Saturday, May 12, 2018


Data Heaven Oil on linen 100 x 120 cm 2017

I painted Data Heaven last year. I present it to you as a landscape, cosmicscape, dronescape, datascape, futurescape, codescape!

At the centre of the square, in the centre of the cloud, binary code ‘instructs’ the word DATA. The fifth line of code, ‘instructing’ the letter D, indicates algorithmic continuity. The cloud looks like an eye, with DATA as its ‘pupil’. I am playing with ideas relating to THE CLOUD, big data and humanity’s increasing reliance on digital and cyber technologies. That we can exist virtually across multiple technological platforms/systems while alive is one thing, but that this virtual existence can continue after mortal death, is indicative of  -  DATA Heaven, or perhaps - DATA Hell?

The white cloud-eye is surrounded by fiery ‘lashes’ that lick the cosmos. Is the fire destructive or a symbol of renewal? The binary code is painted white, like the cloud, to reveal subterfuge – DATA is used for scoping, surveillance and targeting purposes. The code is positioned at the centre of red cross-hairs to indicate the replacement of human sight/vision by algorithms, scoping for targets – to sell something to – or to kill. Here, the cloud becomes a visual metaphor for the airborne weaponised drone, its persistent surveillance and increasingly autonomous capabilities.

I am particularly interested in making a critical comment about the use of 'vision' as a word to describe machine imaging technology. In a few of my recent paintings I play with images that look like an eye, but on closer inspection are not really eyes. To ascribe a machine, no matter how advanced, with powers of vision, reduces human capacities of vision - in it broadest sense ie: not only seeing with eye-ball and pupil, but also with a mind's eye/imagination, in dreams, and visionary thinking. A scoping machine, such as a drone, cannot imagine, dream or generate visionary thoughts/thinking. Let's not give away human capacities that may actually be useful for us in the future! Relinquishing them too soon, and normalising things like machine vision - for me - poses an existential risk [can you 'see' this too?].

Data Heaven? poses questions about the future of humanity – its mortal and digital existence.


After winding down from my wonderful trip overseas, I have returned to the studio. The photo shows me preparing the early stages of a painting. And, there's Data Heaven in the back of the studio. Another new painting sits on the desk to the right. 

Please read about my trip, speaking engagements, conferences etc in my last post: Please click on the heading below.


Kathryn Brimblecombe-Fox  Studio 


Saturday, May 05, 2018


Presenting my talk at the international Studies Association annual conference in San Francisco. 

I have just returned from my month long trip from Brisbane, to San Francisco, to new York, to Cambridge and London and home via Hong Kong. I did not post while I was away - the first time I have missed even one week, let alone four, in nearly twelve years!

Happy to report that my presentation at the International Studies Association annual conference, San Francisco, was received very well. I was asked to speak about my paintings - my dronescapes - how they resist the insidious [and no so insidious] infiltration of militaristion into everyday life, imagination and the future.  

This conference was a massive one. Every session I went to was stimulating. An array of different topics, approaches, and people from around the world. 

Happy to also report that my presentation at Goldsmiths, University of London, was also well received. Dr. Claire Reddleman and Dr. Elke Schwartz also spoke. I was asked to speak about my work in reference to issues relating to new landscapes/topographies and drone vision. 

A highlight of the trip was attending the Centre for the Study of Existential Risk, University of Cambridge, annual conference. This was a small conference and I was delighted to be invited to attend. It was two days of fascinating presentations and participatory workshops. The focus was on thinking about strategies to help inform the broader community, policy makers, governments and corporations about existential risk ie: often considered low probability, but high impact events that could cause human species demise or civilisation collapse. Regular readers will know why I was so pleased to attend this conference - I have been interested in existential risk posed by emerging technologies for many years. Ideas associated with existential risk have informed both my creative practice and academic research.

Presenting my talk at the international Studies Association annual conference in San Francisco. 

Presenting at Goldsmiths, University of London

In both my talks I questioned the term vision and its application to a machine. I asked, are we relinquishing human vision before we understand the ramifications of doing so? I couched this in reference to vision as an expansive human capacity ie: not only seeing with eye-ball and pupil, but also with our mind's eye/imagination, in dreams and visionary thinking. I argued that a drone cannot dream nor imagine, rather a drone's imaging technology gives it scoping capabilities, not vision capabilities. Are we exposing ourselves to risk by ascribing human capabilities to drones [and other machines, no matter how advanced they are]? 

My way of countering this reduction of vision is to invite people to 'fly' around the drones, or indications of their presence, in my paintings. The cosmic perspective allows for some considerable soaring! Thus, human vision, in all its capacities, is turned back upon the drones........a radical surveillance. 

The poster advertising the talk at Goldsmiths, University of London

 View out the window at a workshop for the Centre for the Study of Existential Risk, University of Cambridge. Jesus College courtyard.

The Centre for the Study of Existential Risk conference dinner at Jesus College, Cambridge. 


There were many high points during the trip. One was visiting Forensic Architecture's exhibition Counter Investigations at the Institute of Contemporary Art [ICA], London. I used some of Forensic Architecture's ideas in my M. Phil thesis, particularly in my visual analysis of, Australian artist, Jon Cattapan's paintings. Their Lexicon was very useful for a variety of reasons. So, I was very keen to see Forensic Archicture's work at the ICA. I spent hours at the exhibition. A few days after seeing the show, Forensic Architecture was nominated for the Turner Prize. 

Forensic Architecture is a research group at Goldsmiths, University of London. They investigate sites of atrocity, war crimes, human rights violations and more. They gather a plethora of evidentiary material, which they then piece together. This evidence is presented in layered visual formats, often further overlaid with audio material. Comparative analyses of sounds, photographs, shapes in imagery, timelines, satellite imagery, trajectories of bullets, and more, are provided by computer generated tools presented as visual graphics that provide another visual layer. The outcome is a reconstruction of a site or an event - relived, but also explained. Forensic Architecture's work is complex and compelling, visually/aesthetically, and as evidence. This evidence is used in legal and human rights arenas. Additionally the group exhibits their work in art exhibitions. The bridging between seemingly different worlds is extraordinary. For me, their Lexicon  provides clues to this success. It demonstrates creative thought and the depth of their research - and - thus, the precision of their evidence. As art, it is meaningful.

 Me at Forensic Architecture's exhibition Counter Investigations at the ICA, London.

I will write more about the trip in my next post: 

  • The ballet Manon at the Royal Opera House, London.
  • Visiting Bletchley, the secret WW 2 code breaking site half an hour out of London. 
  • Visiting the Intrepid Air and Space Museum, New York.
  • The Imperial War Museum, London, and the special exhibition Art in the Age of Terror
  • Revisiting the National Gallery, London
  • Revisiting the marvelous Frick Museum, New York
  • And More!


Saturday, March 31, 2018


Australian Landscape Cutout Oil on linen 50 x 70 cm 2015

My exhibition Cosmological Landscapes opened two night ago at Dogwood Crossing, Miles, Western Queensland, Australia. My exhibition hangs in the John Mullins Memorial Art Gallery. It is a great gallery space, kitted out to meet regional gallery standards eg: climate control, lighting, hanging systems, loading bays etc etc. Plus, the professional staff are wonderful to work with. And, the Miles community provides a team of well trained volunteers.

This is my first show for nearly three years. The reason for this is that I became a recluse while I was studying and researching for my Master of Philosophy, University of Queensland. My proposal for Cosmological Landscapes was accepted two and half years ago - and - now it is hanging. 

I relished the opportunity to exhibit paintings completed over the last 3-4 years, including some of my very recent paintings that depict airborne weaponised drones, or indications of their presence. Considering that my interest, and subsequent academic research into militarised technology, was spurred by my creative practice, Cosmological Landscapes provides insight into my journey - from a broad interest in existential risk posed by emerging technologies to a specific focus on contemporary militarised technology. This journey is also a 'flight' through the cosmos, where the vastness of my childhood landscape enticed me to wonder about life and the universe. 

The title Cosmological Landscapes invites the viewer to see 'landscape' as something that traverses universal time and scale - from the quantum to the vast. As this was the first opportunity for me to exhibit some of my dronescape paintings, it was interesting to see how my ideas of 'droned landscape' worked with my earlier paintings. In contextualising the dronescapes as landscapes, the exhibition reveals how landscape is mediated by persistent technological surveillance and the enabling invisible signals that ricochet around the world from node to node - satellites, drones, devices, cars, mobile phones and so on. In my artist's talk I suggested that this insidious mediation affects how we might operate and live in the landscape/environment. In Australian regional and rural centres, for example, satellites are used to monitor/record various aspects of agricultural production and activity - planting, clearing, stock movements, fire break construction and maintenance etc. As this kind of monitoring and surveillance becomes more ubiquitous, human behaviour is likely to change. Extreme examples of places where lives are changed by persistent vertical surveillance are Yemen, Pakistan, Somalia and others. 

 Exhibition image Cosmological Landscapes

 The Australia corner of Cosmological Landscapes

I am so so happy to have an opportunity to exhibit a selection of my Australia paintings. Underground Currency [far left] depicts the continent of Australia, formed by a cascading tree-of-life. The Great Artesian Basin in painted with small blue $ signs. I 'play' with the term currency in multiple ways! This painting was received very well at the opening - country people 'get' the issues surrounding water and the Great Artesian Basin

Image may contain: 2 people, indoor
Me gesticulating during my artist's talk at the opening of Cosmological Landscapes
Photo: Courtesy of Dogwood Crossing

A selection of my dronescapes at Cosmological Landscapes

Cosmological Landscapes

Cosmological Landscapes

                                                               Cosmological Landscapes

                                        Cosmological Landscapes continues until May 21.

On at the same time as Cosmological Landscapes is The View From Here: An Exhibition of Papercuts. Lead artist on this project is Pamela See.

A great trip to the country from Brisbane would be - Toowoomba, Dalby, to Jimbour, cut across to Chinchilla, to MILES [to see my show, and The View From Here!], then to Roma, and to Mitchell where the best scrambled eggs can be eaten at the local bakery. Plus, Mitchell has a wonderful spa complex - yes water straight from the great Artesian Basin!

Cheers, Kathryn

Sunday, March 18, 2018


Fake Tree Oil on linen 25 x 35 cm 2017

In a world where terms like 'fake news' are bandied about I thought I would enter the foray with a painting called Fake Tree. I had fun with this one!

Regular readers will know that I often paint strings of binary code into my paintings. They are often colourful strings, always hand painted, and, thus not perfect. By not expressing perfect zeros and ones the 'code' could be described as fake - but - does the imperfection actually expose the role algorithms play in the creation of virtual, unreal and fake worlds? 

In Fake Tree I have painted the word FAKE and the word TREE in binary code. These 'instructions', which is what code essentially is, straddle each side of the green tree. So is the tree fake or not? My deliberate play with entendre extends to the fact that the binary code creates what appears to be an horizon. But, is it a fake horizon? Here, the horizon can be viewed as a real or virtual landscape element, or perhaps an existential horizon of the future. Fake Tree suddenly becomes a possible visual representation of the future, but does this future include humans? If not, what brought about the demise of the human species?

I have used shades of a night vision green to accentuate the appearance of fakeness, but the visual entendre here is that the green also signifies some kind of surveillance. Is it human surveillance or machine surveillance? 

The tree could be one of my trees-of-life, a virtual representation of a tree [real or symbolic] or a tree-of-life pretending to be a virtual representation. The latter perhaps demonstrating human ingenuity or rather, life's ingenuity? Maybe, however, it demonstrates advanced machine learning - artificial intelligence - finally surpassing human intelligence? 

The radiating lines emanating from the tree pose more interesting possibilities. Are they a tree-of-life's roots, camouflaged as surveillance signals or even targeting signals to avoid detection? Or, are they, in fact, surveillance or targeting signals emanating from a fake tree, thus confirming that it is actually fake. If so the tree represents a node in the interconnected technological infrastructure that permeates our world? Nodes include such things as land-based, sea-based or airborne drones, and space based assets such as communication and GPS satellites. They can also include various other devices such as phones, vehicular GPS systems, computers and other everyday devices in the increasingly IOT world. 

The radiating lines could also be furrows in a ploughed paddock, even furrows where new shoots of a life-sustaining crop are appearing above the soil's surface - maybe?

And, the background red - I have used it to accentuate the green - playing to the strengths of complementary colours. Red, though, conjures ideas of blood, passion, anger, hunger, destruction. It is a great colour because it can symbolise a multiple of meanings, even contradictory ones. Thus, it helps open Fake Tree to a multiple of 'readings' - even contradictory ones! Maybe contradiction opens up a space for critical and deep thought. Here, I suggest contradiction offers a way to pry open what philosopher Jean Baudrillard, in 2003, describes as a "reductive yardstick"*. He wrote that our coded future is one where it will be “possible to measure everything by the same extremely reductive yardstick: the binary, the alternation between 0 and 1”.*

*Jean Baudrillard, Passwords, trans. Chris Turner (London and New York: Verso, 2003), 76.


My exhibition
opens on March 29 
continuing until May 21
Arts and Community Centre
Western Queensland, Australia.

I am excited about this exhibition for a number of reasons. One of these reasons is that Miles is the birth place of my Mother. I remember visiting Miles to see my grand-parents. It has been years since I have ventured out that way. 


Saturday, March 10, 2018


Dissolving into a Flood of Ripples oil on linen 40 x 56 cm 2018

Dissolving into a Flood of Ripples 

These are my words from my Instagram page - As Australia dissolves it sends ripples across the Earthly and cosmic landscape. The night sky has fallen, the stars dispersed. Trees-of-life stand as memorials to a time past. The new 'currency' is a 'flood' of eroded land and politics.
The painting's aesthetics clearly belies a dark underbelly!
 Dissolving into a Flood of Ripples relates to my earlier work Run Off  [below] which, at first glance, is signalling a flood situation, climate change and extreme weather events. It does, however, also signify eroded politics where diversionary issues hijack political and public attention. The erosion gauges into public confidence, sovereign integrity and global signification. 

In Dissolving into a Flood of Ripples I have continued my multiple entendre of political critique in conjunction with signalling the effects of climate change. Of course, the two cannot really be untangled. The plodding nature of climate change mitigation draws us closer to potential disaster. 

The title Dissolving into a Flood of Ripples plays with the saying 'dissolving into a flood of tears'. Here, in my painting, the tears are so voluminous that they surge across the earthly landscape as ripples. They extend into the cosmos washing away the night sky, scattering the stars, leaving only memorials to a time past. These memorials, symbolised by the trees-of-life, act as beacons on a new horizon - maybe? Where do the ripples stop?  

Run Off Gouache and watercolour on paper 30 x 42 cm 2016

Both Dissolving into a Flood of Ripples and Run Off, are part of my ongoing interest in rethinking what landscape means in the 21st century, an age of new technologies, accelerating population, perpetual war, climate change and agitated politics.

I have a solo exhibition 

Cosmological Landscapes 

Dogwood Crossing, Miles, Queensland, Australia
29 March - 21 May. 

Details are available HERE 
And, opening night details etc are available HERE

Cheers, Kathryn

Wednesday, February 28, 2018


 Details of Drones and Code: Future Now

 Drones and Code: Future Now Oil on linen 40 x 56 cm 2018

I have been preparing my presentation for the International Studies Association conference in San Francisco in April. I have been invited to speak about my own paintings on a panel called "War Art: Museums, Militarisation and Militantism". I have decided to speak about how I attempt to resist the creeping and insidious militarisation of imagination which, in turn, hijacks, infiltrates and colonises  both the present and the future.

I will be speaking about my use of cosmic perspectives, and my painterly invitations to fly around drones or indications of their presence. I will also talk about revealing invisible signals that connect nodes, such as satellites with airborne drones, with mobile phones, ground control stations, computers and more. I will discuss how I believe these signals create new layers of topography in the landscape, and how human movement and behaviour are altered to accommodate the persistent surveillance these topographies enable.

I will also speak about the medium of painting and its historical and operative distance from contemporary technology.Painting does not rely upon digital or cyber systems, software or algorithmic instruction for creation, exhibition and storage. This provides an independence from interconnected and potentially appropriated contemporary technological platforms. Rather than thinking of painting with a nostalgic turn, or with accusations of anachronism, I propose that painting by a human being, in humanly accessible dimensions of time and space, offers subversive agency in the digital and cyber age. That a painting can depict and critique contemporary technology, without actually needing it for creation, exhibition and storage, heightens this agency. This becomes more pointed when the visual critique focuses on contemporary militarised technologies, such as airborne drones, their persistent surveillance systems and increasingly autonomous capabilities.

I have uploaded detail shots of my painting Drones and Code: Future Now to give an idea of the painterly quality of the image. The background of the painting was created with random splashes of colourful paint. Over the top of this I painted drones and satellites. I did, however, wipe out the colourful paint to help create the dark continent of Australia. After painting this and the binary code 'instructing' LANDSCAPE around the coastline, I then added more colour to the background with deliberate placements of colourful dots. I wanted the Australian continent, at one instance to be seemingly set against a sea, and at another instance, set against the universe. This is an example of my love of the cosmic perspective - one that does provide the viewer with a freedom to fly - and to perhaps see things differently. I have uploaded a detail shot of my recent painting Drone Spiral 2 as another example of cosmic perspective, but also to focus on the paint.

Drone Spiral 2 oil on linen 120 x 160 cm 2018


Tuesday, February 20, 2018


Drones and Code: Future Now Oil on linen 40 x 56 cm 2018

Recently there have been articles* in Australian news outlets reporting on the Chief of the Army, Lieutenant General Angus Campbell's statements about Australia's preparedness for the future of war. This future is one characterised by advanced robotic technologies and the utilisation of artificial intelligence in a range of military and associated activities - eg; surveillance, data monitoring, battlefield support, targeting. 

Lieutenant General Angus Campbell seemed keen to re-enforce that robotic and autonomous systems would assist and support human soldiers. The participation by a human being in decision making loops is one of the hotly debated issues raised by the development of increasingly autonomous lethal weapon systems. The Chief of the Army also expressed concerns about Australia's ability to keep up with foreign adversary capabilities; state, non-state and rogue. These concerns were also about Australia's ability to assist allied forces, as well as Australia's abilities to protect its land and people from less ethical forces.

I read the news articles, and a couple of things came to mind. I understand that defence forces compare their capabilities with those of other forces. In the contemporary case it seems the focus is on potential future capabilities, where emerging technologies, accelerating at a fast pace, offer marked strategic and tactical advantages. When a focus is on the future and comparing capabilities, do we have an arms race?  

My new painting Drones and Code: Future Now is an Australian landscape, seen from a cosmic vantage point. This cosmic vantage point could be both spatial and temporal. Is this landscape a contemporary one, or is it a future landscape? Surely, if military minds and imaginations can  project into the future, so can I? Indeed, one could argue that militarised imaginations pave a path into the future. In doing so they militarise the future too! Are we aware of this though? 

For me, the cosmic vantage point can help us think critically about the future and how rhetoric surrounding the 'future of war' affects humanity now, let alone in the future. The big cosmic picture offers multiple perspectives that can draw in the past, the present and the future, and even a more distant future than the one militarised imaginations have occupied. What does the far distant future call to us? Surely it is imperative to follow militarised imaginations into their future, and then to proceed beyond it, in order to gain a temporal perspectival advantage that might offer a new imaginary? If we can return from the far distant future, carrying our new imaginary, how would that affect life now?

In Drones and Code: Future Now the continent of Australia presents as a black hole, as if the land mass has fallen away from the universe. Is the continent real? Binary code, wrapped twice around the continent's edge, instructs LANDSCAPE: 01001100 01000001 01001110 01000100 01010011 01000011 01000001 01010000 01000101. This may indicate that the Australian continent is a simulation? Has physical landscape been replaced by virtual landscape? Or, is it a subterfuge, a continental camouflage designed to protect land and people? The presence of weaponised drones certainly suggests a contested environment. Three red drones depart Australia - have they achieved their mission or are they Australian drones offering protection? One dark drone moves toward Australia. Again, its intent is ambiguous. Does it represent a malign force or the return of an Australian drone from a battle of robots?

The presence of the satellites indicate the inter-connectivity of technological infrastructure and therefore, the insidious creep of militarising capabilities. They also demonstrate that the viewer [you] is hovering above them. Your vantage point is revelatory. The fact that two satellites and one drone are darkly painted, like the Australian continent, perhaps suggests further stealth, simulation, but also possible signs of annihilation. 

Drones and Code: Future Now is an ambiguous Australian landscape. If it is a future landscape it is necessarily ambiguous because speculation calls for ambiguity, but also provocation. It just depends on whether the painting presents a near future or a distant future - tomorrow, next year, a century away or a billion years? But, given the current rhetoric about 'future of war', debates about lethal autonomous weapons and the role of artificial intelligence, and research into existential risk posed by emerging technologies, maybe Drones and Code: Future Now is actually a contemporary landscape?

* Sydney Morning Herald
   The West Australian 

Center for the Study of the Drone, Bard College, New York interview with me Portfolio: Dronescapes by Kathryn Brimblecombe-Fox

Recent visual essay "New Landscapes in the Drone Age" in Dialogue: Taking Politics Outside the Box [School of Political Science and International Studies, University of Queensland]. In this essay I have a paragraph that discusses where my interest in technology comes from - hint: My Dad was a very keen HAM amateur radio operator. 


Saturday, February 10, 2018


Drone Spiral 2 Oil on linen 120 x 160 cm 2018

I have been working on Drone Spiral 2 [above] for some time. I started it last year. And, now I think it is finished. As you can see from the image below, this new painting relates to an earlier work on paper called Drone Spiral. This painting won the inaugural World of Drones Congress, Art Prize, held last year here in Brisbane. The organisers are gearing up for the WOD2018 congress

In my new painting I wanted the image to look like an overview of a new leafy suburb, with houses, gardens, parks etc. But, the houses are replaced with weaponised drones! I wanted a landscape-type appearance in order to generate questions about our Earthly environment generally. I also wanted to visually suggest that new technologies, such as unmanned surveillance and weaponised airborne drones, are changing landscapes and, thus, how we might operate and live in them. 

The spiraling appearance of the strip of droned landscape gives the impression of falling - but is it falling to Earth or away from Earth? Earth - here - being the pale blue dot! Also, maybe it depicts just one drone, demonstrating the different stages of falling - or - maybe there is a swarm of drones. If this is the case, maybe they are not falling, but in formation to optimise mission outcomes. 

Whether falling to or away from Earth, or on a mission, there is a sense of constant motion, even dizzying motion. This dizziness reflects the fast paced nature of drone technology development, including increasing advances in autonomous systems. Policy makers and lawyers are finding it difficult to respond to rapidly developing systems that impose potentially new impacts and risks on society and humanity.

The dizziness and sense of falling - to or from Earth - signifies that maybe we human beings are on a metaphoric precipice. As Lord Martin Rees wrote in his fascinating book Our Final Century  

I think the odds are no better than fifty-fifty that our present civilisation on Earth will survive to the end of the present century. Our choices and actions could ensure the perpetual future of life (not just on Earth, but perhaps far beyond it, too). Or in contrast, through malign intent, or through misadventure, twenty-first century technology could jeopardise life’s potential, foreclosing its human and posthuman future. What happens here on Earth, in this century, could conceivably make the difference between a near eternity filled with ever more complex and subtle forms of life and one filled with nothing but base matter.

Martin Rees, Our Final Hour: A Scientist’s Warning: How Terror, Error, and Environmental Disaster Threaten Humankind’s Future in This Century—On Earth and Beyond (New York: Basic Books, 2003) p.7-8

A plethora of thoughts tumbled through my head as I painted Drone Spiral 2. I do not have space to write about them all here - plus it would make for a long winded post. However, regular readers will identify that the viewer enjoys a cosmic perspective - my favourite perspective. The viewer is not caught in the spiral, but is, in fact, witnessing it. Have you fallen away from earth too or have you deliberately propelled yourself, in imagination, to a vantage point where you can turn the surveillance back onto the technology? 

What do you see? What do you dream? What to you imagine?

  • Drone Spiral 2 is another cosmic landscape, and a dronescape.
  • I've depicted a pale blue dot in many of my recent paintings. This references the famous photograph taken in 1990 by Voyager 1, as it started to leave our solar system. its camera was turned off soon after, to preserve energy as it departed on  its interstellar journey. Carl Sagan's sage words are an inspiration.

Drone Spiral Gouache on paper 30 x 42 cm 2016