Monday, May 06, 2019


Martial Map Gouache on paper 30 x 42 cm

I have returned from overseas. In Toronto I presented on a round-table, themed to war preparedness, at the International Studies Association annual conference. I then had meetings in London and Berlin. 

And, I saw a lot of art, from the Rembrandt exhibition at the Rijks Museum in Amsterdam, to Is This Tomorrow at the Whitechapel Gallery in London, to Hito Steyerl's Power Plants exhibition at the Serpentine Gallery, London. Two exhibitions at the KW Institute in Berlin still occupy my thoughts. The exhibitions showed works by David Wojnarowicz and Reza Abdoh. Both artists brutally, honestly and sensorially reflected upon the AIDS crisis of the 1980s/early 1990s. I saw a number of exhibitions in Berlin, including Cian Dayrit's thought provoking counter mapping/cartography exhibition Beyond the Gods Eye at Nome Gallery. And, at C/O Gallery I saw two provocative photographic exhibitions - Double Take by duo Cortis and Sonderegger, and Before Sleeping/ After Drinking, a survey show of work by Boris Mikhailov. Matthew Day Jackson's exhibition Pathetic Fallacy at Hauser and Wirth, Somerset was a highlight. This quote from the gallery site gives you an idea about Day Jackson's motivation in this exhibition, "The overarching conceit is an interest in our compulsion to document, map and systemise our natural world as a method for understanding nature." Day Jackson's exhibition and Dayrit's exhibition were both highlights.

Since returning home the idea of counter cartography or mapping has occupied my thoughts. Are my paintings, where I expose signals that enable drone operations, a kind of counter mapping? In many of my paintings I paint proliferating nets of signals as imposed topographies that occupy landscape, from land into space. This volumetric occupation, I 'see', as a techno-colonisation of landscape and environment, facilitating an insidious control and manipulation of human behaviour and movement. I call my paintings 'new landscapes in the drone age'.

By exposing the nets of signals that enable militarised and militarise-able technologies I manifest a kind of map. These paintings expose the invisible, thus resisting techno-military forces by drawing attention to the insidiousness of inter-connectivity and networking. Additionally, the medium of painting enables the exposure of signals without relying on contemporary technologies that utilise connectivity, networking, for example, cloud storage, downloaded software - the internet. While I might upload images, the process of creation remains discrete. 

Martial Map 
The idea for Martial Map was inspired by reflecting upon IR scholar Antoine Bousquet's book Eye of War: Military Perception from the Telescope to the Drone. In this book Bousquet provides a compelling historical perspective on what he calls the development of the "martial gaze", the human eye's conscription into surveillance, targeting and destruction. But, the human eye cannot see signals. Yet, once Heinrich Hertz first transmitted and received radio waves in 1886, radio communication opened the door to modern day connectivity and networking, the enabling signal forces of contemporary militarised and militarise-able technologies. 

The word 'martial' describes something that is related to or suitable for war, related to military life or inclined to war. Martial Map shows how various nodes can be linked, and inter-linked. I have painted various nodes; GPS and communication satellites, credit cards with chips, a cruise liner, home security technology, a digital tv, a drone's ground control station, human beings holding a mobile phone, a car, 'cloud' storage in the form of a huge building, a fitbit, a street surveillance camera, airport security apparatus, a relay aerial and three weaponised airborne drones. The painting suggests how civilian technologies can be conscripted into the militarised network. Dual-use is clearly  a highly problematic and diffused concept in the contemporary world. 


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