Friday, May 31, 2019


DRONE Gouache on paper 30 x 42 cm 2019


I am having a solo exhibition of new work! 

It will be my first exhibition of new work for four years. And, the first time my dronescapes have been exhibited as a body of work. The exhibition will be in late August into September at POP Gallery, 381 Brunswick St, Fortitude Valley, Brisbane, Queensland, Australia. POP Gallery is one of the Queensland College of Art, Griffith University, galleries. At the moment the exhibition is called New Landscapes In The Drone Age. I will keep you posted with exact details over the next few weeks.

In DRONE [above] a weaponised drone appears to hover in front of you. Its guided missiles and Hellfire missiles seem aimed at you. Its wide area surveillance system sends out surveillance signals, scoping, detecting, and perhaps targeting. It’s data-link antennae sends and receives information and instruction. But, the blue lines sectioning the sky disrupt this reverie of stealth. Perhaps this is not an image of a drone flying through the air, but rather, an image of a simulated drone graphically depicted on a computer screen. 

The binary code inscribed across the drone's wingspan 'instructs' the word DRONE, and then appears to start a new word DRONE that continues off the right side of the picture. Or, is the 'instruction' DRONED? I will leave you to think about the variety of possible interpretations here! 

Unmanned Aerial Vehicle or Unmanned Flying Aerial?
What I want to focus is the term or name unmanned aerial vehicle [UAV]. This name for a drone conjures the idea of a plane flying in the air without a pilot on board. And, this is certainly a good description of an airborne drone. But, a drone can also be considered as an airborne aerial. There is no need to use the word unmanned, because aerials and antennae are normally unmanned. Even satellites that receive and transmit data are unmanned. This idea came to me as I was worked through recent paintings where I expose signals that enable the operation and functioning of militarised technology, dual-use technology, and militarise-able civilian technology. 

I was also thinking about my father. Although my father was a grain grower, from the age of 12 he had been an enthusiastic HAM, an amateur radio operator. Dad had a number of aerials dotted around the farm. Various antennae were mounted on each of them. These antennae enabled transmission and reception of messages from around the world. In 1957 when the Russians sent Sputnik 1 into space, my father [aged 20] was one of a number of HAMs from around the world who tracked the spacecraft and sent co-ordinates back to the Jet Propulsion Unit in the US, via an intermediary. My father, a farmer in western Queensland, Australia, played a small part in Cold War intrigue! Sputnik 1 heralded the space race. 

Thinking of the airborne drone as a flying aerial, an intermediary between Earth and optimal orbits, forced me to think about the drone in a different way. Essentially the drone is a metal-clad flying chassis, its structure designed to enable the transmission and reception of signals that transmit data and instructions from land-based and space-based support infrastructure. Is it a vehicle? Well yes and no. But, is an aerial a vehicle? That's a tricky one, because an aerial is an enabling node for signals to deliver and transport data and instructions. Are signals more of a vehicle than an aerial? Maybe an aerial is more like a warehouse?

Flying Aerial Weapon?
Now to the role of the flying aerial as a carrier of lethal weapons. As a carrier, the drone could be considered a vehicle. But, signals between devices on the flying aerial, and signals sent and received from land-based and space-based assets deliver data and instructions to the drone and its payloads. This includes instructions triggered by remote human operators, as well as internal algorithmic systems, to target and attack. Maybe the airborne militarised drone is a flying aerial weapon, a very sophisticated weapon, an interconnected matrix of sensoring, imaging, orienting, surveilling and targeting capabilities. Signals appear to be pivotal to this kind of weaponry. Where does the human being fit in this matrix? 

I am going to leave my rambling there. But, while I might be off tangent, I think it is important to scrutinise how nomenclature contributes to assumptions and beliefs about contemporary technology, particularly militarised technology. 

I think DRONE looks like a flying aerial weapon!


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