Monday, July 18, 2016


 Scoped Gouache on paper 30 x 42 cm 2016

As regular readers know I am researching militarised technology for my M. Phil thesis. I am examining how two Australian artists represent militarised technology, such as unmanned air vehicles [UAV], commonly called drones, and night vision capabilities, in their paintings. The thing is - I am inspired by the reading I've been doing as I research drones, night vision, just war theory, the development of autonomous weapons, robotising the military and law enforcement...and...existential risk. The latter is where my academic research sprang from. I've been very interested in existential risk posed by emerging technologies for a long time. So, whilst my research topic was stimulated by my private interests expressed in my paintings are not part of the academic research. It is not a practice-lead degree. However, at the end of the degree I will have a body of work, mainly works on paper, that will reflect the research focus and process.  

Military drones operate in the sky - surveillance, monitoring, targeting and attack - currently aided by a team of remote human operators, but perhaps autonomously operated in the future. The aerial aspect of their 'vision' or scoping both intrigues and horrifies me. 

For decades many of my paintings have taken the aerial perspective. I've played with it and hopefully extended it into the cosmos as my interests in cosmology drew me into the close and far distances of the universe. I've often said and written that I believe we need to develop skills in 'seeing' multiple perspectives [literal and metaphoric], even simultaneously. I now think we need to develop these skills ASAP. Why? Because, the verticality of threat imposes literal boundaries on perspective. It also imposes psychological boundaries of fear formed by power structures that in many ways are also formed by fear. 

It seems to me that as powerful nations threaten silently from above, terror leaks out horizontally across the land in random acts - the randomness undetectable from above [or anywhere] until its destructive aftermath bloodies the landscape. As terror's fear closes perspective down. trying to engage in conversation, where differing perspectives of life can be discussed, becomes almost impossible. 

Literal and metaphoric perspective are both threatened. 

 Eyes In The Sky Gouache on paper 30 x 42 cm 2016

In these three paintings you can see how I have played with aerial perspective. I've embraced my love of landscape, especially seen from above, to help develop my ideas of drone scoping. I call it 'scoping' rather than 'vision' because, for example, the function of the multiple gorgon stare cameras fixed to a drone are not really seeing - rather their lens infrastructure compels them to 'scope'. The word 'vision' is far too expansive in its multiple meanings to reduce it to functions of surveillance and targeting - cameras to guns/missiles. The word 'vision' also anthropomorphises the drone in ways I that demand critical analysis.

Eyes In The Sky refers to the name often given to UAVs or drones ie: eyes in the sky. Well, are they eyes in the sky? In a sense they are, but if you think about the idea of scoping, then they become something else. I propose they become scopes in the sky - camera scopes - gun scopes. My painting makes fun of the idea of eyes in the sky. There's more to this painting, but I will leave that to you to think about.

Scoped plays with perspective - are you above the drones looking towards the landscape? Are you below the drones looking up at them. The green glow of night vision capabilities seems to enable you to see targets on the ground, but maybe you can also see the outlines of clouds and targets amongst them? The area between earth and drone flight paths is a potential battle 'field'. Ah ha...but what about the satellites that transmit messages between drones and their operators? How far does the potential combat zone extend?

New Shoots is a positive painting! Here I have included my much loved age-old transcultural/religious tree-of-life to indicate that whilst life seems to be targeted, its roots will spread out 'underground' - and ultimately new shoots will thrive. The drone could either be 'read' as being airborne or crashed!

New Shoots Gouache on paper 30 x 42 cm 2016



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