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,

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