Wednesday, October 30, 2019


Gamed Landscape Oil on linen 23 x 62 cm 2019

I was thinking about  my last post Stealthy Techno-Colonising Forces and my claim that invisible signals occupy landscape and environment in a manner that colonises it. While visualising normally invisible signals is one of my aims, so is examining how screen-based graphics reorient notions of landscape. That some screen-based graphics are informed and generated by data delivered by signals cannot be ignored. For example, data and imagery received from an airborne drone is managed by a remote pilot via a screen, or a number of screens. The image on the screen is overlaid with lines, circles, numbers and letters indicating orientation, targeting, speed, direction, scale and more.

Does a reliance on screen-based delivery of information, images, data, communications etc, change our perception and experience of landscape and environment? Do computer games change or mediate how we think about landscape? Does a GPS in a car or on a phone mediate our experience of landscape? Regarding the latter, there are, for example, odd stories about people driving off the end of jetties because they have relied on GPS directions that were wrong. What happened to looking out the window, identifying landmarks, critically thinking about a terrain? Here, I am reminded of cultural theorist Paul Virilio's suggestion that an outcome of screen-based technologies is "sightless vision" the "production of intense blindness that will become the latest and last form of industrialisation: the industrialisation of the non-gaze". (1)

This brings me to my new painting Gamed Landscape. I have painted a landscape overlaid with the new topographies of the industrialised image. This painting is inspired by a few things, and regular readers will recognise that it is reminiscent of some other recent paintings, for example Lethal Landscape: False Horizons, HUMAN and Mission Capable Landscape . However, recent investigations of computer games stimulated by watching Harun Farocki's Parallel I - IV * got me thinking about gaming. And, perversely, a new film called  Hustlers  got me thinking about being gamed. Farocki's film is a short history of how computer generated imagery for computer games has developed since the 1980s. It demonstrates how CGI manipulates landscape and how figures move through strangely real, but unreal, environments. Hustlers is the story of strippers who, during the GFC, devised a way to 'game' - by flattering, flirting with and drugging -  rich men into spending massive amounts of money. 

Just as targeting graphics impose a lethality and a status of mission capability onto landscape, orienting graphics, whether imposed on a real or computer gnerated landscape, gamble and play games. That the history of computer games is entwined with military training techniques cannot be ignored. Here, Virilio's "industrialisation of the non-gaze", reaches out into every pixel, amalgamated with others, to produce an image. The industrialised non-gaze is, perhaps, exemplified in the notion of machine vision or drone vision, the production and surveillance of pixel data. Human beings are the consumers of this data - consumed via the screen. Is this the ultimate hustle of industrialised "sightless vision"?

In Gamed Landscape, red and white lines mimic computer graphics. Along with these lines, an orienting compass, creates a net-like shroud across the landscape. This is a form of occupation. That compass-like graphics are often visible in computer games is an intriguing thing. On the flat surface of the screen, the compass is, for me, the exemplar of a subterfuge, the pretense of dimension. The pretend virtual compass is the clue to the game - of being gamed. 

Have you noticed how many people have no idea of where north, south, east and west are - in the real environment? 


* Thursday 14 November, at the IMA, Brisbane, I am on a panel "Landscape and Computer Generated Imagery" with Baden Pailthorpe. The panel discussion will be facilitated by curator, Kyle Weise. A screening of Harun Farocki's Parallel I - IV will follow the discussion. More details are available HERE

1. Paul Virilio, The Vision Machine (London and Bloomington: British Film Institute, 1994), 73.


* Please contact me through the 'contact form', upper right of blog, for any inquiries about this or other paintings. 

Tuesday, October 22, 2019


Space Net Gouache on paper 56 x 76 cm 2017

A recent article "Weapons Makers Unveil A Herd of Robotanks— As the Army Worries About Battlefield Bandwidth" in Defense One caught my attention. Why? Because, it discussed how inter-connectivity and networking are vitally important for militarised technological operation and functioning. It discussed the US Army's plans for increasingly interconnected militarised hardware and systems, including air-based and ground-based robots, gadgets and weapons carried by human soldiers, autonomous systems and relay stations. However, the article highlighted a problem - networked systems that are not necessarily consistently reliable. In the military case, this is exacerbated by increasing demands for inter-connectivity, such as sharing data, and speedy transmission. So, ideas for robotised and autonomous, motile and stationary, scaffolding technologies to ensure signal relay reliability and speed, are planned.

I have been writing and painting about signals, and humanity's reliance upon them, for some time. I have a particular interest in the way signals enable contemporary militarised technology, and the appropriation of civilian technologies by militarised forces, state and non-state. I have made the argument that signals ricocheting from node to node, device to device, occupy landscape and environment, from land to orbiting satellites. I 'see' this occupation as a stealthy techno-colonisation that enables new modes of empire, and therefore, power. The invisibility of signals means we pay attention to visible hardware, placing significance on advances in hardware, and not always taking into account that without signals most hardware is rendered inert. 

A reliance on signaling, networking and inter-connectivity for militarised purposes, that can appropriate and use civilian systems, builds capacity and acts as a force multiplier. However, this reliance is also a vulnerability. Risks of deliberate interventions such as hacking and jamming, unintended consequences and phenomena such as severe solar storms, can all cause havoc and cascading systemic consequences. 

In this post I have uploaded a few of my paintings that visualise or make visible, invisible signals. I argue that by making them visible, we can see how they impose new types of  topographies. I say topographies because signals map the environment with transmission pathways or highways, they build domains that are invisible to the human being, they create terrains that enable or disable, they manifest new full spectrum spaces for battle.

 Code Empire Gouache on paper 56 x 76 cm 2017

Lethal Landscape Gouache on paper 56 x 76 cm 2018

 Mission Capable Landscape Oil  on linen 72 x 137 cm 2018

Lethal Landscape - False Horizons Oil on line 70 x 100 cm 2018

 Charting the Invisible Gouache on paper 30 x 42 cm 2019

Martial Map Gouache on paper 30 x 42 cm 2019

Tuesday, October 15, 2019


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

I have been thinking about surveillance and sousveillance. And, I have also been thinking about metaveillance. Surveillance is commonly used to describe monitoring, spying and watching, normally in a clandestine or discrete way, often an activity of oversight from above. Sousveillance is a monitoring from below, normally undertaken by someone wearing/holding a device. According to Steve Mann, Professor of Computer Engineering at University of Toronto and 'father of wearable computing', "Surveillance happens when we’re being watched and sousveillance happens when we do the watching", and metaveillance is "seeing sight itself" through exposure of frequencies used for scoping/surveillance. In technical terms all three types of veillance involve digital, cyber or electronic technologies, for example, cameras and sensors, that can be fixed, or moving.

Regular readers will know why I am interested in surveillance, sousveillance and metaveillance. Yes, the airborne militarised drone's surveillance capabilities are increasingly persistent and penetrative. Imaging technology enables surveillance and targeting, but is the image really needed if software is the scrutiniser of data? We can monitor the drone using devices on land and in space, but the monitoring is also reliant on sensors, using the same signal-reliant digital and cyber platforms as the drone. To me, this seems like a loop.

Imaginational metaveillance - maybe it should be imaginational veillance - is a way to monitor without using digital, cyber or electronic platforms, but with these platforms firmly in 'sight'. Hands-on painting practices/processes, and the resultant paintings, do not require digital or cyber technologies for creation, exhibition or storage. They cannot be hacked, appropriated, forensically investigated - they do not bleed data back into the system. For me, painting, as a practice and a creation, offers a distance from the technological system I critique. I invite viewers of my paintings to also fly with me.

By inviting viewers of my paintings to fly, in imagination, below, beside and above airborne drones and/or indications of their presence, surveillance and sousveillance do not seem adequate terms to describe what we might 'see'. And, when we fly above the drones, it's not only into the sky, but into the cosmic reaches of outer space where we can 'monitor' not only the drones, but also their ground-based and space-based support infrastructure against a backdrop of the 'pale blue dot'. Also, by making visible the invisible signals that ricochet from node to node, device to device, we can 'see' how landscape and environment are occupied by a mesh of stealthy techno-colonising forces. When we fly below the drones, the obscuring, or part-obfuscation, of the universal background indicates a loss of perspective. This maybe a sign of a hostage-like situation - and we are the hostages!

If metaveillance is technological way of "seeing sight itself" I think the imaginational metaveillance opens a way to something more, an embrace of vision in the broadest human sense - not only seeing with eyeball and pupil, but also 'seeing' in imagination, in dreams, in nightmares, in visionary and speculative thinking.  Who needs VR tech, when imagination, in full flight, can take you anywhere!

I could write more, but I'll leave the paintings to do the rest of the work!

In this online exhibition I have included various paintings where you are invited to 'fly'.

Imagine yourself below or above, or in front of the droned landscapes or skyscapes, netted with signals and punctuated with hardware.

 Droned Landscape Gouache on paper 30 x 42 cm 2016

Are you above a netted landscape, or below a netted sky or viewing a cross-section of landscape volumetrically occupied? 

 Drone Clouds Gouache on paper 30 x 42 cm 2016

With imaginational metaveillance swarms of drones become fake clouds, and act of stealth.

 Remote Control Gouache on paper 30 x 42 cm 2016

The tree-of-life is under attack. The tree-of-life escapes, perhaps? With imaginational metaveillance, life itself is 'seen'.

 What if? Gouache on paper 30 x 42 cm 2016

We 'witness' more than what can be seen!

 $urveillance Gouache on paper 56 x 76 cm 2017

With imaginational metaveillance we 'see' the military industrial estate. The sunshine-like rays are painted with small $ signs. Fake sunshine, real surveillance.

 Drone Zones Gouache on paper 30 x 42 cm 2017

New Sky? Gouache o paper 56 x 76 cm 2017

The 'new sky' is formed by pixellated blue drones. What is real?

 Sky - Drone - Net Gouache on paper 30 x 42 cm 2016

Signals, a false star, a net obscuring the sky - or - landscape. It depends where you think you are - above the drone or below it?

 Life and the Drone Gouache on paper 56 x 76 cm 2017

The battle of the 21st century?

 Ubiquitous Surveillance - An Invisible Landscape Oil on linen 60 x 110 cm 2017

 Anomaly Detection 2 Oil on linen 120 x 180 cm 2017

Pixellated weaponised drones hover over the pale blue dot - Earth.

 Sensored Oil on linen 50 x 50 cm 2017

The sky is occupied by sensors and their enabling signals. A false star extends beyond the edges of the painting....

 New Horizons Oil on linen 97 x 112 2018

Computer-like graphics impose new horizons and false perspective. A drone's wingspan cuts the landscape.

 Mission Capable Landscape Oil on linen 72 x 137 cm 2018

Multi Mission Gouache on paper 30 x 42 cm 2019