Saturday, April 23, 2016

MY POSTHUMANS ARE DANCING, BUT DO THEY HAVE HEARTS?

My Posthumans Are Dancing, But Do They Have Hearts? Gouache on paper 30 x 42 cm


MY POSTHUMAN TRIBE
I am still fascinated by posthumans. In fact I've painted a tribe of them over the last months! And, here are two more. These two are dancing. Why? Well, when thinking about the posthuman ie: a place and/or an entity from the far distant future, when humans no longer exist, I wonder about all sorts of things. Some say we are already posthuman, but I think that idea is driven by identity questions and issues, rather than existence ones. 

DANCING
So, why are my new posthumans dancing? And, why do I ask if they have hearts? If a posthuman entity was some kind of downloaded mind, would it have a facility to 'know' what dancing is or is like? Would it have a sensation of movement? Would it appreciate the dynamism of dancing with someone else? Would it improvise? Would it tire or know what a tired sensation is like? Would it be aware of spectators? Would spectators marvel at the dancer's strength and grace?

HEARTS?
So, to the question about hearts. I love to dance. My daughter loves to dance. We both feel it in our bodies and our hearts, although I apparently dance in a very old fashioned way! Our hearts pump faster for sure, but the joy and vibrancy of dancing is not just about physical movement. It involves a connection to music, to others, to imagination. It connects you to the rhythms of the earth...hey the whole universe! Could a posthuman downloaded mind or a completely synthetic being experience these things?  Could it say " I love to dance or I love dancing"?

I've tried to imagine posthumans dancing. My two, in this new painting, look like they are dancing. Their tree-of-life limbs seem hopeful but the binary code running down their 'bodies' - 00111111 instructs a ? This question mark/code asks lots of questions about form, embodiment, structure, reality, the future and it also 'asks', due to its positioning, "Where is the heart?" But, it's not just asking about a literal heart is it?

"Where is the heart?" could be a good question to ask even now. As previously mentioned some people think we are already posthuman...maybe it's because when we question the human identity we are really questioning where our hearts are?

Cheers,
Kathryn
www.kathrynbrimblecombe-fox.com

P.S. Scroll through my other recent posts and you will find more of my posthumans! 


Sunday, April 17, 2016

IMAGINING THE POSTHUMAN

 Imagining The Posthuman Gouache on paper 42 x 30 cm 2016


Yes! Another posthuman painting for you. But in this case the posthuman could be a posthuman entity/being or the posthuman era or the posthuman place. Imagining The Posthuman, as a title, could be 'read' a few ways. I quite like that, because whilst people think about posthumanism, I do not think we are already posthuman. We maybe transhuman, to varying degrees...pacemakers, hearing aids, drug enhancements, plastic surgery and so on...BUT

I wonder if we know enough about human capabilities. What if we become fully transhuman with machine, bio-tech and artificial intelligence 'enhancements' before we understand why some people know when a loved one has died, or that someone is about to ring, or even how an artist creates a painting from imagination. What if we ignore these things and then they are forgotten, no longer experienced. What if these human attributes hold keys to even more impressive outcomes than merging with machines?

There are a lot of questions to be asked!

Imagining The Posthuman
This new painting is similar to some other recent posthuman paintings. I did say I was having fun, didn't I!? This painting is less defined yet still includes my much loved transcultural/religious tree-of-life. Unlike previous paintings this one has only one string of binary code 0011111 to form the backbone or trunk...or is it suggestive of a map, or maybe stepping stones? 0011111 is code for ?

Even though the painting has a figurative quality, it also has a sense of landscape, and I suggest it is also futuristic. So, it could be a posthuman entity ie: not human but some kind of presence? Or, it could represent the posthuman habitat which may not be tangible or material but rather systemic? Or it could represent a time in a far distant future thousands of years after humanity became extinct? Maybe it is all three entwined?

BUT

For the time being, we are still human. Phew! We may be flawed, in varying degrees, but let's make sure we give ourselves, and future generations, the time to develop in ways where reflection, critique, research, understanding and compassion drive our energies, rather than fear and haste.

My painting Keep Us Human has the word 'Human' painted repeatedly around an orange/red circle. I imagine this circle to be the 21st century and the emanating lines the various choices of futures humanity might have.


                                Keeping Us Human Gouache on paper 30 x 42 cm 2016


My Future Posthuman? 
Is This A Posthuman?
Cheers,
Kathryn
www.kathrynbrimblecombe-fox.com


Wednesday, March 30, 2016

MY FUTURE POSTHUMAN

My Future Posthuman Gouache and watercolour on paper 42 x 30 cm 2016


Regular readers will have noticed that I am having fun with the posthuman!

In my mind the posthuman is something that may happen in the future, the far distant future. I don't believe we are already posthuman. However, some people do. They believe that due to technology's mediation of minds and bodies we are no longer human and therefore we are posthuman. 

Maybe we are transhuman? Some think the process of becoming posthuman is an evolutionary one and that becoming transhuman is a stage through which evolution must pass. There are arguments that treatments and/or enhancements such as mind altering drugs, prosthetics and implants represent transhumanist change or alteration. Contemporary transhumanists such as Zoltan Istvan, Aubrey de Grey and Nick Bostrom suggest that humanity is compromised by its biology. They propose that technological intervention could 'cure' biological vulnerabilities that cause aging, death and sickness. There's political agency in this proposition! Indeed, Zoltan Istvan is a current US presidential candidate for the Transhumanist Party These types of transhumanists see technological intervention and alteration of the human as enhancing the human experience. Whereas, other transhumanists [or those who think about transhumanism] particularly from the arts/humanities see transhumanism as a way to re-create or re-invent the self.  

But, let's get back to the posthuman. 
I think the major difference between the transhuman and the posthuman is that the former is more about enhancing the human, but the latter is more about replacing the human. I enjoy thinking about what a posthuman might be like and what kind of 'existence' a posthuman might experience. So, I imagine an era where no humans remain, due to extinction caused be either our own hands or natural means, such as the sun's tumultuous demise. In the place of humans are machines that appear to have garnered the ability to mimic human modes of being. However, these modes are greatly augmented - so much so that abilities far exceed human ones - to the point where human-ness is almost indiscernible. These machines 'exist' on a far away exo-planet, having escaped Earth - or maybe humans sent them off to investigate alternative planetary homes, but not in time to actually save humanity? 

BUT, maybe there are no tangible presences? Instead only an awareness of downloaded minds, harvested from humans, even those stored in cryogenic facilities for centuries. These downloaded minds trip around the universe on light beams aided by algorithms that replicate and continually enhance. 

My Future Posthuman
In my new painting above I imagined me [or my mind] as a posthuman. But, I also decided that I could paint an imaginary friend, my posthuman imaginary friend. Indeed, perhaps I've unwittingly painted the posthuman being who is operating me as a simulation? Yep, you read right! This idea stems from Nick Bostrom's simulation argument. Please read Are You Living In A Computer Simulation?   This certainly turns the whole idea of the posthuman upside down, because Bostrom suggests that if we are living in a computer simulation, it is being run by posthumans. Does that mean we are already posthuman, even if we are only simulated? 

So - in My Future Posthuman I've painted a figure with tree-like appendages, a multicoloured heart and a head shaped like a question mark - but the question mark is formed from two rows of binary code 'instructing' the word 'Human'. Hence, the question mark! I love the tree-like wings that spring from the figure's shoulders. They and the tree-like appendages connect the figure to the outer reaches of the universe, of time and space. Regular readers will identify the trees as my visual re-interpretation of the age/old transcultural/religious tree-of-life symbol. I don't think this symbol's potency has been exhausted. That's why I gain a contrary enjoyment in juxtapositioning it with binary code. Both 'codes' have instructional qualities, although they may suggest alternative paths, which may or may not cross. Worth looking into though!

Cheers,
Kathryn
www.kathrynbrimblecombe-fox.com 

Thursday, March 24, 2016

PROACTIONARY AND PRECAUTIONARY

 Line drawing  pen and ink 1974 


1974 - 1976
In 1974 - 76 when I was in my mid teens I drew these two drawings. I can remember drawing them. The bottom one even ended up being framed. So, someone decided it was a good work and warranted special treatment.

The top drawing was inspired by a sideboard my parents had in the dining room of the house I grew up in. An old lamp was placed on top of it. I've embellished the arrangement of items with additional vases and a 'garden' of small branches and flowers. 

The drawing below is from my imagination. Yet, the practice of drawing from nature and my immediate environment is evident. I used to do a lot of drawing of things I saw. The stylised trees or branches are not dissimilar to those in the drawing above. The juxtapositoning of these organic forms with geometric ones is something I used to love to do. It was great to play with patterns  - working out how various elements best 'fit' together as I proceeded with the drawing process. 

ERROR
Yes, there was some trial and error. I cannot tell you where the errors were made, but I know they were - and I covered them up or changed tack to turn them into parts of the pattern. Yet, I was also thinking ahead about how I might fit the image into the size of paper, how I might render the outer edges to create some kind of visual framing and so on. 

PROACTIONARY - PRECAUTIONARY
Drawing, and painting too, are processes where both proactionary and precautionary principles work in tandem. Proactionary means trial and error, learning as you go, solving problems as they appear and welcoming the accident as an opportunity. Precautionary means firstly, ascertaining risk factors and secondly, working out ways to avoid and mitigate these risks.  Actions like making sure you have enough space to draw where nothing can be knocked over to spill on the paper is a precautionary action. The artist works out what risks are not worth taking. But, events like ink pooling in a glob at the end of your nib just as you touch the paper creates instances where error can be turned into something positive, thus an example of proactionary principles. A glob of ink can be  manipulated to create a darkened section of the drawing, a shadow, or anything else that 'speaks' to the image. By embracing 'errors' I have found that changes of tack or approach produce unexpected, but often fantastic outcomes. Problem solving, amongst many other processes, is very much part of creativity. Yet, I would suggest that there is something about the tension between proactionary and precautionary concerns that heightens creative impulses, like a push me/pull you energy.
   
ACCIDENT
I still love drawing. I love the immediacy of making a mark. But, I also love the trepidation I feel when my hand might wobble, when I can see ink dripping towards the nib, when I notice an insect fly into a wet mark, when I accidently pick up the wrong pen or brush and make a mark before realising...there's a myriad of things that could be classed as errors! 

In fact, as regular readers know I deliberately introduce accidents, especially when I paint. I let the paint drip, pool and coalesce. I may let it dry completely before applying more paint. Or, I might throw more turps onto the canvas, or partially wipe away some paint. I watch what happens as the paint does its own thing. I make decisions about when to intervene. All of this scrutiny and action takes place in the immediate environment of my studio, within the attention of my sensibilities, over a period of time that I can measure, predict and manage. 

I can intervene...and I don't need to have the power on or the batteries charged!



Line drawing pen and ink 1974 - 76


Cheers,
Kathryn
www.kathrynbrimblecombe-fox.com

Thursday, March 17, 2016

TWO PAINTINGS OF MY DAD

Dad Acrylic on canvas 51 x 41 cm late 70s. 


TECHNOLOGY
I've previously mentioned that my Dad, whilst a farmer [grain grower], was a HAM radio enthusiast. He started at age 12, a life-long passion...even obsession, that extended over time into computers and other contemporary digital and electronic technologies. 

I have often written about how the technology that Dad introduced into our everyday lives has influenced my life well beyond childhood; how I grew up in the 60s and 70s with gadgets and gizmos, made my first crystal set at about age 12 and how I was given movie cameras as newer versions were bought. I've previously described how most of our vehicles [cars, trucks] carried some kind of communication device. I have also mentioned that our family often heard world news before it appeared in the official news outlets. I have also written about how the flat horizon of my parent's farm was punctured by tall aerials [photo below]. How in 1957 my Dad at age 20 tracked Sputnik One and reported the data. Indeed HAMs in the US were the first to detect and monitor the satellite's signal. Dad made our first TV on the dining room table in the early 60s. AND, then there were the record players and other gadgets he made, bought, modified, installed. 

JOHN WILLIAM BRIMBLECOMBE 1937 - 2016
Well, an era has come to an end. My Dad died at home in his sleep last week. He went to bed and simply did not wake up. He still had work on his HAM shack bench [bottom photo]. After spending over half his life lurching from one medical crisis to another his death came peacefully. 



Various aerials that My Dad used to send and receive. His HAM shack is the small white building. 
This is at the farm at Pirrinuan outside Dalby, Queensland, Australia.



MY PAINTINGS OF DAD
I painted the two paintings [top and below] here in this post when I was about 16-18 years old. They are of my Dad, sitting. I talked about them at the private family funeral we held for him.

Dad had his favourite places to sit - in the lounge watching the news, on his HAM shack stool or in his office at one of his computers. Indeed, as these paintings illustrate [by virtue of their age] even back on the farm Dad's favourite places to sit were the lounge - to watch the news, read a book or eat a meal. Or, he'd be in his HAM shack. Yes, he also farmed, but when that was done, he was back in his shack! Keep in mind too, that farming also involved sitting on a tractor, in a truck or on a harvester. Once tractors and harvesters were built with cabins, air conditioning etc Dad installed communication equipment in them too. This is way before mobile phones! After retirement in the mid 80s and the arrival of the PC [and later the laptop], Dad added the office to his favoured sites to stay for long periods of time.  



Figure in a Chair - Dad Acrylic on canvas 142 x 99 mid 70s, 


ABSTRACTED 
Both of my paintings are abstracts...or abstracted. I look at them now [I've had them stored for years] and realise that whilst they do not literally look like Dad, they convey a lot about my Dad's character. He was a man of parts ie: interests, moods, passions, that were often difficult to match together or understand. He was well-read [particularly Australian or war history]. He loved classical and jazz music, but would never want to go to a concert or performance, preferring to listen to his high quality recordings on devices he'd either made or modified to amplify and improve the sound. He liked being alone and shied away from social events, especially where there were largish groups of people. He simply preferred spending time operating and making technology, reading, tinkering with machinery, restoring things etc. As a man of technology and science, his interests extended to the way he farmed. He responded very quickly to advances in farming methods and technologies, and in retirement kept a close interest in agricultural matters.

NEW PERSPECTIVES
When I look at the top painting Dad I now see it also as an aerial view over farmland. Or, as my Mum has suggested, an overview of a house and outbuildings. And, as one of my nephews pointed out at the funeral, it also has a computer-like or curcuitry-board appearance [see photo below for comparison]. Thus, with hindsight I realise that as a teenager I picked up on something that could not be explained with words or even 'seen' at the time...and I'd like to point out...it was manifested with paint and brushes!

During my childhood, shared with my two younger brothers, art and cultural activities were actively encouraged by our Mum, who continues to paint and write. I believe that my lifelong exposure to technology, and the characters associated with it, coupled with my Mother's creative influences, have provided me with a unique balance, and a depth of understanding that still manifests in images created through the freedom that painting enables. I've often experienced insights about my paintings many years after completing them and these two paintings provide further examples of how potent, informative, even prophetic and timeless, a painting can be. 



                                                           My Dad's Ham shack bench 

                                                    VK4ZWB signed off 9th March 2016


Kathryn
www.kathrynbrimblecombe-fox.com








Friday, March 04, 2016

IS THIS A POSTHUMAN?

Is this a Posthuman? Gouache and watercolour on paper 42 x 30 cm 2016



Like my previous post and painting Vascular System for Posthumansthis new painting is inspired by the reading I am undertaking for my university higher degree research studies. These studies are not focused on posthumanism, but they certainly intersect with the possibility of posthuman futures. 

QUESTIONS

So, let's ask some questions. Will we humans become posthuman by some kind of augmentation or will we assist in the creation of posthuman entities, like we create cars, ships, needles and coffee cups? If it is the latter will these entities be 'inscribed' with access to descriptions of humanity's mode of being in order to ensure some kind of 'human' future history? Is the term posthuman actually a helpful one? If there is no 'human' component, except the possibility of the entity being able to access programmed descriptions of being human, maybe it is a bit misleading? I mean, when we humans access information about stones, stars, history in the library or online [or wherever] we don't 'become' the stone, the star nor the history. So, if a posthuman has no human-ness maybe the 'human' part of 'posthuman' lulls us into thinking we humans actually have a future. Even if the term was 'posthumanlife' or 'postlife' maybe we'd think differently about how we negotiate the prospect of posthuman futures? 

However, if we are augmented and enhanced in ways that retain some kind of human-ness, even if it is only our own individual memories which include our cultural, environmental, historical and familial connections, then the 'human' with the prefix 'post' is possibly more appropriate. This kind of downloading could be input into an 'embodied' being or be entered into a non-bodied system. Do we need a body to be 'human' or retain human-ness? If the entity is an embodied one and has some retention of human-ness what physical attributes could be retained...fingernails? But, maybe we can develop ways to develop extremophile capacities that enable us to retain bodies of organic matter, but super-charged and enhanced organic matter? The other alternative is that there are no 'bodies' just downloaded minds. So if we download human minds and there is no body for the mind to be embedded into, then it is fascinating to think that being human in the so-called posthuman future could be just about mind. 

It is such fun thinking about various posthuman scenarios. I suggest that posthuman or posthumanlife modes of being are inevitable. When you think about it, even if we are completely annihilated it's axiomatic that it would trigger the posthuman. After all, the 'post' prefix does not mean that something has to replace the human. There might be just nothing, no intelligent beings. The thing that humans find sad, maddening, depressing is that without an intelligent consciousness the nothingness could not be observed. 


Is this a Posthuman?

As with Vascular System for Posthumans? I have painted an x-ray-like or scanned 'body'. The 'head' is a tree...yes my much loved transcultural/religious tree-of-life. The tree signifies a few things about life, repeating patterns, possibility. The tree is also represented in the leg-like appendages, taking on a root-like appearance. The trees, to me, seem to signify a process of transformation. However, exactly what kind of transformation is not necessarily apparent. It could be a transformation into a merged human and machine, which is represented by the binary code 'instructing' the word Human. Or, the tree could represent a 'good bye' to humans...a signal that humanity's time to return to the stars as star dust is near. This would mean that a posthuman future is one where there is nothing intelligent or conscious left. Although...there is the tantalising possibility of intelligent aliens who may, for one reason or another, detect that some kind of other intelligent entity once existed.

Looking at the painting, I am very happy with how the 'posthuman's' heart also takes on a kind of head-like appearance. Heart/head/mind connections are important ones to think about. No more so than NOW. By asking questions and thinking about human futures, we may be able to ensure that whatever future occurs, it is the best of many possible outcomes.


Other recent Posthuman Paintings



RADIO INTERVIEW

I was interviewed on Radio Adelaide a day after speaking on a four person panel 'Space and Popular Culture'. The event was hosted by the Southern hemisphere Space Studies program, run by the International Space University [Strasbourge] and teh University of South Australia.  You can listen to it HERE

Cheers,
Kathryn
www.kathrynbrimblecombe-fox.com 

Friday, February 26, 2016

VASCULAR SYSTEM FOR POSTHUMANS?


Vascular System for Posthumans? Gouache and watercolour on paper 42 x 30 cm 2016


THE POSTHUMAN

I've been thinking about posthumans and posthuman futures. Regular readers of this BLOG will have noticed my interest!

I recently read Founder and Director of the Future of Humanity Institute at Oxford University, Prof Nick Bostrom's paper I Want To Be A Posthuman When I Grow Up . He makes some very convincing arguments about why it would be in humanity's best interest to welcome posthuman modes of being. Yes, very logical arguments pertaining to healthspan, cognition and emotion. So, we'd live longer and never get sick...cures for aging and sickness! We'd have enhanced ability to think, learn, deduce, create and appreciate. Plus, the posthuman would experience emotionally stable states of happiness and well-being, healthy relationships with self and others. 

All sounds pretty terrific to me! 

AND....

Envisioning the end game ie: posthuman beings of exemplary capacities is one thing, but how do we get there? The 'road' is a long and curly one! What if there are occurrences that render the best possible posthuman mode of being impossible, compromised, vulnerable? I mean, to be posthuman entails enhancements and augmentations to alleviate the constraints of biology, so there are processes to be developed and achieved. As Bostrom, in another paper The Transhumanist FAQ notes there are a few ways to become posthuman: 
  • “completely synthetic artificial intelligences
  • “enhanced uploads”
  • “result of making many smaller but cumulatively profound augmentations to a biological human.”  Nick Bostrom, “Transhumanist FAQ: A General Introduction Version 2.1” (2003), 5. 
I ask myself, what if all three posthuman ways of being occurred because consensus about choosing one mode was not successful? Would a hierarchy develop? Would a 'haves' and the 'have nots' develop? Would the utopic nature of the hoped-for outcome actually render it impossible, therefore exposing vulnerabilities? 



VASCULAR SYSTEM FOR POSTHUMANS

There are lots of questions to be asked. And, it's fun thinking about them. And, it's the asking of questions that has inspired my new work on paper Vascular System for Posthumans?

I've combined my much-loved age-old transcultural/religious tree-of-life with binary code again. As regular readers know, I see the tree's repeating branching patterns as some kind of template for the universe...even possibly one where posthumans 'roam'. 

In this painting an x-ray/scan type impression of a body is achieved. Yet, binary code 'instructing' Am I? repeats itself along major vessels in the human vascular system. These erupt into cascading tree appendages and a branching-expanded mind! As I was painting this image I thought it could represent the merging of human and machine or even a completely synthetic AI's curcuitry or maybe its idea of what it is...holding onto a remnant of represented human-ness in its synthetic 'brain'. I also thought maybe it could represent the 'picture in mind' of 'self' for an enhanced and uploaded mind, even if it does not have a 'body'? Or the image could illustrate "cumulatively profound augmentations to a biological human"...maybe the branching trees representing humanity's expanded presence throughout the universe...well lets stick with the galaxy first then we'll go intergalactic!

Other recent Posthuman Paintings

Picturing the Posthuman Gouache and watercolour on paper 30 x 42 cm 2015


Cheers,
Kathryn
www.kathrynbrimblecombe-fox.com 


Friday, February 19, 2016

AUSTRALIAN LANDSCAPE CUTOUT

Australian Landscape Cutout Oil on linen 50 x 70 cm 2015


AUSTRALIAN LANDSCAPE CUTOUT

This is a painting from last year, but I have not presented here on my BLOG yet. And, now here it is! I had fun with this painting - playing with cosmological ideas of landscape. As regular readers know I suggest that whilst Earth is our home, the Universe is our environment. In my work I attempt to untether landscape from Earth-bound horizons. In Australian Landscape Cutout the pale blue dot of Earth is placed against its Universal environment. And, the continent of Australia has been extracted to reveal the Universal embrace where star dust connects everything. 

Privileging a particular landscape is not my intention. Rather, I suggest that privileging a particular continental landscape becomes a myopic exercise when placed within the literal Universal environment, but also when placed against concerns about the future of humanity. Indeed, from a vast distance Earth's geography disappears. This was clearly illustrated by the famous photograph 'Pale Blue Dot' taken by the spacecraft Voyager 1 when as it left the outer solar system in 1990. Australian Landscape Cutout relates to another painting where I have extracted Australia from the Earth. This painting is called Privileged Landscape? ... notice the question mark!

With talk of settlements on Mars and discoveries of potential habitable exoplanets orbiting the so-called Goldilocks zone of distant stars, suddenly there is the possibility of humanity extending its reach beyond Earth and even our solar system. I suggest that for this to happen we need to orient ourselves by extending notions of landscape. After all, in language we have extended landscape in the way we describe features on other planets, moons and so on. We use terms such as valley, mountain, plain, haze and more. By coupling language with extensions of how we think about and represent landscape, I propose we can grapple with ideas of life after Earth, life after the human even!


                                        Privileged Landscape Oil on linen 80 x 140 cm 2015


SPACE AND POPULAR CULTURE - ADELAIDE

Regular readers will know that I recently participated in an exciting event in Adelaide, Sth. Australia. I was one of four panellists for a public event 'Space and Popular Culture'. The event was for the Southern Hemisphere Space Studies Program from the International Space University [ISU: Strasbourg, France] and co-hosted at the University of Sth Australia.

The four panellists were space archaeologist Dr. Alice Gorman, me, underwater performance artist and Everest mountaineer, Dr. Sarah Jane Pell, and comedian and Mars One astronaut candidate Josh Richards. 

Please read my last post HERE for more of the details, video link etc.


RADIO INTERVIEW

I was interviewed on Radio Adelaide a day or so after the event. You can listen to it HERE


COSMOLOGY

I read this amazingly interesting essay In The Beginning by Ross Andersen in Aeon Magazine. Please read it and you will understand why I paint the way I do, why I think about the things I do, why I feel a need to express them. Andersen wrote one line that particularly grabbed me "Art, literature, religion and philosophy ignore cosmology at their peril." 

Well...all I can say...with my hand over my heart is...I do not ignore cosmology.

Cheers,
Kathryn
www.kathrynbrimblecombe-fox.com