Thursday, July 18, 2019


Stay Alert: Says the Tree Gouache on paper 56 x 76 cm 2019

For information on my forthcoming exhibition 

Occupied Landscapes: Evidence on Drones

please visit my post HERE


Stay Alert: Says The Tree

I was thinking about a painting from 2017, Forever Watched  [below]. It is one of only a few paintings where I depict human figures. In the painting a group of people are encircled. But, are they performers encircled by a spotlight on a stage, or something more sinister? Or, maybe the stage is contemporary life, one where everything we all do is monitored, surveilled, watched. 

I was thinking about Forever Watched when I was painting Stay Alert: Says the Tree [above]. In this new painting I have replaced the people with a symbolic reference to humanity and life, the tree-of-life. Regular readers will know that the tree-of-life is often depicted in my paintings. The radiating lines indicate some kind of surveillance emanating from a single point, maybe an airborne drone, a satellite...? Maybe the single point indicates control, rather than a particular device.

The split surveillance could mean a few things, increasing persistence and dominance by surveillance systems, intrusion at global and intimate levels, dispersed targeting and more. The replacement of the human figures with the trees-of-life draws us all into the surveillance system as contributors and victims. 

The two trees-of-life, however, present us with some hopeful possibilities and some dire possibilities.It depends on your perspective.

I'll leave it to you to think about these possibilities. 

*Forever Watched and Stay Alert: Says the Tree will be in my forthcoming exhibition Occupied Landscapes: Evidence on Drones. 

Forever Watched Gouache on paper 56 x 76 cm 2017

Tuesday, July 09, 2019

WARFIGHTER - 01010111 01000001 01010010 01000110 01001001 01000111 01001000 01010100 01000101 01010010

 WARFIGHTER Gouache on paper 15 x 21 cm 2019


For information on my forthcoming exhibition 

Occupied Landscapes: Evidence on Drones

please visit my post HERE


A few questions that keep me thinking are:

What happens when the warfighter is no longer human?

Why has the word 'warfighter' replaced, in many instances, descriptors such as soldier, sailor, pilot? 

Is the increasing use of the word warfighter a sign that the replacement of the human being is already underway? I ask this because nonhuman devices can also be called warfighters eg: unmanned systems such as airborne, land-based and sea-based drones or robots. 

If or when the warfighter is no longer human, does war become a battle between autonomous devices and systems? Will human beings still have control, or will they be held hostage to a type of war beyond our current comprehension?

If your nation's warfighters are no longer human, are the enemy's warfighters also no longer human? If not, is the human being's role relegated to that of victim only?

In a war fought between machines and systems what happens to sovereignty and territory? 

In a war fought between machines and systems what happens to notions such as bravery, courage, loss, victory, disgust, sacrifice and more?

How do we memorialise when the warfighter is no longer human? Will memorial cease to exist as a form of human remembrance? If not, where does that place human history?

If autonomous nonhuman warfighters' initial programming is aimed at fighting, battle, deception and strategy, what happens to peace?

Are cyber systems and robots designed for civilian use, vulnerable to hijacking by the warfighting systems and robots? I assume so - then all systems are potentially militarised. Something to think about in an increasingly interconnected and networked world! 

The artificial intelligence, Alpha Go, plays the ancient game of Go with what is described as superhuman abilities, employing new manoeuvres that human beings have never thought of. This prompts the question, will self learning AI operated warfighters develop unheard of war strategies?  If so, what will war become? Will war become not superhuman, but 'other than' human?  Will human beings have any hope of understanding war once it becomes 'other than human'? Here, I protest against terms such as 'superhuman' and 'more than human', because they imply that that the human is already 'less than' the machine/system. However, if we see these systems as 'other than', rather than 'superhuman' or 'more than human', maybe critical spaces for deeper reflection on the future of war and humanity are revealed?

In WARFIGHTER [above] I have painted a string of binary code 'instructing' WARFIGHTER. The code seems to form a landscape element, a contour or horizon. The warfighter here is a digital system, a non-human, normally invisible combatant. Is the painting a depiction of a future warscape, one where human beings no longer exist, but the autonomous warfighting systems they developed still do? Maybe this could be a memorial to an algorithm! Is it Earth though? Maybe it is a cosmic landscape, or a virtual landscape - a simulation - Earth's remnant, an algorithm.

WARFIGHTER is similar to my earlier small painting Coded Landscape [below]. Here, the binary code 'instructs' the word LIFE. In my 2015 post, where I discuss Coded Landscape, I write about landscape. Landscape emerged out of the Big Bang and continues today on a universal scale. Here on Earth we have our physical landscape, but also our virtual landscapes. Both Coded Landscape and WARFIGHTER play with depictions of various landscapes - universal, cosmic, physical, virtual, simulated, future. Like WARFIGHTER, Coded Landscape could be a memorial too - to life.

And, there are a lot more questions....for another time.

                                     Coded Landscape Gouache on paper 15 x 21 cm 2015


Wednesday, July 03, 2019


Beware, Whispers the Wind Oil on linen 61 x 97 cm 2019


POP Gallery, 381 Brunswick St, Fortitude Valley, Brisbane, Queensland, Australia. 
POP Gallery is one of the Queensland College of Art (QCA), Griffith University, galleries. 

27 August - 14 September 2019

Please read the exhibition essay Occupied Landscapes: Evidence of Drones 
written by Dr. Federica Caso.

L to R: Mission Capable Landscape and Nowhere to Hide

A PANEL DISCUSSION happened on Saturday 31 August from 3.30 pm - 5 pmPanel Members:
  • Dr. Samid Suliman, Lecturer in Migration and Security, Griffith University. 
  • Federica Caso and Cormac Opdebeeck Wilson, both from the School of Political Science and International Studies, the University of Queensland. 
  • Kathryn Brimblecombe-Fox.

L to R: Occupied Landscape, False Lawn, Swarm Clouds Brewing

 Installation image at Occupied Landscapes: Evidence of Drones


*You can view more paintings on my website HERE


* I was interviewed about my paintings and research by the lead researcher, Dr. Beryl Pong, of the Aesthetics of Drone Warfare project, University of Sheffield, UK.This project is funded by a British Academy Rising Star Engagement Award for 2019-2020. Please listen to the Podcast - it's only 30 minutes.

 Mission Capable Landscape oil on linen 72 x 137 cm 2018

OCCUPIED LANDSCAPES: EVIDENCE OF DRONES is my first solo show of new work since 2015. The paintings in the exhibition reflect long-term interests in landscape, symbols [such as the tree-of-life], and existential risk posed by emerging technologies.

The paintings in the exhibition are informed by research into accelerating developments in militarised and militarise-able technology - airborne drones, persistent surveillance and increasingly autonomous systems. This research was conducted as part of my Master of Philosophy degree, completed in 2017 at the University of Queensland. Ongoing research continues to inform my work.

I am interested in how landscape is mediated by militarised and militarise-able technologies. I am particularly interested in examining the signals that enable the operation and functioning of militarised technologies. 

Anomaly Detection Gouache on paper 56 x 75 cm 2016
  Please take a look at Anomaly Detection No 2 also 

Please browse through my
BLOG to see more paintings and to read more about my practice. 




Occupied Landscapes: Evidence of Drones is an exhibition that poses questions about the mediation of landscape in the age of the drone, the era of persistent surveillance and the epoch of increasingly autonomous systems. The paintings in the exhibition are informed by my long-term interests in landscape, age-old symbols and existential risk posed by emerging technologies. My work is also informed by research into accelerating developments in contemporary militarised technology. This research was undertaken as a part of my Master of Philosophy [M.Phil], completed in 2017 at the University of Queensland.

In my paintings I invite viewers to fly, in imagination, around, above and below airborne drones that lurk in cosmic skies. As we fly, surveillance is returned to the human being as a kind of metaveillance. In other words we not only monitor the drones, we also observe what they are monitoring. This kind of observation reveals how drones, and their support infrastructure, intrude into the landscape in ways that occupy it. This occupation becomes a stealthy techno-colonisation of landscape and environment when enabling signals, ricocheting from land, into the sky and space, are exposed. By making visible the nets of invisible signals that operatively enable militarised and militarise-able technology I expose how new kinds of topographies are mapped onto landscape. However, rather than a surface occupation, it is a volumetric occupation from land into space. Imposed new signal topographies mediate human activity and movement through the signal-enabled inter-connectivity of our personal devices, computers, credit cards, mobile phones, GPS locators and more. Without signals these devices are largely inert.

In extreme cases interconnectivity enables the identification and targeting of people by systems increasingly involved in a conflation of military, security and policing activities. Here, the mediation of human activity and movement is clear. However, the ability to track and monitor general populations is an insidious kind of hostage situation that aides and abets the techno-colonisation. We are all hostages?

In my paintings depicting drones, or indications of their presence, I rarely include human figures, preferring not to attempt to tell the stories of others. However, in many of my paintings I include the age-old transcultural/religious tree-of-life as a symbol of all of humanity and life. The tree is often under threat from drones or it stands as a beacon of hope, Depending on your perspective, and perhaps where you choose to fly in imagination, humanity could be at risk of civilisation collapse and species demise, or it could harbour clues for a rich and vibrant future.

There is a lot more to think about – but, I will leave that up to you now. I hope you find Occupied Landscapes: Evidence of Drones stimulating, and therefore enjoyable. 

Drone Spiral (2) oil on linen 120 x 160 cm 2018