Tuesday, November 22, 2022


On The Edge of Being Oil on linen 112 x 92 cm 2022

In an age of artificial intelligence, increasingly autonomous systems, technological interconnectivity and interoperability, drones and other robots, what happens to human identity? If our future is one of being human-machine, what kind of being-ness does this impose or require? Do we become more like the machines/systems or do they become more like us? How does machine utility and human being-ness work together? 

On The Edge of Being
This new painting visually poses a possible immanent battle or meeting between the upper section of trees and the lower section of different kinds of 'tree's. It's up to you to ponder whether a battle or a meeting is likely, or maybe something else. The free flowing tree-like branches at the top of the painting are posed with a more standardised neural network tree-like structure in the bottom half of the painting. I was thinking about being-ness vs utility. I was also thinking about trees - for example, computer science tree-logic/hierarchies and the age-old transcultural/religious tree-of-life. Both 'coded', but differently. A lot to say here, but I won't go on - and on...!

I have not only painted different tree-structures, but I have used slightly different tones of colour in each section. The green in the top part of the painting is a more real-world tree or plant green, whereas the green in the lower section is a night-vision surveillance green. I have used different yellows and blues in each section, but the same cadmium red. This red dominates as each 'tree-scape' encroaches on the fiery and tumultuous centre. The red denotes readiness - maybe for battle. The centre section could be a war zone, but it could also indicate fertile ground. Whatever it is, for me it symbolises a rubicon - like crossing the Rubicon River. Maybe there is no way back, especially if we don't pay attention. In 2017 I created a painting called Crossing the Rubicon  

PhD - Light Speed
On The Edge of Being came to me as I wrote one of my PhD chapters Speed: Light Speed = c. In an era where light-speed signal transmission enables technological speed, how do expectations of beyond-human dimensions of speed, and therefore, time, impact or influence human being-ness? What metaphoric tree should we grasp onto as speed engulfs?

I am reading James Bridle's new book Ways of Being: Beyond Human Intelligence   where he reminds us that human beings exist in a world inhabited by multiple different types of non-human intelligences, apart from AI - animals, trees, and other ecological systems. He prompts us to de-centre the human being in order to gain greater appreciation of roles played by a plethora of other kinds of beings and intelligences. I started Bridle's book after I started On The Edge of Being. I would like to think that the painting's multiple interpretations metaphorically 'speak' to the idea that we need to look beyond ourselves - and the hype surrounding AI, especially programmed in relation to being more the human. If we focus on ourselves and technologies such as AI, what might we miss? Bridle clearly pays attention to the world at large. I look forward to finishing the book.

There is more to say and think about...but, cheers for now - Kathryn 

PS: You might be interesting another painting