Saturday, November 24, 2018


Fake Eyes-In-The-Sky Oil on linen 30 x 45 cm 2018

An airborne drone is sometimes called an 'eye in the sky'. In fact, there is a movie called  Eye In The Sky . Starring Helen Mirren the movie presents various dilemmas associated with targeting and attack decision making by remote drone operators and other defence personnel. 

What sort of questions are posed by calling an unmanned air vehicle, which is remotely piloted and weaponised, an eye in the sky? Firstly there are questions about attributing the machine with animal, human or a non-human, abilities ie: seeing. Can a drone really see? Is imaging technology really representative of an eye, or a set of eyes? Is machine vision, in terms of autonomous reviewing of image data collected by a drone feed, another kind of seeing? What are the existential implications if we ascribe human abilities to increasingly autonomous machine systems? Do we inadvertently relinquish something?

I have previously written about the  the word 'vision' used in terms such as 'drone vision' and 'machine vision'. Vision, when associated with human vision, is not only about seeing, but also dreaming, imagining and visionary thinking. For example,. I 'see'pictures in my head when i read a book, even a non-fiction book! Can a drone dream, imagine or come up with some kind of visionary idea? The answer is no. Can machine vision, tasked with reviewing image data, imagine or dream? No, it scopes rather than sees. If anomalies are detected does machine vision then imagine outcome scenarios of what might happen, like a human would imagine? 

Ascribing human abilities of seeing and vision to the machine may, paradoxically, blind us! That poses the question, if a drone can see, is drone blindness also possible? This, I think, really penetrates the question, can a drone see, because blindness is about not seeing rather than being turned off or being dead. Human blindness does not exclude other kinds of vision - dreaming, imagining and visionary thinking. That a drone cannot dream, imagine or come up with visionary ideas indicates a kind of blindness that raises further questions about ascribing human abilities of sight and vision to the machine. 

There must be alternative words to describe a drone's imaging capabilities and machine vision capabilities - the one I have come up with is scoping. Scoping does not indicate abilities to imagine or dream, but it does indicate abilities to target and attack. 

Fake Eyes-In-The-Sky
In my painting Fake Eyes-In-The-Sky two fake eyes hover, each painted with small 'pixels'. The red and green colours indicate night scoping and infrared technologies. Drones are not 'eyes-in-the-sky, they are scope-in-the-sky! Each fake eyes' pupils are centred in a scope's cross hairs. These eye-drones are clearly scopes, camera and/or weapon, their signals aimed at the tree-of-life, a white beacon in the distance. 

That the tree provides perspective is indicative of hope. 

Fake Eyes-In-The-Sky is another dronescape, plus it is a cosmicscape. Apart from being an exploration of contemporary weaponised technology, it is also a landscape. 


My last post was called Seeing Through the Fake Window
You might also like to read The Drone: Do Not Embody


Friday, November 16, 2018


Seeing Through the Fake Window Oil on linen 30 x 46 cm 2018

Fake stuff is happening everywhere! Fake news, fake videos, and now there is a thing called "deep fake". "Deep Fake" uses artificial intelligence to create images or videos the depict seemingly real events, with depictions of real people, sometimes even with fake people. So, for example, videos of politicians saying and doing things they have not said or done. Here are two interesting articles that discuss fake phenomena and artificial intelligence, and "deep fake":  You Thought Fake News Was Bad? Deep Fakes is Where Truth Goes to Die by Oscar Schwartz in The Guardian, and What You Have to Fear from Artificial Intelligence  by Ryan Metz in Current Affairs: A magazine of Politics and Culture.

Paul Metz writes: "If you think “fake news” is a problem now, just wait. When an image can be generated of literally anyone doing literally anything with perfect realism, truth is going to get a whole lot slipperier."

Fake news clearly has political, social and security issues, but "deep fake" takes these issues even further. Used indiscriminately, "deep fake', to my mind, is a threat to civilisation as we know it. 

Fake news, and particularly "deep fake" are intrinsically linked to digital and cyber technology generally, and the screen more specifically. The screen is the "third" or "cathode window", as Paul Virilio, called it in interviews and text. Jean Baudrillard also proposed a loss of reality delivered by the screen. His "perfect crime", the death of reality, may reach its ultimate prosecution in "deep fake". 

So, to my new painting Seeing Through the Fake Window. Obviously I am playing into the news about fake phenomena. I am also playing into the idea of the screen being a window, a fake one. Without the ubiquity of the screen would fake news and "deep fake" pose threats to the fabric of society? The screen is ubiquitous because it is the computer screen, mobile phone screen, or other device screen. The screen is, however, also associated with the camera and the weapon, surveillance and targeting. 

In Seeing Through the Fake Window. you can imagine yourself looking through a fake window, aka screen. Maybe it is an airborne drone screen, one of its many multispectral cameras perhaps ? Or, maybe you are looking at a remote drone pilot's screen. Or maybe, you are looking at a television screen, watching news of a true or fake story about a true of fake drone strike? I have painted a dark blue square in the middle of the night- vision green 'cloud'. Is that a new window? Maybe, maybe not.

Seeing Through the Fake Window is not only about giving an impression of looking through a window, a fake window. It is also about exposing the fakery, critiquing the fake window that delivers fake news into our private and public lives. 

As with many of my paintings, I have painted lines that crisscross a landscape. These lines are signals and computer graphic-like markings. They create a new landscape topography, one which is normally invisible, except perhaps on a screen, maybe a remote drone pilot's screen. It is a fake landscape! As I have previously written, nets of signals that enable connectivity and networking, wrap the planet, extending from land to satellites in space. Theses signals transmit news, stories and images - real and fake - around the world. 

"Deep fake" is a potentially disastrous 21st century tactical weapon, deployable via our nets of signals.

On that happy note!


Thursday, November 08, 2018


Beware the Shadow Oil on linen 30 x 30 cm 2018

As a metaphor, the shadow represents the dark side. 

In my painting Beware the Shadow a shadow drone appears to be armed. The dark side, armed!  Does this mean that the shadow reveals the truth, that the white drone is weaponised with concealed technology that can target and kill? Does the shadow reveal a blindness to reality? In Beware the Shadow, the weapons are metaphors too.

If you stand back from your screen, this painting appears very 3D!

I have previously written about drone shadows, for example, Shadowy Drone Play and Drone Life Shadow Play

 Drone Life Shadow Play Gouache on paper 30 x 42 cm 2016

Shadowy Drone Play Gouache on paper 30 x 42 cm 2016


Thursday, November 01, 2018


 Coded Landscape Gouache on paper 15 x 21 cm 2015

Recently an AI generated portrait "Portrait of Edmond Belamy" was sold at Christies for nearly 45 times the expected amount. The work sold for over $400,000. You can read about it on Christies' site HERE . A collective called Obvious is behind the production. This is the first time an AI generated artwork has sold at a major public auction. The portrait and the sale have generated a lot of discussion [do Google it]. The fact that the product was promoted and sold by Christies certainly assisted its worthiness as news, and perceived value.

The AI program was fed "with a data set of 15,000 portraits painted between the 14th century to the 20th." (1) From my understanding, machine learning processes detected patterns in formal portrait characteristics. These then assisted the program to formulate a portrait which is meant to look human-made. This end-product is then printed onto a canvas. 

If you Google 'AI portrait', 'Portrait of Edmond Belamy' or other searches, you will find more information. You can then make your own critical judgments.

For a few years I have included painted algorithms, albeit simple ones, in my paintings. In this post I present a selection of these paintings, including some posthuman figures/portraits.

                                              Unseen Oil on linen 90 x 80 cm 2015

Strings of 'instructional' binary code help me form my paintings. These strings introduce colour, contour, shape, but they are also subject matter, complex subject matter. For example, binary code instructing the word LIFE forms the landscape contour in Coded Landscape [top]. Subject matter is multi-faceted - code, landscape, life. As a landscape, LIFE, depicted in code, poses questions about life in the era of the algorithm, the age of simulation - the 21st century. What is real and what is not real? 

Unseen [above] depicts a tree of life, one branch cascading around the canvas. This branch is a string of colourful binary code repeating the word LIFE. That instructional code is normally invisible is the key to this painting [in fact all of my 'code' paintings]. In Unseen, I have exposed code by hand-painting it in multiple colours. Each zero and one is different, not perfect. Human touch and gesture presents a subversive exposure! Rather than pretending to be human made, it actually is!

In Combat Proven, Long Range, Long Dwell [below], painted binary code for LIFE is targeted by an airborne weaponised drone. The drone's signals, exposed as radiating lines, detect and target LIFE. But, there is a twist, is LIFE easily targeted because so much of it relies on digital devices, cyber networking, online services and so on? The Grey Eagle drone is 'decorated' with binary code 'instructing' DRONE. Again, what is real, what is simulated, what is unreal?

Combat Proven, Long Range, Long Dwell Gouache on paper 56 x 76 cm 2016


My Future Post Human Gouache on paper 42 x 30 cm 2016

A portrait as a question mark?

"So - in My Future Posthuman I've painted a figure with tree-like appendages, a multicoloured heart and a head shaped like a question mark - but the question mark is formed from two rows of binary code 'instructing' the word 'Human'. Hence, the question mark!" From my previous post My Future Posthuman 

Imagining the Posthuman Gouache on paper 42 x 30 cm 2016

This posthuman's spine is binary code 00111111 'instructing' a question mark ie: ?

The posthuman's head is a tree?

Is This a Post Human? Gouache on paper 42 x 30 cm 2016

Vascular System for Post Humans Gouache on paper 42 x 30 cm 2016

Vascular System for Posthumans actually has a 'face'. Two eyes, or are they two zeros? The 'vascular' system is coded with a repeated question AM I ? Certainly a portrait is something that is meant to disclose something about the AM I ? type of question.

Am I  - what - who - where?