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. 

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