Technology affordances

Patrick Metcalfe Affordance of technology
IMG_9651
IMG_9652
IMG_9653

primarily this piece is concerned with the relationship between technology and power. How technology affords power to individuals and how those individuals use their power to create technologies, usually to further entrench their status. The selected imagery in this work is therefore an attempt to present the evidence of this relationship and its impact on colonialism and subsequently global hierarchies. Exemplified by the continual exploitation of the Global South necessary in part for the sustaining of advanced technology, which requires cheaply attainable natural resources. Doing this creates a viability for more advanced technology, often employed violently against those providing the resources. This creates a problematic circle of unequal power dynamics, between those that provide resources, such as iron and carbon and those that combine those metals to make steel weapons. 

This trend is shown in this piece through inclusion of imagery which arcs round the central element. Coursing the story of exploitation in Africa, in particular what is currently known as the Democratic Republic of Congo. The first image represents the occupation in 1855 by Belgium of Congo. It is mirrored by a U.S. Marine fighting in Vietnam in 1968, drawing comparison between technologically advanced imperialist nations exercising the affordance of power granted to them by advanced weaponry. The comparison of these images also makes reference to Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness set in the Congo and adapted by Francis Ford Copella for the Vietnam War film Apocalypse Now. 

 

Continuing from here, the history of the 20th century is plotted with images that define it as the space age. Ham the first primate in space orbits earth, another resource taken from Africa to service the continuation of exploration of new frontiers. The relationship between colonialism and space exploration is exemplified further with images of Han Solo from Star Wars and The Starship Enterprise from Star Trek. Both signify the mental step from colonising and mapping the earth to subjecting space to the same treatment. The attitudes expressed in 19th century literature such as Tarzan and Lost World are replicated in 20th century cinema by westerns such as The Searchers or Stage Coach. In the modern era, Lord Roxton or John Wayne have been superseded by the Space Cowboy, Han Solo. Waist coated and armed with a blaster in his hip holster. He personifies the colonial hero as much as the images below him. 

 

The right side of this piece concerns itself with the costs of this boundless thirst for expansion. The Challenger is depicted as it propels itself into the atmosphere. The power and ferocity of the explosion in this picture is reminiscent of Bittenger’s eerie Mushroom Cloud paintings. The violence of this combustion and its technological complexity draws an uneasy parallel with the atomic explosions that preceded it. The other parallel is the fact that neither would be possible without resources mined in countries such as Congo. 

 

The viewer is again reminded of the cost of selective advancement with the depiction of a cobalt miner in todays D.R.C descending into a mine, the produce of which will go into technologies created by companies such as Apple, Microsoft, Amazon and Tesla. The latter of these companies CEO's are now the two richest men on earth, following in a long line of colonialists who've previously occupied this position. Their pet projects occupy the central part of this piece. A rocket prepared for launch, simmers with the potential. An atmosphere created both through its inactive state and also through its surroundings, an open natural space to a “Western” viewer being one of potential. The jungle is also to most an alien landscape and in this picture takes the role of space, or some planetary destination, wild, "unexplored" and dangerous. The jungles inhabitants too, like the aliens that the occupants of this rocket may encounter, represent savagery, purely for being able to "survive" in this "hostile" environment. An Environment that will soon be categorised, speculated and commodified as has been the fate of so many places visited upon by western adventures. 

 

The border of this piece contends with the this fact and is an attempt to show the relationship between The West and the land it has occupied by force. Made up of emojis, some real others invented it draws attention to the theme of technologies relationship  with power and vis versa. Highlighting the one of the fundamental principles of capitalism, and one of the reasons that it is unsustainable in the climate crisis: the need to reduce so as to quantify. This reductionism is perfectly illustrated through these perfect illustrations, the iconographication of real, living, organic things reduces them to an unreal entity able to be encapsulated and reproduced. Devaluing their existence and changing our relationship with the real thing. A tree, an organism that teaches us through its age, inspires us through its form, may feed us, may clothe us, may provide shelter, materials and certainly oxygen, becomes a 2 dimensional image, able to be summoned and removed at the whim of the user.  This commodification of entities as complex as a tree, a butterfly or a whale, creates an idea of them as replaceable, infinite and by association worthless. This was my reason for creating a whole new series of emojis, this time of the most endangered groups of peoples on the planet. An attempt to further illustrate the de-sensitisation initiated with reduction, these emojis characterise the colonial narrative of exploitation, and commodification, replaced by consumable versions of themselves while the real thing is exterminated. 

The last element of this piece, possibly its focal point, represents in a way the culmination of the Artworks concept. The creation of new technologies viable only through the violence of colonialism concludes with this, the birth of something new. Emerging from an uncanny floral form is a human looking infant but with a chrome metalloid skin. This new creature is an attempt to depict the birth of artificial intelligence. Screaming out and bursting with different type of potential to the rocket. Where the rocket departs the infant has arrived.

 

The creation of artificial intelligence should necessitate our embrace of a new non-colonial approach to society. The relationship of power and technology explained in this piece shows that otherwise this new form of intelligence will be imbued with a colonialist mindset, its relationship with the world shaped by the actions of its designers. Themselves successors to wealth earned through exploitation and extermination, will this new form of life, an inheritor of these benefits seek to mirror this system for self enhancement and therefore destroy our inferior organic selves? The viewer can only find the answer to this question by confronting it as the culmination of our actions. We must venture into the jungle, the only place for this new development to manifest itself. After all it was where we too as a species where born. In the heart of Darkness.