Saturday, September 16, 2017

ANOMALY DETECTION (NUMBER 2)

Anomaly Detection (Number 2) Oil on linen 120 x 180 cm 2017


The term 'anomaly detection' is a technical one. With contemporary technology and the help of algorithms and artificial intelligence, systems have been devised to detect unusual online behaviours, discrepancies in documentation, weaknesses in cyber systems, and unusual patterns in things like financial transactions and movements of people etc. Anomaly detection enables, in many cases, preemptive action such as isolating/fixing weaknesses in cyber systems, identifying potentially dangerous activities and malign intent. Anomalies can be detected in image, written and online data that is collected, analysed and stored. 

Where did the idea for Anomaly Detection (Number 2) come from?
The idea came after I saw a drone manufacturer's promotional video that demonstrated anomaly detection capabilities of airborne drones. This is where the drone's wide-area electro-optical surveillance systems can cast such a wide net that, for example, three vehicles travelling at speed and many kilometers apart, could be identified as aiming for the same destination. In the case of war and conflict zones this may indicate that the vehicles are aiming for a target, either to destroy it, deliver insurgents to it, or possibly protect a valuable human asset. The latter, of course, in the eyes of those watching may be considered a high value target - HVT.  

So in Anomaly Detection (Number 2) I have turned the surveillance back onto the drones; in this case three weaponised Grey Eagle drones. I am suggesting that imagination can deploy its own wide-area - even cosmic - surveillance capabilities to question whether technologies designed to detect, monitor, surveil and target, are really beneficial for humanity and the planet. In this painting the three drones seem to be aiming for the same destination - the pale blue dot. Here, I am drawing upon Carl Sagan's term for Earth as it was seen in a photograph taken by spacecraft Voyager 1 as it started to leave the solar system in February 1990. The photograph showed Earth as a small pale blue dot situated within and against a myriad of other shining celestial entities. Earth is blue because we have water, and oxygen in our atmosphere; signs of a planetary environment that can sustain life. The three drones in Anomaly Detection (Number 2) potentially threaten the pale blue dot

Anomaly Detection (Number 2) poses a few questions about the vulnerability of humanity and Earth's environment in an age of accelerating technological development. The drones can be seen as literal threats or a metaphor for a society seduced by technology, or exhausted by it. The three drones are painted as if they are pixelated, thus representing their reliance on, and use of, digital and cyber systems. The pixels also suggest a kind of virtual reality, mimicking images seen on computer screens, either those used by drone operators or those used for war games and simulations. There is plenty of room for anomaly detection!

New Sky
The drones are also painted blue to reflect upon the way vertical threat creates a new sky. This is particularly so in places such as Somalia, Yemen, Pakistan and Afghanistan where drone operations and attacks have made people fearful of the sky. In an age where Voyager 1 now travels in interstellar space, the fact that people on Earth are afraid of the sky, is an indictment on humanity. 

Dronescape 
Anomaly Detection (Number 2) is another of my dronesscapes, but it is also a cosmic landscape provoking and pushing perspective, of all kinds, beyond Earth, even beyond the solar system - and - possibly this universe!  

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In 2014 I painted Pale Blue Dot [below]

  
 Pale Blue Dot Oil on linen 120 x 160 2014


Anomaly Detection
I recently painted another Anomaly Detection painting [below]. It is a work on paper, depicting three weaponised Reaper drones aiming for the tree-of-life. 

   
Anomaly Detection Gouache on paper 56 x 76 cm 2017



Cheers,
Kathryn

Sunday, September 10, 2017

DRONE: ENDURING PRESENCE (META LANDING)

Drone: Enduring Presence (Meta Landing) Oil on linen 30 x 40 cm 2017


Here is a painting of an airborne drone. It is armed with two guided missiles and four Hellfire missiles. Its wide-area electro-optical surveillance system is identified by the darker red spot under its nose. The drone's wheels are down, as if readying to land, or perhaps readying to take off. However, although there is an indication of a landing tarmac, its appearance is ambiguous. It presents as if it is an illuminated field, but one with a translucent, non-material appearance. It could be a number of things - a lit landing field, an indication of the drone's pervasive surveillance capabilities - or - even a symbol of pervasive threat.  

If it is an illuminated landing field, the drone appears to be landing in the sky. The landing field, therefore, connotes a kind of cosmic one. This implies an almost imperial prerogative over the sky. If the illuminated area under the drone indicates its pervasive surveillance capabilities, the empire building prerogative is made even more intentional. That the illumination wraps around the drone gives the appearance of an almost godly or at least, a celestial quality. Certainly, empire building seductions...However, presented this way, the drone is clearly a false god and a false star. In either case - a warning.

There is a lot to think about and say in this age of fast paced drone and autonomous systems development. Apart from the technical aspects, which are quite remarkable, there are contingent social, ethical and political ramifications, especially regarding weaponised technologies. If you believe that war is always inevitable, the continuing development of weapons' systems is also inevitable. Hand clapping stuff for weapons' manufacturers and neo-liberal market forces that reach into the future in ways that militarise imaginations. Hence the 'meta landing' idea presented in the title of Drone: Enduring Presence (Meta Landing). A 'meta landing' goes well beyond simply landing on a tarmac in a military base. It represents a landing into consciousness and the future.

I wonder what it would be like if we seriously posed questions that related to the idea that war is not inevitable. In the small chance that it is not inevitable lies a future for humanity that is radically different to the one driven by beliefs that war is inevitable. 

Cheers,
Kathryn


Saturday, September 02, 2017

AN INVITATION TO FLY


An Invitation to Fly  Oil on linen 40 x 50 cm 


When I was a child I flew! Yes, I did. 

Somehow, I knew what my parent's farm looked like from above. This was without flying over it in a plane. Also, the farm was on a flat treeless plain, so there were no hills to gaze down upon my childhood landscape. Although my Mum grew a beautiful garden on the flat plain, there were no really tall trees to climb high enough to gain an aerial view. My Father's HAM Radio aerial was probably the tallest thing on the farm - and - it was far too difficult to climb, especially to the top!

I flew!

How I flew I am not sure, but certainly my imagination had a part to play. And, it continues.

Over the years my paintings give testimony to an ability to 'transport' myself above and beyond a landscape, local and planetary! The aerial perspective is one of the common themes that runs through my work. So, it is not hard to understand why I am interested in cosmology, the scientific study of the universe across all temporal and spatial scales. Additionally, my interest in airborne militarised drones and their increasingly autonomous capabilities can be contextualised into themes of aerial perspective. However, I try to elevate myself beyond the reach of the drone to turn the gaze back onto it - in fact - to roam around the drone - above, below, beside it - taking cosmological perspectives. By doing this, I invite the viewer to also play around with perspectives. [Please browse through other posts to see more of my 'dronescapes'].

An Invitation to Fly recalls my childhood daydreams and imaginings. Relentless blue skies, occasionally dotted with white fluffy clouds, seemed to invite me to fly. The flat western horizon often shimmered with mirages that melted land and sky into oneness. This certainly helped to generate a feeling of being aloft, as if the ground had slipped away, leaving me hovering. 

An aerial perspective, even a cosmic one, though, can help us orient the way we perceive threats to our planetary environment and the plants and creatures that inhabit it. These creatures include us human beings. As Carl Sagan's commentary on the famous "Pale Blue Dot" photograph notes, for the current moment there is nowhere else for us to call 'home'*. Sustainable interplanetary squatting by humans is some time away! More specifically the increasing colonisation of the skies by surveillance and lethally equipped drone weaponry disrupts perspective by creating a layer of threat that impedes access to cosmic perspectives, even imagining them. If the sky is 'falling in', as it metaphorically does in conflict places such as Yemen, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria, it is an indictment on us all - especially in an age where astronomers and cosmologists are discovering more about our universal environment - which may actually be a multiversal one. 

An Invitation to Fly could be an invitation to you. It could be my childhood memory. But, maybe we are already flying and we are gazing down upon Earth - is it actually Earth? Or. are we on Earth gazing upwards, about to take off? 



* My painting and post Pale Blue Dot 

Monday, August 28, 2017

SENSORED

Sensored oil on linen 50 x 50 cm 2017


We humans are increasingly 'sensored' beings. By this, I mean, we are equipped with, attached to or carrying devices that are operated by digital and cyber systems that interconnect across skies, land, seas and space. They interconnect using even more devices such as satellites, land-based receivers, servers and more. 

The devices we interact with, whether a phone, a car, a computer, an implant or other - 'sensorise' us. They make us a part of, or even a node in, cyber and digital networking systems. And - in a funny way, they also censor/ise us, but maybe we have not fully comprehended this yet? 

Transhuman - Translandscape
As our bodies carry devices in ways that transform us into transhuman-like creatures, they also transform the way our landscape or environment operates or is viewed. For example, skies 'colonised' by unmanned weaponised airborne drones change the way the sky is perceived. This is particularly so in places such as Yeman, Somalia and Afghanistan where the skies are seen by many as harbouring a potential lethality. In these cases the landscape becomes vulnerable, offering little refuge when vertical surveillance penetrates even the privacy of everyday life. A landscape crisscrossed with humans carrying and using devices, and buildings equipped with even more, develops another layer - not geographic - but, an unseen layer of signals. These signals variously traverse the globe, bounce from earth to satellites and back again. A 'translandscape' possibly? Another recent painting and post Space Net refers to this kind of activity. 

Sensored
In Sensored red 'signals' emanate from behind a cloud. What lurks behind this cloud? A drone maybe? The red signals continue beyond the painting. They indicate a wide net, a net of surveillance. In doing so, they reveal how the sky is now 'sensored' in a way that is not dissimilar to the 'sensorising' of human beings. It's an insidious process - don't you think? 

Like many of my paintings - dronescapes, landscapes. cosmic landscapes - the viewer could be above the clouds looking down upon a landscape, maybe a seascape. In this case a drone is possibly lurking below the clouds. However, the viewer could also be on the ground looking up into the sky where a drone could potentially be lurking above the clouds. With these two possible perspectives the painting somehow provides a powerful stimulus for imaginative flying around a drone - in ways that turn the surveillance back onto it.    

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WESTERN QUEENSLAND 

Now for something a bit different. The photo below is me in the very back of a landcruiser. We've just driven around checking cattle. 

I spent a fabulous weekend out in Western Queensland - Roma, Mitchell and Mungallala. 

An old school friend has a cattle property beyond Mungallala. We had a camp fire, damper, homemade sausages. And, we helped check on cattle, their water [it is very dry]. We saw a brown snake - early for the season. We saw hundreds of kangaroos, both dead an alive. And, emus - so many - all alive! We went to the Mitchell Art Show, the Mitchell Camel and Pig Races, and had a wonderful dip in the Mitchell artesian spa. One of us bought a hat, a country man's hat, from the fabulous Samios Trading Post store in Mitchell. Two people in our group were from Europe and it was so much fun to see country Australia through their eyes. Everything, absolutely everything, was new to them. 

We spent a day in Roma too. Visited Moorelands nursery where you can have a bite to eat amongst an oasis of plants, bush crafts, children playing and more. We also visited the BIG RIG which tells you all about the history of the oil and gas industry out there. This recent history has been somewhat controversial with the increase in coal seam gas exploration. 




Cheers,
Kathryn

Friday, August 18, 2017

TACTICS

Tactics Oil on linen 70 x 100 cm 2017


In this new painting a play of tactics is under way! 

The airborne weaponised drone is targeting the tree-of-life. The tree is isolated in a 'kill box', a virtual three dimensional graphic that delineates a zone around an identified target. Emanating rays above the tree-of-life indicate ongoing surveillance by another drone or maybe a control base of some kind. Whatever it is, the signals represent persistent surveillance by manned and unmanned entities. At the end of each white signal-ray, a small red box indicates potential further targeting.

BUT

The tree-of-life has sent its roots under the 'kill box'. A survival tactic subverting the digital reach! The tree's roots seek out places that a drone cannot penetrate - maybe literal subterranean places, but maybe spiritual realms? The tree succeeds in sending out new green shoots, to bring forth life. BUT, it may not represent human life - and - it may not be on this planet - or - even in the universe! This may sound loopy, but I am thinking of theories about multiverses, and I am also thinking about a future where humanity/life may have left planet Earth. Indeed, we humans are already planning settlements on Mars. But, Mars is still in our solar system. What about humanity/life in other solar systems, even galaxies? An extreme escape!


COSMIC LANDSCAPE - DRONESCAPE
This is another of my cosmic landscapes - or - dronescapes. I like the fact that the viewer can be, at one instant, above the drone, and at another instant, below it or along side of it. By untethering imagination from Earth-bound horizons and taking cosmological perspectives all of us can turn the gaze-scope back onto the drone! Now that's a tactic!

In an age where the sky in many parts of the world is colonised by human-made but unmanned airborne threat, the resulting grip of fear diminishes all of humanity. In an age where the marvels of the universe unfold through scientific research, the containment of our earthly skies and the resulting impost on perspective, are indictments on humankind. 

Taking concepts of landscape into the cosmos helps - for me anyway...

Cheers,
Kathryn 

Thursday, August 10, 2017

GREEN-EYED DRONE


Green-Eyed Drone Oil on linen 120 x 160 cm 2017


Good news - I have received notification that my Master of Philosophy [University of Queensland] thesis has been passed by two external examiners without requests for changes. I'm told this is quite rare, so I am feeling pretty happy! Celebration time💥 I will graduate in December, in the end-of-year graduation period.

As regular readers know, once I submitted my thesis for examination, I immediately returned to painting with oil paints. While I was studying I had been painting only works on paper. My own work was not part of the thesis, as it was not a practice based degree.


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Green-Eyed Drone is the first big post-thesis-submission oil painting. The underpainted red background had been completed ages ago. It's glimpsed in a few spots. The layering plus the new  glossy paint makes it really hard to photograph, but here it is! 

Regular readers will understand where the idea of a green-eyed drone came from. Part of my M. Phil research included examination of contemporary militarised technology, including airborne drones and night vision technology. This parlayed into studies about the increasingly blurred lines between civilian and military use of cyber and digital infrastructure and systems. So, simply put, whilst the military utilise increasingly autonomous and unmanned systems to optimise engagement in declared and non-declared battlefields, civilian entities also utilise scoping and surveillance technologies to 'target' customers, constituents and so on. 

Eye/Node
In Green-Eyed Drone there is no drone per se. Rather the idea of being droned is indicated by the red eye/node with the night vision green pupil/node. Here, I play with the often used term to describe an airborne drone ie: "eye in the sky" - indeed, there is a film by the same name. I have some issues with anthropomorphising technology by using words like 'eye' and 'vision'. Thus, I have tried, in this painting, to make the eye look unreal, mechanical, even channeling the appearance of computer chip components. This is extended into the 'eye-brow' radiating signals. These could be surveillance or communication signals, made visible by paint. Or, they could also denote a kind of computer chip board circuitry appearance. Similarly, the radiating rays from beneath the eye/node - they could be lashes or maybe tears. In my mind, they are surveillance signals, again made visible with paint. The so called 'eye' clearly becomes a scope, its night vision capabilities enabling it to scope day and night.

The landscape of bright cadmium red highlights may indicate fiery battle has occurred - the drone having scoped targets and then attacked. Or, the red highlights could be signs of a community; dwellings, roads, and other buildings - under surveillance. Or, maybe it's a landscape of crops. For example sorghum, its red seeds glowing on a moon-lit night? 

Green-eyed monster
I am also playing with the idea of a 'green-eyed monster' - a term coined by Shakespeare in Othello [Act 3: Scene 3]. Iago to Othello says:

Oh, beware, my lord, of jealousy!
It is the green-eyed monster which doth mock
The meat it feeds on. 

The idea that a green-eyed monster mocks death, feeding upon its victims, is a salient one to ponder as the 'weapons' for contemporary 'battles' become more asymmetrically and pervasively deployed. 

Maybe the tree-of-life, acting as a beacon for life in Green-Eyed Drone, has some answers?  

Cheers,
Kathryn

Thursday, August 03, 2017

RETURN OF THE TURPS




"Return of the Turps" is not about me returning to binge drinking - I've not ever binged my alcohol! Rather, it is about me returning to my oil painting. Yes, the smell of turpentine again wafts through my studio [aka garage] and my house. 

After nearly two years completing my Master of Philosophy research thesis at the University of Queensland, I have not only submitted my thesis for examination - it has been returned by both examiners, with terrific feedback, and no requests for changes or corrections. I am VERY happy. 

While I was researching I did not give up my painting practice. Rather, I only worked on paper, using gouache and watercolour paints. My paintings were not part of my university assessment, but as regular readers will know, I've been quite productive! I have quite a large body of what I call "dronescapes". They reflect upon my academic research into militarised drones! 

However, since submitting my thesis, I have now returned to my oil paints. 

In my last post Research Into Drones: How It Has Influenced My Creative Practice I explained how my university research topic came out of my painting practice - and - how the research has, in turn, influenced my practice. But there is something else. What has surprised me is the how two years of only working on paper has caused slight changes in how I paint with oil paints on stretched canvas. I cannot quite put my finger on it yet, but it feels different, and I think the paintings I am working on, look slightly different. This is welcomed! As a painter I want to develop and respond to influences. Regurgitating the same thing or look is not on my agenda - I bore too easily!



               
New oil paintings in progress. On the left is The Green Eyed Drone. It's not quite ready. The other two paintings are in their very early stages.

STUDIO PHOTOS
The two studio photos above show various works in progress. As you can see from the photo immediately above, the painting on the left, The Green Eyed Drone, continues my interest in thinking about militarised drones, surveillance and more. The tree-of-life is also there. I might discuss this new work in my next post - depending on whether I think it is finished. Time will tell.

The painting on the easel in the photo immediately above, is also in the photo at the top. However, in the top photo I have worked on it and, as you can see, I continue to work on it. I am thinking of calling it Zone. 

I am thoroughly enjoying being in amongst the mess of oil paint - paint on my hands, in my hair even, on my face [a surprise to see in the mirror as I quickly check my appearance before leaving the house]. I am also enjoying wearing very old clothes, wiping my hands across them, dabbing my brush on sleeves - and so on. 

Until next week,
Cheers,
Kathryn


Thursday, July 27, 2017

RESEARCH INTO DRONES: HOW IT HAS INFLUENCED MY CREATIVE PRACTICE

Dronescapes in my storage drawers


About ten days ago I submitted my Master of Philosophy thesis. For the last nearly two years I've spent most days at my desk at the University of Queensland, School of Communication and Arts. In the evenings and some weekends, I spent time in my studio, painting. It was here that I worked through my research in a different way. Regular readers will know, it has been quite productive!

My university research was focused on  how two Australian artists, George Gittoes and Jon Cattapan, represent contemporary militarised technology in their paintings. Particular attention was paid to their responses to using night vision technology, and in the case of Gittoes, witnessing the deployment of airborne drones. I examined the various moral, ethical and political questions raised by their work. I won't write too much about this aspect of my thesis - as I am looking into publishing articles about each artist. If they get published, I shall let you know!

ART HISTORY - And OTHER DISCIPLINES
Although I was in the Art History department, my research crossed into other disciplines, including Cultural Studies, International Relations and Political Science. Additionally, I thoroughly enjoyed technical research into militarised drones and night vision, and other cyber and digital technologies associated with their operation and deployment. 

The technical research, coupled with cultural, legal and philosophical critiques of militarised drone technology, inspired my own creative work; my out-of-hours responses to the pictures that popped into my head as I read book after book, article after article, explored drone manufacturer websites, and delved into the history of drone technology and night vision. 


Larger Dronescapes in my map drawers



CREATIVE PRACTICE - ACADEMIC RESEARCH
But, this kind of inspiration is not a departure from my interests prior to commencing my M. Phil. For example, my earlier paintings depicting strings of binary code reflect interests in contemporary technology, and its effects on humanity and life. By juxtaposing code with the age-old transcultural/religious tree-of-life these earlier paintings also reflect my responses to ideas about existential risk posed by emerging technologies. At uni I had to narrow my topic to specific contemporary technologies. Thus, the focus on militarised technology - drones and night vision's association with increasing surveillance. 

My academic research topic came out of my painting practice - and it has fed back into it. My creative work completed during the last nearly two years is not part of the degree in a formal sense, but I consider it a major contributor to processes of critical thinking and the generation of new ideas. These have influenced both my academic research and my creative inspiration.

BODY OF WORKS ON PAPER
As the photos above demonstrate, I have a lot of paintings to show for my near two years of study. Actually between 80 -90 paintings, some smaller and some larger. They are all works on paper, because I knew oil painting would take too long and I'd be torn between spending time in the studio and at university. Neither activity would have benefited from this! These works on paper, though, track my research processes in ways that enabled spontaneous reaction to the research. The whole experience was really rewarding.

I'd love to exhibit these paintings. Curatorially there are a few aspects that could be developed!

A few exciting things happened during my study with regards to my own paintings. 

  • My work was featured by the Center For The Study of the Drone, Bard College, New York - Portfolio: Dronescapes by Kathryn Brimblecombe-Fox 
  • My work referred to by Dr. Kate Kindervater from Dartmouth College in her review of Dr. Ian Shaw's book Predator Empire
  • My painting Gorgon Stare heads Dr. Christopher J Fuller's post on Yale University Press's Blog Yale Books Unbound in the lead up to the publication of Fuller's book See It/Shoot It
  • My painting The Tree of Life Sends its Energy Underground is on the front cover of The Australian Women's Book Review 27, no 1 and 2. Additionally my article “Airborne Weaponised Drones and the Tree-of-Life” was also published.
  • My painting Red Rain is on the cover of HECATE 42/1 (2016) and an article by me is included in the publication.

RETURN TO OIL PAINTING
The photo below is of two stretched canvases. Yes, the aroma of turps has returned to the studio and house. 




NEWS
My entry, Universal Code, for the inaugural $35,000 Ravenswood Australian Women's Art Prize has been selected as a finalist. The Award is announced on August 4.

Cheers,
Kathryn