Apparently, some of the most famous American painters of the 20th century were also instruments of war.
According to curator Baden Pailthorpe "the CIA is often credited with supporting the American abstract impressionist movement (Jackson Pollock, etc) to counter soviet realism." Say what? "Yep, it's true... spies are very creative people!" (Pailthorpe suggests you read up more here).
In the new exhibition that he’s curated for Screen Space, Pailthorpe is exploring more recent military influences on art and culture. "In addition to being well-funded, the military is a successful incubator for technologies partly because of the needs of the military in war," he explains, "the need to communicate, the need for logistics and the need to be aware of a distant location through accurate, up-to-date images."
Many of these new technologies have eventually filtered down into our world, in slightly different guises. "It just happens that technologies for tracking and surveillance have very effective applications in the civilian world, from law enforcement to targeted, location specific advertising and other corporate advantages."
The internet (developed in part through the US military’s DARPA) as well as many mapping, surveillance and communication technologies, started out as military tools. Now however, "We use these technologies every day to engage with society, and these technologies shape the way we experience the world."
Military Vision isn’t entirely critical of the militarisation of everyday life. "There are many positive impacts," Pailthorpe agrees, "but I think it is important to understand the way the language of politics subtly informs our cultures and shapes our views."
"Just think of television shows like Border Security," says Pailthorpe, referring to Channel 7’s high-ranking program about customs and immigration law enforcement. "The short distance between media corporations, security organisations and the government can be worrying, given the real impact this can have on political debate."
The three artists featured in the exhibition share Pailthorpe’s interest (and concerns). For his work Heatseeking, American artist Jordan Crandall shot a series of films at the San Diego/Tijuana border between Mexico and the US. Using different surveillance and stealth cameras Crandall considers the increasingly sophisticated (and combative) ways the border is being policed.
Australian artist Denis Beaubois references "the well-known bomb-camera vision first released in the 1991 Gulf War," but using a target much closer to home. Swiss artist Matthieu Cherubini “combines Wikileaks data from the Afghan War Logs with Google Earth satellite images, and real-time deaths in the seminal first-person shooter Counter-Strike."