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

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