Wednesday, October 24, 2018


Mission Capable Landscape Oil on linen 72 x 137 cm 2018

In Mission Capable Landscape I continue with my interest in exposing signals that wrap the planet, extend into the sky and space. I 'see' these invisible signals as a new layer of landscape, volumetrically occupying and colonising landscape from land into space. In the 21st century, signals operatively enable militarised technology, such as airborne drone surveillance, targeting and attack. Additionally, the dual-use nature of technological infrastructure, such as communication and GPS satellites, blurs military, policing and security activities. I am interested in not only militarised technology, but also militarise-able civilian technology. The latter includes such things as mobile phones, appropriation of social media data, and cyber technology used in homes and businesses. 

Thus, at the extreme, all signals are militarised or militarisable. If a system is deliberately isolated from general connectivity, this action demonstrates a defensive position that co-opts it into the militarise-ability of security. 

In Mission Capable Landscape I have painted a landscape overlaid with lines. These lines mimic various signalling, scoping and targeting graphics seen on computer screens, such as those of a remote drone pilot. The lines mimic perspective, layering, bridging, fences, furrowed paddocks, roads, landing strips and more. Note the scoping cross-hairs fixed on the green circle [centre left]! At one instant the viewer may feel like a remote pilot, at another instant maybe even a drone, even a satellite. Are you coming into land, are you leveling on a target, are you simply surveilling and collecting data? What are you scoping? Is it all real? 

However, let us take back the human gaze! Let us turn human surveillance back onto the occupying signals. Let's expose them - for all to see!

As I painted Mission Capable Landscape I was thinking about a lot of things, including the notion of hybrid war. What is hybrid war? It is a military strategy that tactically blends conventional methods of war with activities such as perpetrating cyber threats, manipulating of social media, de-stabilising elections, infiltrating government online infrastructure for essential services, promulgating fake news and so on. Contemporary hybrid war needs networked systems and inter-connectivity to enable its tactics. It needs signals! It is a subversive act to expose them!

In a sense Mission Capable Landscape is a hybrid landscape. There is more than one landscape in this painting, including the conventional one and the new landscape of signals. The latter stealthily colonises and occupies the conventional landscape cloaking it with a persistent readiness for offensive and defensive actions. Are we perpetually, and everywhere, in a state of low grade war? A war that can be amplified when triggers are hit. The conventional landscape is rendered permanently 'mission capable' by its virtual non-identical 'mission capable' twin. Conventional landscape, and all its living creatures, are held hostage - it's just that we do not realise it. A creeping occupation of landscape by invisible signals is actually hard to detect - what an insidious strategy! That's why we need to expose them!

But, is there a vulnerability lurking within the new landscape of signals? I argue that its vulnerability may lie within its strength - invisible speedy networked inter-connectivity. As its networking insidiously weaves layer upon layer of enabling signals it presents as an invisible but impenetrable ubiquitous force. But, is it? 

What can we metaphorically or literally unplug to expose its underbelly? I leave you to think about it.

* I have previously written about being taken hostage by signals HOSTAGE

Tuesday, October 16, 2018



This online exhibition is an exercise. It plays with the positioning of images. 

I have placed a non-drone painting, then a weaponised airborne drone painting, one after the other. 

What happens when I position paintings that do not depict drones, or indications of their presence, with images of weaponised drones? Are the non-drone paintings of trees-of-life, Australia, and the sun, colonised by the drone images? Or, do the paintings depicting trees-of-life, Australia and the sun remind us of life in the face of  destructive technologies? In a sense, do they combat the drone images? 

If you took the non-drone paintings away from the images of weaponised drones, are they different paintings? Without a militarised context, do they lose agency or gain it? Or, if you have seen them positioned with the paintings depicting militarised technology, can you ever forget - unsee?

The last two paintings depict human figures, Through the Mist of Time and Forever Watched. The latter does not depict a weaponised drone, but it does indicate surveillance - or does it? As I placed these last two paintings, I saw that Through the Mists of Time could provide another perspective for Forever Watched? A perspective that was not militarised. What do you think? 

All the paintings are landscapes - cosmic landscapes, landscapes where you too can fly. This poses even more questions, but I will leave them for you to ask.

All the paintings in this post are from 2016 and 2017, and they are all gouache on paper. 


 Across Time and Space

Future and Past

 A New Sun, A New Day - Somewhere

Sunday, October 07, 2018


False Lawn: Virtual Landing Strip Oil on linen 71 x 91 cm 2018

I am reading Yuval Noah Harari's massive book Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow. Quite early on in the book he has a section titled "A Brief History of Lawns". In this section he explains why lawns are associated with "political power, social status and economic wealth". The well kept green lawn at the "entrance to private residences and public buildings was born in the castles of French and English aristocrats in the late Middle Ages. In the early modern age this habit struck deep roots, and became a trademark of the nobility." He goes onto describe how lawns indicate land ownership and that well maintained lawns indicate the ability to pay for upkeep. The adoption of the lawn in the nineteenth century by the rising middle classes entrenched its cache. Harari also gives a brief insight into lawns and sport. 

Additionally, Harari makes observations about the contemporary adoption of impressive lawns in the Middle East, using Doha in Qatar as an example. I have witnessed the greening of places like Dubai and Abu Dhabi with, for example, acres of green golf courses and large gardens framing massive and luxurious hotels. This greening is enabled by desalinated water and irrigation technology. From the air the patches of green end where the irrigation stops, and the desert takes over. 

But, while Harari's discussion of the history of the lawn got me thinking about the various lawns I have known, I started to think about the virtual lawn, the green screen, and scoping with night vision surveillance technology. Night vision devices intensify existing light, converting photos into electrons, which are then re-converted to photons by a phospher screen imbedded in the device. This screen is coloured green because the "human eye can differentiate more shades of green that other phospher colours". 

Whenever I see a photograph or a film where night vision devices show us the saturated green glow of surveillance, I am struck by a mismatch between the colour green and the danger that is often conveyed. 

False Lawn: Virtual Landing, was inspired by Harari's short history of lawns, and my reactions to it. The metaphor of the green lawn applied to the saturated glow of night vision green provides a novel approach to analyse contemporary militarised power and its structures. In the painting the green screen replaces the lawn, the night vision green saturation providing new indicators of power and economic wealth. Not only new indicators, but also new kinds of power wielded through networked digital and cyber technologies that operate at near light speeds. 

In the painting an airborne weaponised drone appears to be attempting to land, co-ordinates assisting the process. The window/screen is central to a space of action and speed, a cyber superhighway perhaps? I quite like that the painting could be a vast landscape/cosmicscape, or a peek into the interior world of signals. 

I can think of lots more to write, but I will leave it up to you to ponder more.


[1] Defense Industry Daily, Through a Glass, Darkly: Night Vision Gives US Troops Edge, accessed August, 26, 2016, information is available at Stanford Computer Optics, Image Intensifier: Phosphor Screen, accessed August 30, 2016,