Saturday, September 25, 2021

WINGMAN: ONLINE EXHIBITION

                                             Wingman Oil on linen 97 x 115 cm 2020


WINGMAN: An online exhibition of ten paintings - seems like a timely thing to do!

Because-

A few days ago it was announced that the Royal Australian Air Force and Boeing jointly developed Loyal Wingman drone will be produced and assembled at the Aerospace and Defence precinct at Wellcamp airport, near Toowoomba, Queensland, Australia. You can read the Queensland Government media statement here.  

Wellcamp - Toowoomba
I know the Wellcamp area, but boy has it changed in recent years! Since Wagners built the international airport at Wellcamp, Toowoomba has become a major hub, other than for boarding schools, retired country folk and specialist medical help. I grew up on my parent's grain farm outside Dalby, about an hour west of Toowoomba. I went to school in Toowoomba for grades 11 and 12. My maternal grandfather's family had a property at Drayton, not far from Wellcamp. My paternal grandmother grew up on a farm very close to Wellcamp, on the other side of Gowrie Mt. My paternal grandfather's first property, after returning from WW1 [LightHorse], was also close by. 

Research
As regular readers know I have been researching airborne drones, surveillance and increasingly autonomous systems for over six years. My current PhD research examines increasing military interest in the electromagnetic spectrum [EMS] as an enabler of technology [like drones, other uncrewed vehicles, sensors etc], a type of fires [weapon], a manoeuvre space [for tactics] and a domain [akin to sea, land or air]. The EMS is also an enabler of civilian technology ie: communication, GPS, Internet, Cloud storage, security systems and so much more. So, my PhD research also examines how shared platforms, interconnectivity, networking and interoperability expose civilian technology to appropriation by state or non-state militarising forces. 

Wingman Paintings
Last year I started painting images that included the Loyal Wingman drone, Australia's first manufactured military aircraft in over fifty years. Described as a 'gamechanger' in drone technology, the Loyal Wingman is designed to accompany a crewed fighter jet. The Wingman is swarm-able, weaponise-able and has some autonomous functions eg: flying. Its interchange-able nosecones provide payload dexterity across a mission. It has sophisticated multi-sensor capacity. The drone is also export-able. 

In 2019 I wrote a post Pay Attention: The Drones Are Here where I first mention the Loyal Wingman drone. In this post I have included five paintings, each depicting the continent of Australia. And, yes, there are also a few drones or indications of their presence.

WINGMAN

THE EXHIBITION 

While informed by extensive research, my paintings are speculative and imaginative. They are the result of what I call 'imaginational metaveillance', a kind of flight into imagined cosmic perspectives. Here, with the benefit of distance, what anomalies can we see as we fly around and beyond drones and their support infrastructure? I say we because I invite you to 'fly' too. 

The paintings are chronologically displayed, from the first painting, Wingman [above], to my most recent painting Theatre of War: Photons Do Not Care [bottom]. 

Each painting in WINGMAN has a hyperlinked title. Please click on these to read my previous posts about each painting. 


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


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


Theatre of War: Smart Team Gouache on paper 56 c 76 cm 2020


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


Verified Landing Site Oil on linen 92 x 112 cm 2021


Future Memory Oil on linen 122 x 137 cm 2021



                                  Theatre of War: Photons Do Not Care Oil on linen 92 x 112 cm 2021


WINGMAN: List of Paintings

Wingman April 2020

Theatre of War September 2020

Theatre of War: Terrain Visualisation October 5 2020

Theatre of War: Smart Team October 10 2020

Theatre of War: Pattern Recognition October 27 2020

Verified Landing Site  April 2021

Future Memory May 2021

Artificial Trees: Pulling the Future Towards Us June 2021

Theatre of War: Photons Do Not Care  July 2021


Thank you for viewing,
Kathryn


Sunday, September 19, 2021

FREEDOM?

Freedom? Gouache on paper 56 x 76 cm 2021



'End' of US war in Afghanistan August 2021
As US and allied forces left Afghanistan, the Taliban swiftly took over the country's leadership. A short window of time in August saw thousands of people fleeing or attempting to flee Afghanistan. Kabul airport became the epicentre for evacuations of foreigners, and Afghanis fearful for their lives under Taliban rule. 

Like I imagine many readers, I watched the news with mixed heavy feelings - despair, frustration, sadness, hope. One of many images that stuck in my head, was the photograph of the Chinook helicopter flying over the US embassy. Apparently helicopters landed at the embassy site to assist evacuation of US officials out of the embassy building to Kabul airport. 

Chinook Helicopter - Short History
The Chinook helicopter's history is interesting. Early versions were developed in the late 1950s, further developed by Boeing in the early 1960s. The helicopter was first used in combat situations in Vietnam in 1965. This large multi purpose aircraft has been 'hovering' in our visual fields for decades, via livestreamed and photographed war, conflict and humanitarian-aid reporting.. Whether the Chinook is spilling armed soldiers out of its cavernous fuselage, assisting people to flee dangerous situations, carrying equipment in its huge hold or tethered under its massive body, this helicopter is emblematic of contemporary war and conflict.

August 26 Terrorist Attack, Kabul Airport
On August 26 an ISIS-K perpetrated  terrorist attack occurred at the HKIA's Abbey gate at Kabul airport. Sixty people were killed including locals, Taliban members and 13 US service men and women. On August 29 a US retaliatory drone attack killed 10 people. On September 18 US officials confirm [unusually] that these people were all civilians and included 7 children. This signature strike [no identity, but based on patterns of behaviour] represents another horrific failure of intelligence, in a line of fatal flaws. The 2015 Brave New Films documentary Unmanned: America's Drone Wars  provides an informed, critical and horrifying historical context for the August 29 attack. 

Freedom?
Freedom? is my reaction to the recent and quick cascade of events - US and allies' retreat from Afghanistan, swift Taliban leadership take-over, scenes of mayhem at Kabul airport, terrorist attack at the airport, and 3 days later another US drone strike! 

In Freedom? I have painted a hovering Chinook helicopter. It can be 'read' as a helicopter in Afghanistan specifically, or it can be read more generally as a contemporary signifier of war, conflict and disaster. I have painted airborne weaponised drones to represent twenty years of armed drone deployments, and the proliferation of drones used by state and non-state actors around the world. The disastrous drone attack on August 29 is a dreadful indictment on retaliation disguised as a legitimate tactic. Clearly swift retribution was more important than deliberated strategy. Jean Baudrillard made many comments in his 2002 reflection on 9/11, The Spirit of Terrorism, that still reverberate today. Here's two of them to ponder "The repression of terrorism spirals around as unpredictably as the terrorist act itself" and "Another aspect of the terrorists' victory is that all other forms of violence and the destabilisation of order work in its favour."

A line of trees can be read in a multiple of ways. They can act as an horizon or a border, real or metaphoric. As many readers know I often reference the tree-of-life as a way to symbolise human life, and universal life. In Freedom? the trees can be viewed as individual people or groups of people, lives lost, lives under threat, or life as resistance. The cosmic perspective, evident in the painting, opens a critical distance where anomalies, inequalities, lethality and violence demand our attention. 

The trees on the left of the gate appear to be on fire. The trees on the right of the gate are more diversely coloured. I was thinking about people fleeing disaster, some successfully, some not successfully - often a life or death situation. I was thinking about the freedom afforded to westerners with access to things like Chinook helicopters, visas and diplomatic status. I was also thinking about freedom, hoped for and fought for by Afghanis, and others in war and conflict zones around the world. 

The gate could be the Abbey gate at Kabul airport, but that would be too simplistic. I was not there, so it is not my specific story to tell. However, the gate as a symbol is highly charged - the gate between life and death, Heaven and Hell, freedom or subjugation, justice and injustice... The gate in Freedom? is closed, but is it locked? 

Is it guarded?  

Note the question mark in the title of the painting Freedom?

There's more to say - obviously 

Kathryn


* Jean Baudrillard, The Spirit of Terrorism (London: Verso, 2002) 31, 33.

     


Sunday, September 12, 2021

THEATRE OF WAR: THE CLOUD

Theatre of War: The Cloud Gouache and watercolour on paper 56 x76 cm 2021


This is my 11th or 12th painting in my Theatre of War series. I'll have to write one post with all of the paintings, so you can see them as a body of work! 

PhD Research
Theatre of War: The Cloud is informed by my current PhD research into the increasing interest militaries around the world are paying to the electromagentic spectrum (EMS) as an enabler of technology, a type of fires, a manoeuvre space and a domain. I am examining the use of frequencies for military purposes, and the ability for state or non-state actors to appropriate civilian technology via the EMS. I pay particular attention to the spectrum range from radio to visible light frequencies. 

THE CLOUD
The Cloud ie: the euphemism we ascribe to the contemporary world of networked and interconnected digital and cyber technologies, is of great interest to me. The concept provides the means for interoperability, a key aim for modern militaries. This means that traditional army, navy and air forces work together using technology that networks capabilities across all of their domains. The military term 'joint force' also encompasses the digital and cyber domains of information and cyber war. The space domain is also drawn into this interoperable mix, with satellites playing pivotal roles in communication, operability and connectivity. The Cloud, however, is not just a military asset - civilian technology also relies on the connectivity, operability and communication that EMS enabled Cloud technologies and systems enable and use.

I have been researching the idea of the cloud as a metaphor. One interesting way of thinking about The Cloud is to draw upon John Ruskin's nineteenth century observations of 'plague clouds' and 'plague winds'. Is militarisation of technology, including the militarise-ability of civilian technology, like a 'plague wind' blowing through the EMS? Is The Cloud, therefore a 'plague cloud'? 

Theatre of War: The Cloud
In Theatre of War: The Cloud I have tried to represent an excavation of military interoperability. The painted-in circles at the bottom of the painting are underwater, possibly autonomous underwater vehicles or sensors. Through the middle are land-based and on-sea systems, possibly also autonomous. At the top of the painting, an airborne drone and a satellite over-watch. In each of the circles with obvious clouds, the technology is obscured. This implies that systemic complexity obscures understanding. The repetition of red and white circles across the painting indicates interconnectivity. These circles visually form a stylised cloud that draws all operations together. That this cloud extends beyond the painting is clear. It is part of The Cloud.

While I conceived Theatre of War: The Cloud as an excavation from sea to space, the painting can also be viewed as a map. This play with perspective is deliberate...

Cheers,
Kathryn





Friday, September 03, 2021

LIMINAL OCCUPATION and INTIMATE WAR

Liminal Occupation Gouache on paper 56 x76 cm unframed 2021


Liminal Occupation and Intimate War: Mapped  'speak' to contemporary war, felt acutely by some, peripherally by others. The space between acute and peripheral is also a war zone of lethal potential, its liminality disguising the hurt.   

The paintings speak to:

Scopic intimacies of surveillance, potential lethality and fear.

Landscapes rendered as computational. The drone and its sensors require this after all!

Slipperiness of political accountability. 

Pixels, algorithms, networks, interoperability, increasingly autonomous systems. 

The everywhere stage of the theatre of war, constantly moving from literal war zone, to screen, at speed. 

And lots more.


Intimate War: Mapped Gouache on paper 56 x76 cm unframed 2021


NEWS
On the 23rd September 12 - 1 pm I am moderating a in-conversation event "Good and Evil: The Internet, AI, Law, Ethics and trust" at the University of Queensland Art Museum. Sharing the stage will be excellent panelists:
  • Associate Professor Rain Liivoja, School of Law, The University of Queensland
  • Dr. Kate Devitt, Chief Scientist of the Trusted Autonomous Systems (TAS), Adjunct Associate Professor Human-Computer Interaction, Information Technology and Electrical Engineering, The University of Queensland

Join us, if you can!

Cheers,
Kathryn