Sunday, September 24, 2023


Suspended Landscape Oil on linen 67 x 61 cm 2023

In an age of persistent surveillance, heightened security needs, calls for civil and military preparedness for disaster and war [of various kinds], fears of fakery, and increasing numbers of displaced people, what does mapping of landscape and environment mean? Our world is not only traversed by human beings and animals; it is also scoped by arrays of land, sky, space and sub/marine based sensors. These sensors, attached to various devices and systems, register, detect and transmit data using electromagnetic frequencies. Movement of data, therefore, occurs in realms of space and time that are beyond human and animal experiential dimensions of mobility. 

Data is presented visually for human beings in graphics that overlay video or still images. Here, I am thinking about - for example - geolocating and terrain visualisation graphics, graphic recognition-squares that seemingly hover over the faces/heads of people, infrared markers monitoring human movement, guiding lines based on data transmitted from reversing cameras, on-board GPS screen-based directions, and crosshairs marking a remote operator's target.

Suspended Landscape plays with the appearance of computer-graphics. The continent of Australia is divided into squares, each one presumably containing information. If this painting was a screen, you could zoom in and out of each squared 'peep-hole'. Other dots and crosses mimic digital markers. Their purpose is ambiguous, maybe top secret? For me, I wanted to play with the idea of suspension - waiting, wondering, but also the idea that landscape is now suspended from 'hooks' of data. 

Each one of us, carrying a mobile phone, becomes one of these hooks. As we amble to work, play with our children in a park, fly in a plane, or speed off in a boat, our mobile devices can transmit and receive data, updates, and instructions at near light-speed. Unless signals are disrupted, or the power goes out and recharging your mobile phone is impossible, we are appendages or nodes in a ubiquitous data mapping system. 

While Suspended Landscape depicts the continent of Australia, the off-shore landscape is ambiguous. Maybe the splashes of red are close-up images of the Australian coastline. If so the digital system has dispersed the landscape across a screen. What for? Is it to closely analyse environmental impacts of climate change, or maybe it is a glimpse of a war gaming exercise. Maybe the dotted areas radiating outside Australia are pathways for future in-flow or out-flow exodus, maybe they are possible routes for incoming insurgents or combatants? 

Here, the idea of preparedness for future possibilities engenders suspense - as if dangling - waiting for something to happen. Yet, the painting also suggests a visual suspension of landscape, the continent laid out across a cosmic landscape. Perspective can shift from a possible aerial view to one where the viewer confronts the scene, like a spider web suspended across a gate-way. 

Shifting perspective - for me - is both literal and metaphoric. Please have fun imagining Suspended Landscape's many other possible interpretations!


Friday, September 08, 2023


Our Dog Delirium: Crash Gouache on paper 21 x 30 cm 2023

These three new small works on paper channel some of my thoughts about robotic quadrupeds. However, while this is a specific focus, the robotic quadruped is also a visual metaphor to stimulate thinking about other robotic systems and devices.  

I depict the robotic quadrupeds because I've seen them in action at the Australian Army's Landforces expo in Brisbane in 2021 and 2022. While interested in seeing the robots, I was more interested in watching how people reacted to them. So many people responded as if these robots were real dogs. There were smiles, laughs, wriggles to respond to robotic 'wriggling', and lots of selfie photos with the robots. People bent down to look into the robotic 'face', smiling as they did so. The robotic quadrupeds, clearly controlled by remote operators in the expo hall, 'pawed' the ground [actually more like cats!], tilted their head as if inquisitive, wagged their behinds as if they were happy. I am sure there were other neutral or more circumspect responses to the robots, but these were not as obvious.  


I ask - in an era where so much technology is dual-use, how can we form resilient critical perspectives about human - machine interactions when normalising processes cross civilian and military arenas? I ask - how do we not fall into traps where we uncritically think we are in a relationship with a robot? I ask - if a robotic quadruped at a military expo elicits warm and fuzzy human reactions, how does this parlay into integrating human-robot partnering in the armed services? I ask - if a robot is present, for example, at an expo or an art exhibition, what happens to data it may collect via various sensors? What kind of training is provided for robotic developers by seemingly benign interactions with robots brought into places such as expos and galleries? 


Our Dog Delirium: Crash [above] and Verification Error: Identity Crash Site [below] visually 'speak' to a confusion - our confusion between alive and synthetic - what is a dog in the twenty-first century? If we collapse dog and robot into one, or human being and robot into a singularity fantasy, what do we give up in the process? 

Verification Error: Identity Crash Site Gouache on paper 21 x 30 cm 2023

In Our Dog Delirium: Crash I have painted an Australian Kelpie with a robotic quadruped similar to an experiment where a Ghost Robotics quadruped was armed, . In Verification Error: Identity Crash Site [the verification tick on the robot indicates that it is the real dog. In both paintings the shadows cast by both the dog and the robot seem to collide - crash. is the red seeping from the crash site real blood?

Shadow Litter [bottom] is a futuristic image of a figure - is it a human being or a robot - walking a 'litter' of robotic quadrupeds.

I have another post DOGS, QUADRUPEDS AND ROBOTS with more dog - robotic quadruped paintings.  

Needless to say, there is a lot more to say!

Cheers, Kathryn 

If you would like me to present a talk, a seminar or an atelier [workshop] on questions relating to technology, war, dual-use, the future, and more please contact me via the contact form on the right. 

Shadow Litter Gouache on paper 21 x 30 cm 2023