Tuesday, June 30, 2020

DRONESCAPE: A CREEPING NORMALISATION

Dronescape: A Creeping Normalisation Oil on linen 36 x 56 cm 2020


As the development and use of airborne drones accelerate, I think about landscape. I think about how landscape is changing, in ways we might not notice.

Creeping normalisation occurs when something happens over a period of time, and thus its impacts accrue slowly. For example, during the COVID-19 there are some concerns about the normalisation of the use of drones and robots for a variety of reasons - surveillance, monitoring, spreading messages, spraying disinfectant, delivering supplies including medicines, and claims that temperature and heart monitoring can be conducted. If these activities are normalised what kinds of intrusion are we accepting now and for the future? 

As time goes on, and military and civilian drone use accelerates, how does landscape change? It changes because invisible signals, used to transmit and receive data and instructions to and from nodes, devices, drones and satellites, infiltrate our environment. While the hardware may be visible, the signals that enable networking, inter-connectivity, operability and interoperability, transmission and reception are invisible. Yet, these signals occupy landscape, as an overlay or net that creates its own 'scape' - a signalscape.  

NEW KIND OF COLONISATION
This 'signalscape' is a sign of a new kind of colonisation of landscape, a stealthy techno-colonisation that disrupts traditional ideas of sovereignty, borders and concepts of Earthly landscape. As invisible signals ricochet from earth-based to sky-based and space-based assets, a volumetric occupation of our extended environment beyond Earth occurs. I often wonder when corridors in this occupied space between Earth and satellites will be commandeered. I often wonder if new titles of ownership will be 'surveyed' in this occupied zone. If commandeering and ownership of the signal-scape occurs, who or what benefits? Will it be individuals, non-state actors, governments, nations, mega corporations and artificial intelligence?

DRONESCAPE: A CREEPING NORMALISATION
In Dronescape: A Creeping Normalisation I have painted four quadcopter drones flying over an ambiguous landscape. The circular lines around each drone indicate the limits of their surveillance and data gathering arcs. These arcs are normally not visible, but here I am trying to demonstrate how signals stealthily occupy landscape. This is an act of imaginational metaveillance - turning human surveillance back onto the machines, without using the digital and cyber platforms the system itself relies upon. 

In Dronescape: A Creeping Normalisation the nets of signals create a new kind of scape, one that imposes itself on the landscape below. In the painting this imposed 'scape' seems to be creeping towards a white tree standing on a distant horizon. It does not appear long until the tree will also be netted. This tree, for me, is the age-old transcultural/religious tree-of-life, a symbol of life and humanity. What happens to humanity when our environment is cloaked with nets of signals that relay data and instructions between nodes and devices, many with increasingly autonomous functionality? What happens to humanity when the networked and interconnected system - the netted signal-scape - operates at speeds beyond human domains of time and space? If this system is something we rely upon, then we need to think about all of its potential vulnerabilities. 

But, have we even noticed that the occupation of landscape may mean we are already held hostage?

Cheers,
Kathryn

Thursday, June 18, 2020

ON OUR WATCH


On Our Watch Oil on linen 36 x 56 cm 2020


I've been thinking about our current time of pandemic, protest, political mayhem, global strife and anxiety: I wrote the following, re: protests over historical statues, on Facebook and people seemed to like the idea. 

I've been thinking about the current furore over historical statues of people who are seen as representative of negative aspects of colonialism. Visual art clearly has power. It also offers ways to learn and question, so rather than destroy or discard these historical statues, how about commissioning contemporary artists to create work that responds to them. For example, historical pieces in tight spots could be moved to parks or other open spaces, where some historical statues are already situated, and new contemporary pieces can be placed with them. By doing this the pieces set up a visual dialogue that can inform us of the past, reminding us that the past delivers lessons for the present and the future. These new dialogues could involve historians, futurists & others along with artists. And, not only sculptors or 3D artists, but imagine open-air performances by actors/musicians/poets/dancers that respond to groupings of historical statues and contemporary sculpture/3D works. Imagine light shows, holographic work, or work that encourages audience/viewer participation. I envision a dynamism, that may not be comfortable, but it might potentially mean negative aspects of history help inform critiques and insights of not only the past, but also the present - and potentially - help us pave a positive and sustainable future.
Imagine too, how these kinds of projects would generate work and income for artists of all kinds!

HISTORY AND THE PRESENT
History offers an array of dastardly acts, immoral behaviours, cruel intentions, evil doings, gross discriminations, acts of proprietorial hubris and perverse prejudices. History also offers an array of remarkable achievements, acts of valour and bravery, demonstrations of learning, revelations of science, feats of cultural excellence and intellectual prowess. History offers an array of lessons for a present that can also claim both dastardly acts and commendable behaviours. 

Have we learnt history's lessons? Can we learn history's lessons? How do we learn history's lessons?

ON OUR WATCH
While I was painting my new work On Our Watch I was thinking about how contemporary threats to freedoms, futures, lives, environment and well-being are perpetrated and perpetuated. Unfortunately, I 'see' new modes of empire, created by techno-colonising forces.* These new kinds of empire potentially replicate similar biases, prejudices, acts of usury, violence and control that characterised many of the negative aspects of historical empire building. As invisible or hidden signals connect devices and nodes, they volumetrically occupy territory from land to orbiting satellites. New types of territorial and domestic infiltration, colonisation and empire building pose sovereign and individual threats - election manipulations, cyber-attacks, fake news, identity theft, the dark web, surveillance, targeting of all kinds eg: by advertisers, governments or weaponsied drones. 
In On Our Watch I have painted two Sky Guardian drones. The small blue squares mimic pixels, representing the ubiquity of digital technology. I have deliberately chosen the colour blue to suggest a 'take-over' of landscape/territory by virtual and simulated landscape proxies. Fake landscape! The drones are armed with multi-penile-like red missiles, ready and erect for action. I have chosen Sky Guardian drones because in late 2019 it was announced that this drone is the RAAF's preferred acquisition choice. It was chosen over the MQ-9A Reaper drone because it is "able to be certified to fly in civilian airspace". I will leave you to think about that.
Regular readers will identify the red tree as my version of the transcultural/religious tree-of-life. It represents life and humanity. The tree appears to be on fire. Has it been hit by a real or metaphoric missile? Will the tree recover?

I have previously painted 'pixelated' drones - images below. 

ideas of empire. Highly recommended. 


 Anomaly Detection 2 Oil on linen 120 x 180 cm 2017


 Anomaly Detection Gouache on paper 56 x 76 cm 2017


New Sky? Gouache on paper 57 x 76 cm 2016

Cheers,
Kathryn

Tuesday, June 09, 2020

DRONE SWARMS: ONLINE EXHIBITION

Swarm Gouache on paper 30 x 42 cm 2020



DRONE SWARMING TECHNOLOGY
Drone swarming technology is accelerating, with a number of countries developing swarming capabilities - UK, USA, China, Turkey, Israel, Australia and others.

A drone swarm is a group of multiple drones, also called robotic systems. Swarms of robots can be land, sea or sky based. I am particularly interested in airborne drone swarms.

A drone swarm operates through collective functionality, operating as a unit and enabled by wireless signal connections between the drones. An airborne drone swarm effectively becomes a flying signal-net that enables some autonomous functions by reducing reliance, during a mission, on external signalling. A drone swarm can also become the weapon, deployed as a kamakazi swarm upon target identification. Drone swarming stealth capabilities, reduced vulnerability to electronic warfare [eg: jamming and hacking], autonomous functionality, and resilience to attack [if one drone is ‘taken out’, the swarm re-calibrates and continues on its mission] are attractive capabilities for military forces, and potentially also for security and policing activities. Clearly, this technology would also have appealing applications for state and non-state aberrant actors. 

SIGNALS
In many of my paintings I expose signals by painting lines between drones and auxiliary infrastructure, such as ground control stations, other airborne assets and satellites. I also expose signals by painting lines that indicate a drone’s surveillance arc, signals the feed data into the robotic system. This data can assist the drone swarm with functions such geo-locating and target identification, at the same time as building upon existing data to augment functionality.

SWARM
In Swarm I have painted a swarm of domestic drones and indications of their surveillance arcs. I have chosen domestic drones to alert to the potential militarisation of civilian technologies. That non-state groups, for example, in the Middle East have conscripted and modified civilian drones for nefarious purposes is a great concern. I'll let you extrapolate!

I have painted the drones white. This gives the impression of some kind of fake cloud. I am interested in the way technology occupies landscape. Here, also, the visualising of signals exposes the way normally invisible signals occupy landscape and environment. Without signals the hardware would simply be an object.


ONLINE EXHIBITION
Over the last five years I have created a number of paintings that address drone swarming technology. This online exhibition includes seven paintings.


Small Selection of Articles of Interest: 
I recommend you also do your own searching.
Swarming Drones: The Future of Warfare AFR by James Brown September 2019


 Drone Show Oil on linen 122 x 152 cm 2020


 Swarm Surveillance Gouache on paper 30 x 42 cm 2016


Drone Clouds Gouache on paper 30 x 42 cm 2016


 Droned Landscape Gouache on paper 30 x 42 cm 2016


Drone Spiral Gouache on paper 30 x 42 cm 2016


 Drone Spiral 2 oil on linen 120 x 160 2018