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



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