Wednesday, January 29, 2020

TOPOGRAPHY OF SIGNALS

Topography of Signals Oil on linen 57 x 57 cm 2019


Topography of Signals relates to two recent works on paper Martial Map and Charting The Invisible . In all three works I imagine flying to a distance beyond Earth and its array of sky-based and space-based technologies. From this imagined perspective I visualise the signals that transmit data and instructions to various kinds of technological hardware, such as, satellites, drones, ground control stations, mobile phones, credit cards, GPS in vehicles etc. By exposing signals it becomes apparent that the networked and interconnected system imposes a new kind of topography upon landscape. This new topography volumentrically occupies our extended environment, from land to orbiting satellites.

Imagine you are below the netted landscape revealed in Topography of Signals. Now, imagine you are above the signal-net. From either of these orientations a sense of foreclosure is felt. If you are below the signals you are woven into the matrix that volumetrically occupies extended environment. If you are above, an enclosure is 'witnessed'. Here, I channel some of geographer, Ian Shaw's, thoughts on enclosure, in what he calls the 'predator empire', and what I call the 'code empire'

This kind of imaginational metaveillance, undertaken in imaginational flight, is visualised in my paintings in ways that intersect with counter-mapping tropes. Counter-mapping is a way to scrutinise maps created by colonisers. It helps to reveal and map the ignored or subdued stories of pre-colonial  cultural, political and societal significance. While exposing signals as nets that occupy extended environment is not a re-examination of the past, it is a way to critically think about the networked and interconnected system as a coloniser, now and into the future. This is especially important in an age where the lines between militarised technology, dual-use technology and militarise-able civilian technology, are increasingly blurred. 

What kinds of risks and vulnerabilities are attached to a system that potentially enables global colonising forces?

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Looking forward to the 

7-8 February, University of Sheffield, UK.

Please check out the conference booklet 

I am presenting a talk about my work 
Painting Airborne Militarised Drones: An Act Of Imaginational Metaveillance



Cheers,
Kathryn





Tuesday, January 14, 2020

LIFE, AT THE FRONT

Life, At The Front Oil on linen 56 x 112 cm 2020


Against a current backdrop of tension and disaster, such as the catastrophic fires in Australia, dangerous flooding in Indonesia [and even Dubai], and heightened tensions in the Middle East, there is also an overlay of political dissonance. As belief systems and politics are twisted and provoked by social media and fake news, opinion collapses into binaries of good and bad, right and wrong. It feels like LIFE is on the front-line of a battle. This battle seeps into our homes and workplaces via the screen - computer screens, iPads, mobile phones, and other devices. That these devices are networked and interconnected allows the binaries to accumulate at extremes, where complexity is lost. Near light-speed transmission of news, opinion, data, Tweets, comments [and photos of cats] keeps us on a fast moving treadmill, that goes nowhere. It creates a kind of inertia. 

No time for complexity. 

No time. 

With little time to think what happens?
I am reminded of Paul Virilio when he described the screen in Open Sky (1997) as “the square horizon” that causes “confusion of near and far, of inside and outside, disorders of common perception that will gravely affect the way we think”.(1) 

Life, At The Front and the Screen
In Life, At The Front I have tried to channel the impression of a screen. The orienting white lines mimic those that could be seen on a remote drone pilot's computer screen. Or, perhaps it is a computer gamer's screen? As the title suggests a battlespace exists. Is it real or virtual? Does it really matter? It could be both?

Squares of colour mimic pixels. These 'pixels' provoke questions about how contemporary images are generated, the veracity of images, how we are trained to look at images...and more. Please note my use of the word 'generated', rather than 'created', to describe the production of contemporary images that require screen-based platforms for production, exhibition and storage. 

The ubiquity of digital imagery and its generative digital and cyber processes, requires and causes standardisation, thus enabling the efficiency of streamlined globalised consumption. Here, my thoughts are informed by Virilio's commentary on standardisation and synchronicity in his 2012 book The Great Accelerator, where he also writes about a resultant inertia. He remarks that inertia threatens a "paralysis or, rather, the sudden tetraplegia of the societal body”. (2)

Tree-of-Life
In the painting a multicoloured burning tree - a tree-of-life - seems to be part of the orienting graphic overlay, but this is unclear. Maybe the tree, on fire, is a warning, just like the catastrophic fires in Australia. It warns, not only of fire, but of other catastrophes caused by not paying attention to science, by not thinking in complex ways, by not being prepared, and not looking into a future beyond a political cycle.........................

A red tree - another tree-of-life - sways in the wind on a distant horizon. Perhaps another warning?

Horizons
The landscape beyond the white-lined graphics, tumultuously unfolds into multiple horizons. And, with multiple horizons, there are multiple potential perspectives. Here, I think of horizons and perspective in literal and metaphoric ways. The fake perspective of the white targeting graphics is prosaic by comparison. Virilio again provides a way to critically think about the effects of ubiquitous screen-based technology. He comments, "What is the danger of globalzation? There is no perspective. There is an optical correctness being set up, and there is a generalized tele-surveillance that comes from the military with its drones, etc". (3)

Perspective
The question of perspective is one that has preoccupied me for a couple of decades. It is not a new interrogation. In my cosmic landscapes of the past I have invited viewers to fly in their imaginations, to play with perspective, both literal and metaphoric. 

My recent work dealing with militarised and militarise-able technology still invites viewers to 'fly' into cosmic realms. My work still plays with literal and metaphoric perspective, to re-enliven perspective, to provoke it - as a form of resistance.


1. Paul Virilio, Open Sky, trans. Julie Rose (London and New York: Verso, 1997), 26.
2. Paul Virilio, The Great Accelerator trans. Julie Rose (Cambridge and Malden: Polity Press, 2012),18.
3. Paul Virilio and Sylvere Lotringer, The Accident of Art, trans. Michael Taormina (New York and Las Angeles, Semiottext(e), 2005), 74.


NEWS

I am presenting at the


 Interdisciplinary conference 
University of Sheffield, UK 
7-8 February.

My painting New Horizons is the conference image!
And, it has been printed onto the conference tote bags
I am excited by the fact that as delegates walk around Sheffield, and return home on trains, planes and buses, these tote bags will be spread around the world!




Cheers,
Kathryn




Wednesday, January 01, 2020

ARE WE PREPARED?


January 1, 2020, Are We Prepared? Oil on linen 31 x 36 cm


Fire and Smoke
Catastrophic fires continue to burn in Australia, around the continent.* Exhausted fire services and volunteer fire fighters have valiantly fought these ongoing fires, some fires morphing into fire storms that scorch the earth as they shoot flames upwards into trees where the canopy becomes an elevated fast moving fiery hell. Daylight turns to red and then black, smoke drifts across the Pacific Ocean to New Zealand, and Australia records some of the worst air quality in the world. 

Were we prepared for the cataclysmic nature of this Summer's fire season? When hundreds of homes are destroyed, lives are lost and emergency evacuations of whole townships happen, we have to address the changing nature of the climate, how the landscape is inhabited and current risk mitigation management systems. Clearly extreme fire risk mitigation management has been lacking or, worryingly, not supported. 

The ongoing dire situation with the fires has revealed a dangerous political disconnect between government and expectations from the population. This disconnect will, likely, continue long after the fires have subsided. Any ensuing political instability will add fuel to unrest, protest, disorder and disappointment. Are we prepared for home-grown extremes of potential political and civil turmoil? 

Risk
The extent and ferocity of the fires have been described as unprecedented. Risk management must include attention to potential worst case scenarios - the unprecedented. With this in mind, what does the current cataclysmic fire situation tell us about other potential cataclysmic or unprecedented risks? Clearly environmental risks such as fire, drought and flood should have taught Australians a lot about risk mitigation. Are there other risks that we remain oblivious to, ignore or find too hard to comprehend? I was thinking about this kind of question when I painted January 1, 2020, Are We Prepared?

January 1, 2020, Are We Prepared?
I finished January 1, 2020, Are We prepared? today - January 1, 2020. I have painted it over the last couple of weeks, as the fires burn around Australia. Most people in Australia will likely know someone directly affected by the fires - for example, as the majority of a family member's property burned, the house was saved by a fuel reduction burn [about 2 hectares of a 10 hectare property] undertaken and organised during the previous Winter. The family member commented on the difference between the surface fire conducted during the fuel reduction burn and the ferocity of the fire that swooped though the property a few weeks ago. The Winter burn did not scorch the soil, the Summer out-of-control burn did.

This morning I listened to a Future of Life Institute podcast conversation between Prof Max Tegmark and Prof Huval Noah Harari. I have followed both for quite some time, and read a reasonable amount of their work. The podcast is an hour long, and it was a great way to start the first day of the new decade. Tegmark and Harari discussed - grounding morality and issues of consciousness, global health, animal suffering, existential risks and the ethics of the long-term future, nuclear war as a neglected global risk, near term AI and artificial general intelligence, creating new stories for the 21st century, risks of big data and AI enabled human hacking, and what does it mean to be human and what should we want to want. Early on in the conversation Harari asked a question about whether we are prepared for the future. Ah ha, this consolidated my ideas into a title for my new painting!

In January 1, 2020, Are We prepared? a fiery background is a literal reference to the current  Australian fires, and a metaphorical reference to an urgency to think deeply about other potential future risks. Regular readers will know of my long-term interest in existential risk posed by emerging technologies, and my more focused interest in contemporary and emerging militarised and militarise-able technologies. 

January 1, 2020, Are We prepared?, like Australia: December 2019 [below] also refers to the RAAF's confirmation of an order for SkyGuardian weaponisable drones. As weaponisable drones are acquired or manufactured by an increasing number of countries, are we prepared for the kind of war the future 'promises'?

Pixels, Parody and Perspective
In January 1, 2020, Are We prepared? the airborne weaponised drone is painted in small colourful squares that mimic pixels. The colours of the pixels a lolly-like - unreal, but seductive. They contrast with the fiery colours in the background, demonstrating the drone's distance from reality. Is the figure of the drone idealised? If so, what are the risks of idealisation, digital idealisation? The painting also parodies a computer generated image of a drone on a screen, perhaps a remote pilot's screen. It also references the digital imaging technology embedded in a drone's surveillance and targeting systems. Perhaps the fiery background is a war zone, either real or simulated? 

In January 1, 2020, Are We prepared?, are you, the viewer, looking down upon the drone and a fiery landscape below, or are you below the drone looking up at a hellish sky? As you fly, in imagination, around, below and above the drone 'imaginational metaveillance' returns veillance, as a kind of play with perspective, to the human. What kinds of unprecedented risks are revealed when perspective and imagination mingle? Are we prepared to not only to address these risks, but also to look for them?


Australia: December 2019 Oil on linen 23 x 62 cm 2019


* I have not included any links to the fire situation. There are many, and easy to find if you Google.

Kathryn