Tuesday, October 27, 2020


Theatre of War: Pattern Recognition Gouache on paper 56 x 76 cm 2020

Theatre of War: Pattern Recognition is the fourth painting in what is turning out to be a series themed to theatre of war. You can see the other three at Theatre of War: Smart Team

As with the other three paintings I am experimenting with depicting the technologies of war as protagonists that could be both audiences and actors. A theatre where a strange kind of dual witnessing tangles with complicity! In each painting various drones inhabit strange landscape-stages that are patterned with parodies of geolocating or terrain visualisation computer graphics - hinting at drone imaging technology. Note, I do not say drone vision!

Loyal Wingman Drone
In each painting I have included either one or more Loyal Wingman drones. The Loyal Wingman combat drone is currently in development in Australia. Its development is a collaboration between the RAAF and Boeing. Considered a 'gamechanger' in drone technology, the first test flight is due later this year.

In Theatre of War: Pattern Recognition a Loyal Wingman drone is situated towards the bottom left of the painting. Visualised signals from its various sensors and data links form a fake star around the drone. But - are you looking down upon the drone or up towards it? As regular readers know, I like to play with multiple perspectives and a sense of flying. I think I have achieved the sense of soaring flight, in this painting, rather well! Importantly, this sense of imaginational flight provides the viewer with vantage points that cannot be accessed by the drones. After all, a drone cannot imagine! Thus, there is a human surveillance of the unfolding scene or performance. I call this kind of surveillance - imaginational metaveillance. What patterns do you 'see'? 

Imaginational Metaveillance
In Theatre of War: Pattern Recognition imaginational metaveillance provides a way to think about the contemporary theatre of war as an enduring performance, potentially with no end. What kinds of patterns indicate there might not be an end? Here, I suggest things like accelerating developments in update-able weaponisable hardware and systems, arms race competition driving iterative inventions, networked and interconnected systems operating at light speed. Underlying much of this are accelerating developments in autonomous systems, where pattern recognition is pivotal for systems to undertake data identification, analysis, monitoring and more. Indeed, machine learning and AI technologies need to be repeatedly exposed to copious amounts of data in order to 'learn'. 

When I see computer terrain visualisation images I marvel at the technology, but I also feel despair that landscape is reduced to something that is strategised for optimal technological operation. Its a kind of reductive approach that disallows the human being. In Theatre of War: Pattern Recognition humanity is represented by the lone tree-of-life on a distant horizon. Is it swaying in a turbulent wind, aware of incoming forces? Is it the last audience? Or, does it indicate a new performance?


The World of Drones and Robotics Congress is on here in Brisbane, November 12-13. My presentation Drones, Art and Risk Analysis will be available online as a ten minute film. When it is available I will certainly be spreading the word! 

Being filmed for my WODR presentation



Tuesday, October 20, 2020


Strange Cloud Watercolour on paper 2020

Strange Cloud (above) is a dark cloud, seemingly impenetrable. An array of multi-coloured drones, acting as sentinels, are both protectors and deliverers of data. The drones' colours bely the darkness of the cloud as it dominates the scene. The cloud's vascular-like growth sucks from the environment, now a metaphor for data. A lone tree-of-life stands as a beacon for the commons and humanity on a distant horizon. 



I was inspired to 'curate' this exhibition after listening to globally recognised artist, author and technologist, James Bridle's recent BBC presentation Under the CloudIn this twenty-eight minute presentation Bridle "navigates the history and politics of the cloud". With inputs from other commentators, questions are raised about the cloud as a "metaphor of the internet, ethereal and fluffy - but what is it hiding?" Do listen to the presentation - it triggers a lot of questions about how we live our lives now and how we are likely to live our lives in the future.

Cloud Eyes Oil on linen 40 x 40 cm 2017

This online exhibition is a collection of paintings, where over the last few years, I have painted clouds in colours and compositions where their fluffiness is obviously a foil, a subterfuge, perhaps even a potentially dangerous seduction. Many of the paintings address some of the issues raised or alluded to in the BBC presentation. 

With my interest in militarised and militarise-able technology, my paintings depicting clouds reference surveillance, tracking and monitoring, They also speak to vulnerabilities of networked systems where platforms that are owned by a few major companies compel use and compliance under guises of ease of access, swift retrieval of data, enhanced security, speed of light transactions and more. As our awe of the system, and compliance to it, transforms into need, markets are ensured. 

Where does that place freedom? 

Cloud Eyes (Above)
Night vision green clouds clearly indicate augmented entities/systems, capturing data to be stored, analysed, and at some stage, acted upon. The eyes in Cloud Eyes are unblinking - they are not human. Here, I challenge ascribing notions of vision or seeing to machine, digital and cyber technologies - drones. They do not see, they do not have vision [literal, imaginational, dreaming] - instead - they SCOPE! And, when you think about it, 'scoping' befits the contingencies of surveillance ie: monitoring, targeting, manhunting and attack, much better than vision and seeing.... 

Follow Me, Says the Tree Oil on canvas 61 x 76 cm 2017

In Follow Me, Says the Tree I have depicted an eye painted in the sky. Its pupil is a shade of night vision green. It is an unblinking false eye, with 'lashes' that appear to be more like components from a computer circuit board. The signals that radiate from the eye penetrate through a surveillance net which is scaffolded by a night vision green CLOUD - a false cloud. 

However, what of the tree? It also penetrates the net of surveillance and the CLOUD, by reaching upwards towards the stars. It re-establishes perspective - the kind that can take humanity's endeavours into interstellar space. The tree's branching appearance contrasts with the clean lines of surveillance and targeting signals. Randomness, or seeming randomness, is presented as a complex decoy - but isn't that just LIFE! The tree not only erupts through the surveillance net, it also send roots underground. Where there's life there's hope it seems to say.

The New Clouds Gouache on paper 56 x 76 cm 2017

In The New Clouds I have painted airborne drone swarms as fake clouds. Just as they mimic swarming which occurs in the natural environment, they also mimic clouds. In other words fake clouds that potentially, over time, change our relationship to landscape and environment. The potential militarise-ability of The Cloud is visually and clearly inferred. Here,  targeting, based on data, includes the benign opportunism of advertisers to the more mortally important targeting by militarised forces or aberrant actors. 


From  2017 blog post:
"That THE Cloud's operations actually exist and occur as a result of material infrastructure belies the notion of fluffy vapourous clouds. Data is deposited onto multiple massive servers that require space in huge buildings. Servers suck energy - for continuous operation and cooling. And, to ensure backup, rerouting and instantaneous reaction they need connection and interconnection with cables that cross continents and oceans - the internet. The harnessing of space-based assets to assist connectivity adds another layer of material infrastructure beyond Earth's atmosphere. And, in one way or another, all this infrastructure can be used for both civilian and military purposes, thus blurring the lines between battlefield and city/home." 

Drone Clouds Gouache on paper 30 x 42 cm 2016

Painted over four years ago Drone Clouds (above) was inspired by thinking about how the increasing use of militarised drones creates a kind of artificial 'ceiling' in the sky. This can be viewed as both a literal and a psychological 'ceiling'. If we develop a fearful mentality that the sky is a place of threat, what happens to the beauty of cosmological perspectives? Regular readers know I have a fascination with cosmology, and the close and far distances it reveals. Threat from the sky is something that limits a fearless desire to look beyond horizons - earthly, universal and metaphoric.  What happens if we become fearful of The Cloud?

Topography of Signals Oil on linen 57 x 57 cm 2019 

Topography of Signals
A fluffy fake cloud, painted a light shade of night vision viridian green, hovers at the bottom right of Topography of Signals . Militarised and civilian technological hardware are connected by lines that indicate signal connections - the networked society - the militarise-ability of civilian technology. I have used red and night vision green lines to indicate augmented and dangerous surveillance capabilities, and therefore, vulnerabilites. Green screens, green car windows and green credit card chips all indicate data outflow to The Cloud, seemingly benign in all its fluffiness! 

As cultural scholar Paul Virilio notes the more powerful and high performance the invention, the more dramatic the accident.”
Paul Virilio, The Original Accident, trans. Julie Rose (Cambridge, and Malden, MA: Polity, 2007), 31.

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

In Ubiquitous Surveillance: An Invisible Landscape I have visually suggested a new topographical layer of the sky, yet it could also be a new topography of the land. As with many of my paintings the viewer could be above the clouds looking down or below the clouds, looking up. As the viewer oscillates from one perspective to another, the new landscape of signals and scopic trajectories suddenly becomes an amorphous entity, capable of palpitating in multiple dimensions. Like a shadow, the viewer cannot escape it. No matter where you are the surveillance follows or perhaps catches you in its virtual web.

The presence of The Cloud is clear.

So, what do you think about Tactics, below?

                                  Tactics Oil on linen 70 x 100 cm 2017  
Data Data Gouache on paper 30 x 42 cm 2016

Data Data and Cloud Storage were both painted in 2016. In Data Data signals are being received and transmitted by an ambiguous vessel-like thing - is it a cloud? In Cloud Storage (below) little boxes try to assimilate with the fluffy clouds - they are unsuccessful. Or, are they - why is one cloud outlined in red? Is it a good or bad sign? 
Cloud Storage Gouache on paper 30 x 42 cm 2016

And then, Data Heaven ...

At the centre of the square, in the centre of the cloud, binary code ‘instructs’ the word DATA. The fifth line of code, ‘instructing’ the letter D, indicates algorithmic continuity. The cloud looks like an eye, with DATA as its ‘pupil’. I am playing with ideas relating to THE CLOUD, big data and humanity’s increasing reliance on digital and cyber technologies. That we can exist virtually across multiple technological platforms/systems while alive is one thing, but that this virtual existence can continue after mortal death, is indicative of  - DATA Heaven, or perhaps - DATA Hell?

Data Heaven Oil on linen 100 x 120 cm 2017



Saturday, October 10, 2020


Theatre of War: Smart Team Gouache and watercolour on paper 56 x 76 cm 2020

Theatre of War: Smart Team is number three of a Theatre of War series. I am not sure how many paintings there will ultimately be! You - and I - will just have to wait to see! 

Theatre of War
Theatre of War: Terrain Visualisation

Loyal Wingman Combat Drones 
In Theatre of War: Smart Team I have painted three Loyal Wingman combat drones and a piloted/manned fighter jet. The Royal Australian Air Force and Boeing have collaborated to develop the Loyal Wingman drone, using Australian and international expertise. The drone is designed as a 'wingman' support for piloted/manned jet aircraft. The first test flights are, apparently, to occur in late 2020. The Loyal Wingman drone has been labelled a 'gamechanger' in military drone technology. Indeed, the weaponisable drone certainly will be equipped with a plethora of advanced capabilities that range from some autonomous systems utilising AI, swarming potential, advanced electronic and electromagnetic warfare technologies, payload flexibility enhanced by interchangeable nose cones and more. This drone represents the first Australian made aircraft for over 50 years.

The Loyal Wingman drone has been developed under Boeing's Airpower Teaming System: A Smart Unmanned Force Multiplier. 

Teams of piloted/manned aircraft and unmanned highly advanced combat drones will soon be deployed into our skies. And, these teams will be smart teams! 

You can read more about Australia's Loyal Wingman drone, plus some information about similar projects in the US and the UK, here at this article Behold Boeing's Loyal Wingman Drone for Australia-as it Rapidly Takes Shape in The Drive: The Warzone. 

Theatre of War: Smart Team 
In Theatre of War: Smart Team the aircraft are linked by painted red lines. These lines indicate signal-enabled teaming capabilities. Like any 'theatre' performance, teamwork is crucial to success. In this painting the red lines forming patterns that appear to dissect the landscape seem to suggest a stage, but is it structurally sound, is it complete, is it real? These red lines mimic terrain visualising technology that would normally be seen as a graphic on a screen. Maybe we, the audience, are actually observing something on a computer screen? Or, maybe the terrain visualisation is for the drones' scopic or geolocating requirements? If we see the painting as a theatre set, the team of aircraft hang like either a prop, or a performing protagonist. The red line stretching beyond the painting's edge can be read as a literal signal connection to a satellite or a ground control station, or it can be read as some kind of string, like a puppet's string. As a metaphor, a puppet's string, conjures some troubling thoughts about who or what is ultimately the theatre's 'director' - who or what is in control. 

Maybe we are not an audience at all, but also protagonists playing a variety of roles in the contemporary theatre of war?


Can you pick the Loyal Wingman drones in Theatre of War and Theatre of War: Terrain Visualisation below?

Theatre of War Gouache and watercolour on paper 56 x 76 cm 2020

          Theatre of War: Terrain Visualisation Gouache and watercolour on paper 56 x 76 cm 2020

As always, I could write more, but I will leave it here, for you to ponder.

Here is a link to a previous painting and post called Wingman



Monday, October 05, 2020


Theatre of War: Terrain Visualisation Gouache and watercolour on paper 56 x 76 cm 2020

Looks like I am developing a series of Theatre of War paintings. 

This new painting called Theatre of War: Terrain Visualisation is linked to another recent painting and post called Theatre of War . And, I have a third painting ready to share and write about soon too. Plus a few more sheets of watercolour paper in various stages of preparation. 

Theatre of War: Terrain Visualisation again references the notion of 'Theatre of War' raised by General Carl von Clausewitz's in his famous book On War. However, It is clear that the contemporary 'theatre of war' is very different to Clauswitz's late eighteenth/early nineteenth situation. Despite this, the term 'theatre of war' provides an interesting way to think about contemporary war waged not only in physical landscapes, but in discrete 'landscapes' of digital and cyber worlds. The physical and discrete merge, however, with the use of signal enabled, digital and cyber supported, militarised technologies such as air, land and sea-based robots and drones. 

In Theatre of War: Terrain Visualisation I invite viewers to fly, in their imaginations, beyond and around proliferating drones. I have painted different kinds of airborne drones against a visual parody of computer generated terrain visualisation graphics. These graphics map physical terrain in ways that can be 'read' by digital, machine learning or AI systems. The aerial perspective reveals a stage-like strip cutting across an ambiguous landscape. But, is the viewer above or below this strip, this 'stage' in the contemporary 'theatre of war'?    

Regular readers know that I will have more to say, but I will leave it here. I have started a PhD [formal and creative practice] and need to keep some thoughts for my thesis!