguous  but colourful landscape oscillates between appearing to be land-based and sky/cosmic-based. Are you looking down upon a landscape or up towards a tumultuous sky or are you looking into a landscape of  mountains, river, grassy knolls and sky? This play with perspective, is a visual ploy I use regularly in my work. I like to think it generates surprise, imaginational involvement and ultimately a critical stance. Lines seeming converge somewhere. That they are operational is evidenced by the cross-hairs set against the dark terrain. Whether you are above or below the signals, the occupation of volumetric landscape - from land, to sky, to space - is inescapable. There is a sense that geography offers no hiding place in the era of the algorithm, the epoch of netted signals, and the age of the unmanned drone - the 21st century. 

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My painting New Horizons is a finalist in the $30,000 Tattersalls Landscape Art Prize. The exhibition of paintings will be on public view from Sept 10 until Sept 21, at Riverside Centre, 123 Eagle St , Brisbane, Queensland, Australia: weekdays 7am - 6pm.

All the finalist paintings can be previewed HERE

Congratulations to the winner of the prize as Kate Shaw, with her painting The Grandparents -1928, The Gorge.

New Horizons Oil on linen 97 x 112 cm 2018