DRONESCAPES

 Gorgon Stare Gouache on paper 12.5 x 29.5 cm 2016



Dronescapes displays a selection of my paintings that critically engage with the figure of the militarised unmanned airborne drone. This selection of paintings is part of a larger body of work. Please have a look through my main blog feed to see other paintings. I post about once a week, so there is always something new.


UPDATE 
Please read an interview The Center for the Study of the Drone, Bard College, New York conducted with me about my dronescapes. Portfolio: Dronescapes by Kathryn Brimblecombe-Fox

My dronescapes feature in a book review of Ian Shaw's Predator Empire: Drone Warfare and Full Spectrum Dominance. The review was written by Kate Kindervater, from Dartmouth College, New Hampshire, USA. Ian Shaw is an academic at Glasgow University who writes about drones, populations, surveillance etc from a human geography point of view. Needless to say I am thrilled that my work has been contextualised within important social and political discussions about drone technology. The review can be read HERE.

Dr. Christopher J Fuller's book  See it?Shoot It: The Secret History of the CIA's Lethal Drone Program has very recently been published by Yale University Press. Dr. Fuller is an historian at the University of Southampton, UK. In the lead up to the book's launch he was asked to write a post for the Yale University Press blog, "Yale Books Unbound". He asked to have one of my paintings head his post which is titled "The CIA's Drone Policy Under Trump". Dr. Fuller's post was published online at "Yale Books Unbound" (April 10, 2017).



Anthropocene Gouache and watercolour on paper 56 x 76 cm, 2017.


PERSPECTIVE
I place the drone, often accompanied by the age-old transcultural/religious tree-of-life, in ambiguous landscapes. I call these landscapes cosmic landscapes. With the presence of the drone, they are also dronescapes. But, because they are cosmic there is the potential for numerous critical perspectives across time and space. The viewer is often unsure whether they are above, below, in front or behind the drone. I do this to trigger re-orientation towards an 'everywhere' or universal/cosmic eye that can critically roam around and into the figure of the drone.

The ability to imagine universal perspectives is outside a drone's capability - unfortunately, it is also difficult for some humans! That's why art is so important....

I have had a long interest in notions of literal and metaphoric perspective. Playing with a viewer's orientation has been a deliberate strategy for some time. If we cannot imagine cosmic perspectives - the close and far distances of the universe - what happens to metaphoric perspective? ie: the ability to put ourselves in another's shoes, the ability to [re]imagine the future, the ability to cast ourselves back into history to learn its lessons - and so on.

THE SKY
I try to stretch perspectival possibilities for many reasons. One of these is that sadly in places like Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia people are fearful of the sky because it is the loitering zone for drones. A drone's long range and long dwell endurance capabilities enable persistent surveillance, aerial targeting and potential attack. The sky is cruelly diminished for people in these regions.

My paintings Sky-Drone-Net and  New Sky [below] visually expresse a concern for those who live in fear of the sky. If people are fearful of the sky this represents a denial of individual and collective freedoms at many devastating levels. If the sky is diminished for some, then it also diminished for humanity as whole. Combat Proven, Long Range, Long Dwell [below] grapples with this idea of diminished humanity by depicting LIFE reduced to an algorithm 01001100 01001001 01000110 01000101 But, note the presence of the tree-of-life!

Accelerating developments in civilian and military surveillance cast a metaphoric shadow over all our lives. The blurring of lines between civilian and military use of digital and cyber infrastructure and capabilities adds to this. My painting $urveillance  [below], with its radiating signals of small $ signs, 'speaks' to the 'value' of data gained by various surveillance mechanisms. The radiating signals appear to be like sunshine, but - they are not! Look more closely - they are deceptive - they dupe.


*Most of the paintings and their titles are hyperlinked to my original posts where I discuss them in more depth.



 New Shoots Gouache on paper 30 x 42 cm 2016

In New Shoots a drone dominates the sky as if colonising it. It is painted white to indicate an attempt to camouflage it as a cloud. White cross-hairs target the tree-of-life, representing all life. The tree and its roots are painted red and Prussian blue. Red indicates blood, both its potential loss and its life propelling factors. The Prussian blue acts as a shadow that assists the tree by being invisible to the drone. It indicates those attributes of life that cannot be surveilled. My life living in rural Queensland, Australia, taught me a lot about the replenishing regrowth capabilities of trees. They send suckers and new shoots, and their seeds are broadcast across the land. In New Shoots a root goes further underground to propagate a new green tree, fresh life. However, this new life is not necessarily human, nor is it necessarily on Earth in the 21st century. It may represent new life somewhere else in a far distant future? 



TREE-OF-LIFE
I have used my interpretation of the tree-of-life symbol in my work for a very long time. I position the figure of the drone with the tree-of-life to indicate threat to life, but also life's capacity to resist, restore and regrow. In many of the paintings upside down trees act as subversive elements. Roots also indicate restorative potential. The seemingly random branching of a tree contrasts with surveillance or targeting signals in ways that indicate life's capacity to escape - imagine!

The paintings can be 'read' as either harbingers of hope or harbingers of catastrophe. It depends on your perspective!


 Scoped Gouache on paper 30 x 42 cm 2016


 Strategic Landscape Gouache on paper 30 x 42 cm 2016



BACKGROUND
My dronescapes have been triggered by my M. Phil research [University of Queensland] into contemporary militarised technology, particularly drones and night vision technology. The degree is not practice lead, so my painting are not part of the formal academic project. Rather, I am examining how contemporary militarised technology is represented in paintings of two remarkable Australian artists, George Gittoes and Jon Cattapan.  In order to examine their work through a contemporary militarised technology research lens, I've had to learn about it.

I am predisposed to technical matters though. My father was a very keen HAM radio enthusiast and I grew up with technology, albeit not militarised technology! Although...HAMs have contributed to communication and access to information during times of war and strife. And, after Dad died we discovered he had more than one World War 2 bomber radio transmitter - amongst many other things! Electronic or analogue technology is, however, not the focus of my research. Rather, it is militarised technology utilising digital and cyber capabilities.

I've scoured various online technical, manufacturer and military sources, read various briefing papers that cover issues such as autonomous weapons and I've read accounts by people who live in [including George Gittoes-Jalalabad], or have been to, some of the contested zones where drones are deployed. I've read numerous publications by media theorists, international relations academics, philosophers and more who discuss the humanitarian, social, political, military, cultural and legal ramifications of drone use and accelerating developments in drone capabilities. Commentators include Gregoire ChamayouChristian EnemarkMark AndrejevicAlex DanchevDaniel GreeneEugenie ShinkleIan ShawEyal Weizman and others. Paul Virilio and Jean Baudrillard provide other theoretical conduits to examine militarised technology.

My M. Phil research topic came out of my interest in existential risk posed by emerging technologies. Here, I've followed the work of various people including Martin ReesNick BostomJaan Tallinn as well as the Centre for the Study of Existential Risk at Cambridge University, Future of Humanity Institute at Oxford University, Future of Life Institute out of MIT, the Global Risk Institute and others.



 Aeropolitics Imagined Gouache on paper 30 x 42 cm 2016


  Camouflage Gouache on paper 30 x 42 cm 2016


 Drone Exhaust Gouache on paper 30 x 42 cm 2016


 Drone Spiral Gouache on paper 30 x 42 cm 2016


 Drone Star Gouache on paper 30 x 42 cm 2016


 Droned Landscape Gouache on paper 30 x 42 cm 2016


LANDSCAPE
I consider myself as essentially a landscape artist. But, I love to take landscape beyond earth-bound horizons. An interest in cosmology has triggered questions about the birth of landscape. Earth certainly was not the first entity in the universe to present as landscape. From the Big Bang, or whatever propelled our universe into existence, the primal elements for landscape have existed. If we think about Earth as just a speck, like a grain of sand, in a cosmic landscape all our wars and conflicts seem ludicrous. This is even more so, because for the long foreseeable future, Earth is our only home. Looking after it and ourselves seems like a sensible thing to do.

I also think about how the figure of the drone is changing our landscape. If skies are diminished and perspective is contained the landscape of land and sky is effectively 'droned'! Droned Landscape [above] can be viewed as if you are above looking down onto a droned landscape or as if you are standing on land looking up at a droned sky. If you are above...then their might be hope for you and perhaps humanity!

The painting has a brutal look. This surprised me when I had finished it. But, I realised that by repeating the figure of the drone its brutal agency was exposed. The painting also plays upon current and accelerating developments in drone swarms ie: group of drones, large or small, operating together to achieve a goal... 


You might be interested in my painting Pale Blue Dot . Yes, a kind of homage to Carl Sagan.


 On the Edge Gouache on paper 30 x 42 cm 2016


$urveillance Gouache and watercolour on paper 57 x 76 cm 2016

 HumanMachineHuman Gouache and watercolour on paper 57 x 76 cm 2016


 Persistent Surveillance and Strike Gouache on paper 30 x 42 cm 2016 


 New Sky Gouache and watercolour on paper 57 x 76 cm 2016


 Sky-Drone-Net Gouache on paper 30 x 42 cm 2016


 Combat proven, Long-Range, Long-Dwell Gouache on paper 57 x 76 cm 2016


Not a Game Gouache on paper 57 x 76 cm 2016



                    Manhunting Gouache and watercolour on paper 56 x 76 cm 2017


In Manhunting I have painted Human in binary code at the bottom of the painting, over and over. This represents a population, represented as data, under surveillance - potentially targeted.




To place DRONESCAPES within the context of my broader body of work please read Dr. Christine Dauber's essay KATHRYN BRIMBLECOMBE-FOX: Paintings 2002 - 2010 published at Panoptic Press, 2015.




I invite you to also visit my website 'galleries':

DRONES - DRONESCAPES - DRONEART 

and

DRONES - POSTHUMANS - CODE

Cheers,
Kathryn
www.kathrynbrimblcombe-fox.com 



No comments: