Sunday, February 05, 2017

MANHUNTING IN THE DRONE AGE

 Manhunting Gouache on paper 56 x 76 cm 2017


NEWS

1. I have made a designated DRONESCAPES  page here on my blog. There are 18 of my dronescape - cosmic landscape paintings.

2. My painting Red Rain  is featured on the front cover of HECATE Hecate is a journal that prints material relating to women. It is is an internationally circulated refereed journal. It is published twice a year by Hecate Press, in association with the Research Group for Women, Gender, Culture and Social Change Research, in the School of Communication and Arts at the University of Queensland.

3. My painting What I Think About When Planking  is featuring in printed and online material for the international conference Excess Desire and Twentieth to Twenty-First Century Women's Writing  


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MANHUNT

I first came across the term "manhunt" in regards to airborne drone surveillance and targeting in French philosopher Gregoire Chamayou's book Drone Theory. He makes the startling and horrific claim that in the age of the drone the whole world is potentially a manhunting ground.(Chamayou: 38, 52-53) And, let's not forget that in some parts of the world 'manhunts' conducted from the air already occur. In many cases targeting is based on patterns of behaviour or data collected from devices such as mobile phones, GPS and so on. In these cases a target may not even have a name - this is called a 'signature strike' rather than a 'personality strike'. (this information is available in numerous places including newspaper article as well as books like Chamayou's Drone Theory)

I have come across the idea of manhunt/manhunting in other articles and books a number of times since reading Drone Theory. The threat from above informs architect Eyal Weizman's theory of the verticality of threat and international relations academic Alex Danchev's provocatively titled article Bug Splat: The Art of the Drone . Media studies academic Mark Andrejevic writes about the ubiquity of targeting surveillance in a number of articles and essays. And, there are others.

In the last few weeks I have read two articles by lecturer in human geography at Glasgow University, Ian Shaw. These articles are The Great War of Enclosure: Securing the Skies and The Urbanisation of Drone Warfare: Policing Surplus Populations in the Dronepolis . Both of these pieces are wake-up calls about the threats posed by accelerating technical, operative and usage developments in drone technology. Increasing autonomy and swarm capabilities trigger many questions about drone use in both military and civilian situations. The insidious thing is that the divide between civilian and military is becoming increasingly blurred.


Combat Proven, Long Range, Long Dwell Gouache on paper 56 x 76 cm 2016


Manhunting and Combat Proven, Long Range, Long Dwell 

I painted Manhunting after reading Shaw's two articles and I painted Combat Proven, Long Range, Long Dwell before reading the articles. Shaw's ideas about the reduction of some populations to a "surplus" category where data often acts as a proxy for the human really resonated with me.

Binary Code
Both paintings depict life and humanity in painted binary code. How? In Manhunting I have painted Human in binary code at the bottom of the painting, over and over. This represents a population under surveillance, potentially targeted.

In Combat Proven, Long Range, Long Dwell I have painted the word LIFE in binary code at the bottom of the painting. And, the word DRONE is painted in binary code on the Gray Eagle drone.

In both paintings 'signals' emanate from the drone, a Reaper drone in Manhunting.  They are simultaneously surveillance and targeting signals, on the one hand 'sucking' in our data and on the other hand perhaps lasers pinpointing targets? Both the Gray Eagle drone and Reaper drone are armed with missiles. They are ready to attack. The targets below the drones are strings of binary code acting as proxies for humanity and life. There are no names, just code...data contained in the reductive 'space' between zeros and ones.

BUT 

I have deliberately painted the binary code in attractive colours to make the strings of code look like ribbons, to inject personality, to stir the pot so-to-speak. Hand painting the code also means the zeros and ones are not perfect. Can code really represent life and humanity in all the foibles and amazing attributes that come with flesh, blood, emotions, spirit, creativity...?

In Combat Proven, Long Range, Long Dwell I have also included trees-of-life to act as beacons to guide us. In Manhunting there is no tree. But, I look at the empty space on the far right of the strings of binary code in two ways. One is that human life completely ceases and autonomous artificial life systems rule the world! The other is that life covertly goes underground, ready and waiting for regrowth some time in the future.


A Selection of related posts.
REGROWTH and DRONE STAR
FRAGMENTED and UNDERGROUND: DRONESCAPES
SCOPED

and

my 'gallery' DRONESCAPES


Cheers,
Kathryn



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