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Agnes Meyer-Brandis: Moon Goose Colony, Pollinaria, 2011

On Saturday i went to The Arts Catalyst's Open Think Tank Late Breakfast, the round table discussion was part of a series of events that frame the exhibition Republic of the Moon. Both were very good. The exhibition and the panel, that is.

The round table, orchestrated by artists in residence Sue Corke and Hagen Betzwieser from We Colonised the Moon, explored the idea of moon colonisation from the perspective of science, politics, theology, philosophy, and art. The main question panelist were looking at was: Should We Colonise the Moon? What's the future for the Moon - theme park or quarry?

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Panel 'Should We Colonise the Moon? What's the future for the Moon - theme park or quarry?' on Saturday 11 at the Bargehouse. Photo by The Arts Catalyst

The first speaker was Ian Crawford, Professor of Planetary Science and Astrobiology at Birkbeck College, University of London. His research is mainly concerned with lunar science and exploration, and he has a significant interest in the future of space exploration.

Crawford started by answering the question Should We Colonise the Moon? with a simple "Yes, with caveat!"
Yes, because it would be good for the human race & for philosophy, to expand the horizons and the perspective on ourselves and on the universe.

The caveats are:
- The colonization should be an international endeavour (we don't want another Cold War space race);
- It should be regulated. Parts of the Moon and of Mars are scientifically valuable. It would be a pity if they fell into purely mercantile hands and/or became mere tourist destinations;
- The physical environment is obviously very different from the ones colons found in the US or in Australia. Genuine colonization will be difficult. It would probably start with scientific outposts, small groups of people would be sent to live on a base, like the ones currently sent for research in Antarctica. Other uses of the moon such as hotels for tourists or mining for mineral resources would have to be regulated.

The United Nations treaty about the moon currently states that no one legally owns the moon but there is a case for developing the law as private companies may want to exploit it for its minerals.

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Liliane Lijn, moonmeme

The other part of the question was What's the future for the Moon - theme park or quarry?

The moon's surface area is roughly 10% bigger than Africa.
Any space colonisation should be a unifying project for humanity. A step in that direction has been made when 12 of the main space agencies around the world have published the "Global Exploration Roadmap" (PDF) which declares the international group's intention to work together to mount robotic and human missions to the moon, nearby asteroids, and to Mars.

At this point, someone in the audience (probably Rob La Frenais) asked about the limited scientific equipment that can be taken to the moon because it seems that on board, priority is given to supplies that would enable human beings to actually survive in space.

Professor Crawford explained that the moon is a completely airless environment but that there might be ways to extract lunar water and oxygen. For water, we would first need to confirm the existence of ice craters on the surface of the moon. The presence of ice would greatly facilitate colonization. Oxygen could be extracted from the very dry lunar rocks. It would, however, be a very energy intensive process.

(More about the views of Ian Crawford on Moon exploitation in The Telegraph.)

Another brilliant contribution was from Rev Dr Jeremy Law, the Dean of Chapel for Canterbury Christ Church University, who had been invited to give a theological perspective on moon colonization.

He made 3 important observations:

The Earth is a nurturing realm, whereas the moon is a life-denying environment. A human colony on the moon would be a celebration of human achievement, another triumph of humanity over nature.

A lunar colony has nothing to do with the colonization of the New World, it would mostly serve the interests of the already successful.

Finally, the economic investment required means that the narrative of capitalism (with its notions of efficiency and competition) would simply continue. Scientific research on the moon, for example, would thus be determined by those who can finance it.

Law believes that the main contribution of a lunar colony is the way it could reshape human religion on earth.

The last speaker was Benedict Singleton, a strategist with a background in design and philosophy. He is the author of the forthcoming book The Long Con, an alternative history of design, and regularly writes on the politics and philosophy of technology.

Singleton believes that we need deeper narratives to understand what it means to achieve moon colonization.

Another interesting point was raised by Sue Corke who reminded us of Thomas Austin, the man responsible for introducing rabbits in Australia. As we know, he had no idea that a few rabbits released on his estate would lead to an invasion of the country. At the time he had declared, "The introduction of a few rabbits could do little harm and might provide a touch of home, in addition to a spot of hunting."

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Could the equivalent happen on the moon with something human colons would bring along? Rob noted that actually in 1969, the NASA put everything that came back from the Moon - from rocks to hardware to the Apollo 12 crew - in quarantine and ran tests to make sure they didn't come back covered with new and potentially harmful microbes or bacteria. As you can see in the photo above, it must have been a hilariously pleasant experience.

Of course, it was about protecting the Earth from potential moon germs. Not the opposite.

That's it for my notes about the Saturday morning panel. As for the exhibition, just go! It has humour, intelligence and it's also really good art. You don't often get all these ingredients mixed in one show.

Agnes Meyer-Brandis is teaching geese how to fly to the moon, Leonid Tishkov never travels without his own personal moon, Katie Paterson has Beethoven's Moonlight Sonata reflected from the moon's surface via Earth, Liliane Lijn plans to write on the Moon using a laser beam, WE COLONISED THE MOON run a series of workshops and events as the Republic of the Moon's official art residents.

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Leonid Tishkov, Private Moon in Formosa

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Leonid Tishkov, Private Moon, 2009

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Leonid Tishkov, Private Moon Moscow studio of the artist

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Agnes Meyer-Brandis, Moon Goose Analogue

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WE COLONISED THE MOON, Live Moon Smelling by artists in residence in Republic of the Moon, London 2014

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Katie Paterson, Earth-Moon-Earth

There's only a few days left to listen to Nicola Triscott and Ian Crawford discussing Moon ownership on BBC radio 4.

Republic of the Moon is on view until 2 February 2014 at the temporary residence of The Arts Catalyst: Bargehouse, Oxo Tower Wharf on London's South Bank.

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The new episode of #A.I.L - artists in laboratories, the weekly radio programme about art and science i present on ResonanceFM, London's favourite radio art station, is aired tomorrow Wednesday afternoon at 4pm.

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WE COLONISED THE MOON, Enter At Own Risk, presented by The Arts Catalyst in Republic of the Moon, FACT Liverpool 2011

My guest in the studio tomorrow will be Nicola Triscott, the founder and Director of The Arts Catalyst, a UK arts organisation that sets up events, curates exhibitions, releases publications and commissions ambitious artworks that  engage with science. The Arts Catalyst, believe or not, is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year so we'll be talking about the art&science scene of the early 1990s and also about the embassy for The Republic of the Moon which the Arts Catalyst has opened a few days ago at the Bargehouse, on the Southbank.

I've been inviting artists working with the arts catalyst to the resonanceFM studio ever since i started this program so i thought that it would only be fair to invite its founder and director in the studios of resonanceFM.

The radio show will be aired this Wednesday 15 January at 16:00, London time. Early risers can catch the repeat next Tuesday at 6.30 am. If you don't live in London, you can listen to the online stream or wait till we upload the episodes on soundcloud one day.

Photo on the homepage: Leonid Tishkov, Private Moon in Formosa, presented by The Arts Catalyst in Republic of the Moon, London 2014.

Republic of the Moon is on view until 2 February 2014 at the temporary residence of The Arts Catalyst: Bargehouse, Oxo Tower Wharf on London's South Bank.

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The Drone that Filmed the Opening of its own Exhibition: Video still

I don't know why i didn't visit Suzanne Treister 's solo show at Annely Juda in London as soon as it opened. I guess i've been lazy and since the lazy is always rewarded, the show has been extended till 22 January, giving me another chance to see it.

In pure Treister fashion, In The Name Of Art and other recent works unwraps the extremely dense networks that tie together secret detention facilities run by the CIA, government control, mass surveillance technologies, military intelligence and counter-intelligence, drone operations that kill and drone operations that entertain the gallery-going crowd. You want to dismiss it as conspiracy theories but Snowden, Wikileaks, and human rights reports urge you to pay attention. At the risk of making you uncomfortable.

Much of Treister's recent work maps ways that human intelligence and military intelligence currently interact and work on each other. She explores how in a world increasingly determined by pervasive technologies and the demands of the military and security arms of government and state, new relations between the observer and the observed have been established and new subjectivities formed.

The work The Drone that Filmed the Opening of its own Exhibition did exactly what its title says. Treister brought a drone at the opening to film the exhibition and its visitors, highlighting the expanding role of UAVs in both military and civil life. The catalogue-newspaper accompanying the exhibition reminds us that the performance is far from being purely entertaining and anecdotic as military drones have killed between 3,500 and 5,000 people (and not all of them were 'combatants' as we know) since 2002.

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The Drone that Filmed the Opening of its own Exhibition

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The Drone that Filmed the Opening of its own Exhibition: Video still

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The Drone that Filmed the Opening of its own Exhibition: Video still

Camouflage was probably the work that intrigued me the most. Treister sourced documents related to the U.S. Department of Defense's GIG and the NSA's PRISM surveillance programmes. Both programmes are for use in times of war, in crisis and in peace. Treister further obstructed the content of leaked graphics from internal power-point presentations about PRISM by painting patterns over them.

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Camouflage, 2013

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Camouflage, 2013

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Camouflage, 2013

The abstract black shapes of CIA Black Sites are supposed to silhouette secret CIA interrogation centres. The drawings directly reference Malevich's Suprematism compositions to evoke the CIA's support of abstract art in the 1950s while the title of the work alludes to the secret prisons where terrorism suspects are held, interrogated and kept out of the view of the public and the law.

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CIA Black Sites #1, 2010

The KGB works in the ART FOR OLIGARCHS series (a series which also includes a stunning STASI Wallpaper that recall the ubiquity of pre-digital surveillance and which i was silly enough not to photograph) points to the overlap between people who were powerful in the security agencies of the USSR and the new turbo-capitalist powerbrokers and the Post-Soviet oligarchy that the Western contemporary art market has become so dependent on.

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Art for Oligarchs # 15

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Art for Oligarchs # 7 (study)

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Art for Oligarchs # 10

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Art for Oligarchs. Installation view at Annely Juda Fine Art, London 2013

In each orchis militaris flower, the sepals and side petals are gathered together to form a pointed "helmet" (whence it gets its name). By this point you will probably see evil and machination everywhere, so please do let your imagination run wild.

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ORCHIS MILITARIS

emeyefive looks at the life of Stella Rimington, the first head of the British Intelligence agency MI5 whose name was made known to the general public. The name of the director of the agency had so far been regarded as a state secret but an investigative campaign by the New Statesman and The Independent newspaper published photos of her, forcing MI5 to roll out on a new programme of transparency.

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emeyefive, 2010

Suzanne Treister, In The Name Of Art and other recent works is open until 22 January 2014 at Annely Juda Fine Art in London. DON'T MISS IT!

Previous post about Treister's work: HEXEN.

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Alpha-ville & BFI present Ryoichi Kurokawa, syn_ . Photo by Federica Landi

The new episode of #A.I.L - artists in laboratories, the weekly radio programme about art and science i present on ResonanceFM, London's favourite radio art station, is aired tomorrow Wednesday afternoon at 4pm.

My guests in the studio will be Carmen Salas and Estela Oliva, the founders of Alpha-ville, a London-based organisation with a mission to connect people working in the fields of art, technology, design and digital culture. Alpha-ville has been busy since 2009 organising events, commissioning new works and curating programmes for arts and cultural organisations, festivals, promoters, events and agencies.

During the show we will be talking about what it takes to be a digital curator and producer today, and we will also discuss EXCHANGE, Alpha-ville's upcoming conference which will bring together some of the most talented digital artists and designers but also the community of Londoners working at the crossroads of art, technology, design and digital culture. That's going to be on January 17th and last time i checked there were still a few places available.

The radio show will be aired this Wednesday 8 January at 16:00, London time. Early risers can catch the repeat next Tuesday at 6.30 am. If you don't live in London, you can listen to the online stream or wait till we upload the episodes on soundcloud one day.

Photo on the homepage: 24 Sep - Hearn Street Emptyset 077.

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Trees, Woolsington, 1967-8 by Gordon Ryder of Ryder and Yates. Listed grade II. Photo James O Davies/English Heritage

Brutal and Beautiful: Saving the Twentieth Century was a very small but enlightening exhibition that celebrated post-war listed architecture in England. I went to see the show one day before it closed so, for once, i have a good excuse for the ridiculously late review. It took place at the Quadriga Gallery, on the second floor of Wellington Arch right in the middle of Hyde Park Corner. I don't think i had ever been to Hyde Park Corner before.


Brutal & Beautiful: What is Brutalism?, one of the films by Alun Bull, James O Davies and Leon Seth about twentieth century listed buildings, written and presented by architectural historian, Elain Harwood

Brutal and Beautiful, thus. The images below speak for themselves and I won't need to comment much on the adjective 'beautiful', even if, for many people, their aesthetic qualities are somewhat debatable. But brutal, in this context, requires a few lines of explanation. It comes from the term New Brutalism coined by architects Alison and Peter Smithson in 1953 to define a style that used the béton brut (raw concrete) as much as it used light and innovative materials. The term probably contributed to the unpopularity of the style but in fact, what the Smithsons had in mind was not concrete aggressively poured all over the country but 'honesty of expression and of natural materials.' This is therefore not a show about brutalism even though the style has a strong presence in the gallery.

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Engineering Building, Leicester, 1961-1963 by Stirling and Gowan. Listed grade IIº. Photo James O Davies/English Heritage

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Centre Point, designed 1959-1962 by George Marsh of Richard Selfert and Partners, built in 1962-1966. Listed grade II. Photo James O Davies/English Heritage

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RAF Upper Heyford, 1950-1. Photo © James Davies, English Heritage

The exhibition presents brutal and beautiful cathedrals, libraries private houses, landscapes, war memorials, schools and industrial buildings. They were built between 1945 and the 1980s, in times of austerity and boldness. Each of them has been listed which means that they may not be demolished, extended, or altered without special permission from the local planning authority. Buildings and landscapes can be considered for designation once they are 30 years old. Younger structures can be protected when they are under severe threat or are considered outstanding, that's how the Lloyd's building became the youngest listed edifice. And ultimately, the exhibition invites us to rethink what makes a historic building:

Now the Royal Festival Hall and Coventry Cathedral are popularly admired but at the time post-war listings were fiercely debated and the future Tate Modern was rejected. Brutal & Beautiful looks at our love/hate relationship with England's recent architectural past and asks 'what is worth saving?'

It's fascinating to see how buildings that have been much maligned are now seen as iconic. Think of the Trellick Tower --and the smaller but equally arresting Balfron Tower-- by Ernö Goldfinger, an architect as famous for his arresting council blocks as he is for his unpleasant character so much so that, as you probably know already, Ian Fleming named one of James Bond's villains after him.

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Trellick Tower, Cheltenham Estate, Kensington, 1968-1972 by Ernö Golfinger. Listed grade IIº

The Barbi! The upswept balconies, i read in the gallery, reduce wind resistance.

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Cromwell Tower, Barbican, City of London, 1964-1973 by Chamberlin, Powell and Bon. Listed grade II. Photo James O Davies/English Heritage

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Photo James O Davies/English Heritage

That said, all's not rosy and cheerful in the world of Brutalism. The Heygate Estate, in Elephant & Castle, provided the gloomy setting for violent scenes in the Luther tv series until its demolition started and John Madin's Birmingham Central Library will be teared down in 2014. But, hey, at least the the Preston Bus Station is doing ok.

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The Preston Bus Station, 1968-1969 by Keith Ingham and Charles Wilson of Building Design Partnership with E. H. Stazicker. Photo Dr Greg via wikipedia

And i'm going to leave you here with some brutal and not so brutal archi porn:

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Photo © James Davies, English Heritage

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British Gas Engineering Research Station, Killingworth, 1966-7. Designed by architect Peter Yates of Ryder & Yates. Listed Grade IIº. Photo © James Davies, English Heritage

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British Gas Engineering Research Station, Killingworth, 1966-7. Designed by architect Peter Yates of Ryder & Yates. Listed Grade IIº

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Lloyd's Building, City of London, 1981-1986 by Richard Rogers and Partners. Listed Grade I. Photo © James Davies, English Heritage

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Metropolitan Cathedral of Christ the King, Liverpool, 1962-7 by Frederick Gibbero and Partners. Listed grade IIº

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Metropolitan Cathedral of Christ the King, Liverpool, 1962-7 by Frederick Gibbero and Partners. Listed grade IIº

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The Royal Festival Hall, London, 1949-51 by the London County Council. Listed grade I. Photo: James O Davies/English Heritage

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Library (Phillips Building) to the School of Oriental and African Studies, 1964-1974 by Denys Lasdun and Partners. Listed grade IIº. Photo James O Davies/English Heritage

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Templewood School, Welwyn Garden City, Hertfordshire County Council, 1949-1950. Job Architect A.W. Cleeve Barr. Listed Grade IIº. Photo via The Decorated School

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Rogers House, Wimbledon, City of London, 1981-86 by Richard Rogers and Partners. Listed grade I

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Royal College of Physicians, Regent's Park, London, 1960-4 by Denys Lasdun and Partners. Photo: James O Davies/English Heritage


Brutal & Beautiful: The Royal College of Physicians, Regent's Park, London, designed by Sir Denys Lasdun. One of the films about twentieth century listed buildings, written and presented by architectural historian, Elain Harwood and screened at the exhibition Brutal and Beautiful

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Stockwell Bus Depot, 1951-3 by Adie, Button and Partners. Listed grade IIº. Photo: James O Davies/English Heritage

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Stockwell Bus Depot, 1951-3 by Adie, Button and Partners. Listed grade IIº. Photo Courtauld Institute of Art

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Bracken House, City of London, 1955-9 by Albert Richardson for the Financial Times. Listed grade IIº

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Elliott School, Putney, 1953-6, by London County Council. Photo: James O Davies/English Heritage

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Apollo Pavilion at Peterlee in County Durham, 1963-1970 by Victor Pasmore. Listed grade II*. Photo James / cacophonyx

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B2 Prefab, 55 The Crapen, Cashes Green, Stroud, 1948

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Turn End, Buckinghamshire, built in 1967 by Peter Aldington. Photo James O Davies/English Heritage


Brutal & Beautiful: Peter Aldington and Turn End. Shot by photographers and filmmakers Alun Bull and James O Davies and screened at the exhibition Brutal and Beautiful

The photographs in the exhibition were by James O. Davies. They will appear in a forthcoming book, Space, Hope and Brutalism: English Architecture 1945-1975 which will be published next year by Yale University Press. I'll definitely get my hands on that one.

Related: Utopia London.

Brutal and Beautiful: Saving the Twentieth Century is thus closed. The next exhibition to open at the Quadriga Gallery, however, seems to be equally interesting: Almost Lost: London's Buildings Loved and Loathed. It will run from 4 December to 2 February 2014.

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Northern Ireland. South Armagh. Golf 40 (salent tower). 2006

I used to go to the Imperial War Museum in London just to watch the hanging planes, the V2, the tanks, etc. The place is under renovation right now and i stopped paying attention to their programme (the war machines are wrapped up somewhere.) Big mistake! A few weeks ago, they've opened Donovan Wylie: Vision as Power, a show that explores the impact of military architecture on the landscape.

Vision as Power brings together five projects from radically different parts of the world but that are interconnected through the surveillance apparatus. Donovan Wylie grew up in Belfast during the Troubles and living under military surveillance has had an undeniable impact on his work.

The Maze was one of Wylie's earliest investigations into the relationship between power, surveillance and control during the Troubles.

Built in 1976 to house terrorist prisoners, the Maze prison segregated men according to their political beliefs and membership of paramilitary organizations.

Wylie started working on the series in 2002, just as the prison had closed under the terms of the Good Friday Agreement and the last inmates had been transferred to other prisons.

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Northern Ireland. The Maze Prison. H-Block 5. Excercise Yard B. 2003

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Northern Ireland. The Maze Prison. Inertia Stage 2. 2003

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Northern Ireland. The Maze Prison. Chapel, Phase 3. 2003

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Main Gate, North Wall, Maze Prison, Northern Ireland, 2003 © Donovan Wylie/Magnum

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Donovan Wylie, Fence. Deconstruction of Maze Prison. Maze Prison. Northern Ireland, 2009, from the series The Maze. Courtesy of the artist

Wylie then extended his research to the British Watchtowers, the surveillance architecture built at the height of the Troubles, when South Armagh was one of the most heavily militarised areas of Northern Ireland. The British army built a network of watchtowers and observation posts in order to control cross-border smuggling and paramilitary attacks but also to maintain an intimidating presence.

As part of the Northern Ireland Peace Process, the watchtowers were dismantled between 2005 and 2007. As Whyle documented their presence in the surrounding countryside, British troops were deploying to Afghanistan, taking with them elements of the Northern Ireland watchtowers.

The Maze informed the watchtowers, and the watchtowers informed the Afghanistan work. I wanted to show this evolution, the photographer explained in an interview for the British Journal of Photography. When I was making the pictures of the watchtowers, they were coming down [being dismantled] and many of the soldiers working on them were going to Afghanistan. Elements of the structures were being taken to Afghanistan. Modern warfare is very transient, it is built to move, but basically it's the same idea regardless of nationality or politics or whatever - take the high ground and use vision as a method of strength and protection. Ultimately what I think is fascinating is how we use landscape as a tool of war.

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Northern Ireland. South Armagh. Golf 20. 2005

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Northern Ireland. Observational sanger, Cookstown. County Tyrone. 2000

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Romeo 12, South Armagh, Northern Ireland, 2005

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Northern Ireland. South Armagh. Crossmaglen town. Golf 650. 2006

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Northern Ireland, 2006. South east view of Golf 40, British Army surveillance post in South Armagh

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Northern Ireland. South Armagh. Golf 40AB. North east view. 2006

From 2006 to 2011, Canada sent nearly 3,000 military personnel to Afghanistan where military engineers designed a system of outposts throughout Kandahar province. Built on natural promontories and commanding multiple lines of sight, these outposts offer a fascinating parallel with the British Watchtower, as both networks ensured oppression and control in the name of a "war" against terrorists.

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Donovan Wylie, FOB Masum Ghar, Kandahar Province, Afghanistan, 2010, © Donovan Wylie/Magnum Photos

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OP1. Forward Operating Base, Masum Ghar. Kandahar Province, Afghanistan, 2010 © Donovan Wylie/Magnum

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OP3. Forward Operating Base, Masum Ghar. Kandahar Province, Afghanistan, 2010 © Donovan Wylie/Magnum

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Watchtower, Combat Operating Post, Folad, Kandahar Province, Afghanistan, 2011 © Donovan Wylie/Magnum

Another series shown at the IWM explores American defensive structures in Baghdad, Iraq. The Green Zone was the international administrative zone of central Baghdad, controlled by the Coalition forces during the Second Iraq War. Wylie saw similarities in the way people were contained in the Green Zone and how they were imprisoned in the Maze.

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Iraq. Baghdad, 2008. The "Green Zone"

Wylie's series Arctic closes the exhibition. The white and extreme environment is home to cyber radar stations unmanned and operated electronically to detect any presence seeking out lucrative natural resources along Canada's Arctic frontier made more fragile by global warming and the new routes though the Northwest Passage it enabled. Once again, the only analogy is with dystopian sci-fi. To Wylie, they are a striking example of surveillance attempting to deter future conflict.

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Canadian Arctic, 2013. LAB 1 Royal Canadian Air Force Short Range Radar installation

Ultimately, the exhibition reminds us that surveillance is not confined to the spaces of military conflict. Surveillance is the default characteristic of our society, as the revelations about the extent of mass online surveillance have recently demosntrated.

Donovan Wylie: Vision as Power is at the Imperial War Museum in London until 21 April 2014.

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