Tuesday, March 29, 2022



Interface Gouache on paper 56 x 76 cm 2022

My head is full of ideas. Interface is a result of thinking about a lot of things. I've been writing and researching for my PhD, and this painting has been inside my head - my imagination - for a few weeks. 

Here are some ideas, books and thoughts that have influenced Interface 
  • Douglas Hofstader.
    I read Hofstadter's Godel, Escher and Bach (GEB) a number of years ago. A complex, innovative and imaginative book. During my PhD research I've been encouraged by my supervisor to think about ambigrams, a term coined by Hofstadter. I had forgotten that Hofstadter had written briefly about ambigrams in GEB, although I've often pondered on his ideas of  recursion. For Hofstadter, an ambigram is a "calligraphic design that manages to squeeze two different readings into the selfsame set of curves." (GEB, p. P-19) It is something that can be read  in both up and down orientations.

    As regular readers know, I often use painted binary code as a way to 'play' with and parody ideas of digital technology. The painted code represents the object or thing that I am painting or expressing. I enjoy hand painting something that is normally represented so precisely in digital media. In Interface, binary code for the word HUMAN is reflected in the text HUMAN. I am visually 'playing' with up and down orientations and meanings. The painting poses questions about what it means to be human in a world where human-machine relationships are increasing. For example, what about human work, including creative work, being co-opted or assisted by algorithms?

    The 'reflection' of the binary code in the word HUMAN, and vice versa, is a kind of ambigrammatic ploy to question how we might maintain a sense of being human in the twenty-first century. The code and the word HUMAN are like shadows, but can we see them? Maybe they are shadows of shadows? Where does that place us?

    The word 'interface' is both a noun and a verb. What kinds of 21st century technological interfaces should we be aware of, as we interact and interface with them? 

  • The Cloud.
    Here I mean the technological 'cloud' - the Internet of Things (IoT) where interconnectivity and interoperability keep human beings in relationship with technological devices and systems. We cannot avoid, indeed escape, interfacing in the 21st century! Maybe this is what the shadows of shadows tells us? The background of Interface appears to be a cloudy tumultuous sky -  but  - is it a stormy sea? 

  • More Cloud
    Keeping with the 'cloud' theme, rather than the blue background representing a cloudy sky, I deliberately painted the binary code and letters in white to provide an alternative. Maybe the code/text is 'the cloud'. If you - the viewer - imagine looking up at this fake cloud, the blue background is a sky, even the cosmos. If you imagine being above the fake text-cloud, then the blue background is possibly a tumultuous sea. Maybe you are in front or behind the 'cloud', where it turns into a wall or barrier? This kind of imaginational flight, from below, to above, to around and beyond, is a critical form of engagement. I call it - imaginational metaveillance
  • Painting
    The paint medium requires no technological digital or cyber interfaces, yet it can be used to critique them. The hand of a human being is clearly evident. The dynamism between the paint and the paper surface, between the text and the background, 'speak' to relationships rather than interfaces. They 'speak' to relating rather than interfacing.

  • And, then there are ideas of post-humanity. 

  • And, of course, one of my major interests/concerns - militarised technology and the militarise-ability of civilian technology. In an interconnected and interoperable world interfaces and interfacing are key!

  • But, I will stop here and let you ponder!

Monday, March 07, 2022


Theatre of War: Techno-Seduction Gouache on paper 56 x 76 cm 2022

Like many others, the war in Ukraine is occupying my mind. The mix of traditional kinetic activity with improvisation across old and new tactics and technologies again raises questions about asymmetric warfare. 

This new painting, Theatre of War: Techno-Seduction, has a focus on the human. Yes! By presenting everything as an algorithm, even human beings, I pose questions about  technological systems that are interconnected and interoperable. Questions about AI-enabled systems, that reduce or remove human operators are also posed.

For interconnectivity and interoperability to work seamlessly, foundational operative platforms need to be the same or very similar. Hence my use of painted binary code. 

But does homogenisation at any level strengthen resilience or not? Maybe it poses a vulnerability - like pulling out the bottom card of a house of cards, is there risk of collapse. Where does the human being fit in a world of interconnectivity, interoperability and AI-enabled systems? 

So, what have I presented or 'instructed' in algorithmic form?

At the top is SATELLITE. To the left in small zeros and ones is WAR. In the centre, as a circle of code, is MILITARY LAWYER. To the right is DRONE and angled from it is HELLFIRE. To the left of the circle in SURVEILLANCE. The three small circles of code 'instruct' HUMAN - are they warfighters, civilians, friend or foe, victims? The bottom 'instruction' is TARGET. Is the target human or not? If not a human target, destruction of buildings or infrastructure can still cause human fear, suffering and death. 

All these 'instructed' entities are connected by lines that indicate signals, and therefore, reliance on frequencies in electromagnetic spectrum for connectivity and interconnectivity to enable information and data transmission, surveillance capabilities, sensor access, news broadcasting and so on. 

The painting acts as a kind of map.

Despite major advances in militarised and militarise-able technologies that remove many human operators and warfighters from the immediacy of conflict zones, the death and suffering witnessed in places such as Yemen, Afghanistan, Syria, Iraq, Somalia and now Ukraine, remind us that human beings remain in the loop, as my circles indicate, as victims. 

And, we must not forget that human beings also start wars. 


In another recent painting and post Theatre of War: Law I explain the reference to military lawyer.


Third Text Article

Thrilled that my article "Night Vision, Ghosts and Data Proxies: Paintings By War Artist Jon Cattapan" has been published online for Third Text, a leading peer reviewed international journal dedicated to the critical analysis of contemporary art in the global field. The hardcopy is forthcoming.

Cattapan was an official Australian war artist in Timor Leste in 2008. Key to his subsequent paintings were his experiences using night vision technology while accompanying Australian Peace Keeping forces on night patrols. The effect of the night vision green entered his paintings in ways that continue to 'speak' to us today. Thus, I analyse Cattapan's paintings through a 'future of war' lens-a future we are now living, nearly 15 yrs later. I argue that although the paintings were inspired by experiences in Timor Leste, the images could relate to the iterative modes of contemporary, and likely future war, ie: grey zone, hybrid, informational, cyber, as well as kinetic warfare.