Paul Brown

Alien spaces

When we are all dead, which artists will our Alien inheritors remember? Paul Brown is one artist who aims to be numbered amongst those who are remembered.

In the novel Holy Fire, a Bruce Stirling character says, "The human condition is over, nature is over, art is over, consciousness is ductile. Science is an infinite powder keg. We confront a new reality formerly obscured by the inbuilt limits of mammalian primates. We must create work which brings this new reality to the surface … ".1 The speaker is Paul from 2090 Stuttgart-but it could be Paul from 1997 Brisbane , on-line from his recent show at Gilchrist Galleries. The exhibition titled Alien Spaces was part of the eMedia segment of the Brisbane Biennale.

Paul Brown makes work with computers-he wants to make it for computers-but, in the imperfect meantime, he is making it for himself and for us. We humans will one day give way to Aliens which/who, Brown forecasts, will be machine-based and made here on earth, not blue lizard beasties from the other side of the galaxy.

When he encountered computational machines as a still young art student, Paul Brown saw the potential for computers to create a new life form more successful than homosapiens. He began at once to structure his work towards creating systems that make art independently. Work that would be for these post-human aliens.

At base of all Brown's images in the exhibition are systems that are defined, that don't involve inspiration. These systems, he says, allow him to stand back from personal inner turmoil. This base structure or system for making artwork is expressed in a simple binary string of 0-67 which defines the events on the computer screen. The work starts from pure number juggling, the processes are automated and can go on indefinitely – at the machine's pleasure?

The content of this line of code is trivial, but because Brown is in control of the 'harvesting' moment, the moment when an image is complete, in his terms, the systems have the effect of giving him a vehicle to map his own interests and what he calls 'infatuations'. This process of deciding when a work is finished is determined intuitively, in terms of his subjectivity, his wisdom as an artist trained in western, and humanist, cultural traditions.

Brown talks of his distaste for the romantic tradition of art dating from the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries and yet he acknowledges his own romantic inclinations: "I find myself railing against museum stuff and gilt frames and then I hang my current work in gilded frames". The names of these works relate to human experience and are even a touch romantic-Dreamtime, Swimming Pool, Night Sky. What will a machine make of such titles? Perhaps these titles are handles which enable us into works that are, in the end, aimed at an 'alien' sensibility? And anyway will a post-human machine alien see an image in the conventional sense? Rather, its pleasure might lie in looking at the pure ecstasy of the processes themselves.

If you missed the show a catalogue of Paul Brown's visual work from early days is available at


1. Stirling, Bruce, Holy Fire, Phoenix, London, 1996, pp. 154-155.