Futurist Painting for GCSB Boardroom


Futurist Painting for GCSB Boardroom
Acrylic on canvas
4 panels, each 1000mm x 1000mm


Futurist Painting for GCSB Boardroom (2012-13) is the first in a new series of tactical paintings entitled PRISMISM, which engages the charged political issues of security, privacy, democracy and human rights currently being debated in public spheres.

The painting’s core motif is drawn from the blue and yellow livery of New Zealand Police highway patrol cars, whose phasing in as the new identity for all police vehicles will be complete next year. The painting also makes reference to Italian Futurism’s chequered history of promoting Fascist ideology in their fetishisation of speed, power and war. The Futurist’s glorification of new technologies brought about by the rapid rise of industrialisation is evident in their iconic depictions of the automobile. The diagonal lines in the right section of the composition make reference to painter and sound artist Luigi Russolo’s Dynamism of an Automobile (1912-13), which also illustrates the Doppler Effect, where the sound frequency of a moving object changes relative to the position of the observer.

Futurist Painting for GCSB Boardroom is also intended to physically activate the position of the observer, the irregular composition intended to elicit movement as viewers attempt to reconcile the dis/connected sections. Further, the position and orientation of the canvas panels may be rearranged in order to present other iterations. This strategy was influenced by artist Sang Mun’s encrypted typeface ZXX designed to evade the surveillance systems of the NSA’s PRISM program, recently exposed as secretly monitoring the communications of citizens worldwide on a vast scale: http://blogs.walkerart.org/design/2013/06/20/sang-mun-defiant-typeface-nsa-privacy/

Critics of the new Government Communications Security Bureau Bill recently passed in Parliament argue that the use of these new technologies act in contravention of New Zealand human rights and privacy laws, and that the acceleration of state communication surveillance poses a threat akin to Fascism. In this context our future as citizens is uncertain, with journalists, activists and artists particularly likely candidates for interception and oppression. In a recent public meeting to protest the Bill, internet entrepreneur Kim Dotcom remarked: “The new GCSB bill is like raising the speed limit after getting a speeding ticket. And it doesn’t mean the GCSB won’t be speeding again.”[i]

In the century since the Futurists, abstraction has been deployed to support a number of disparate political agendas. The PRISMISM series revisits the language of abstract painting and the history of the medium, and tests its ability to remain relevant, critical and constructive.


Emil McAvoy
Auckland, New Zealand
21 August 2013


Produced with the assistance of a residency at Development AIR Project Space: http://www.developmentair.org.nz/

[i] Kim Dotcom, speech at Mount Albert War Memorial Hall, Auckland, 25 July 2013: http://thedailyblog.co.nz/2013/07/25/live-video-stop-the-gcsb-bill-public-meeting-from-7pm/