Friday, July 22, 2022


Human in the Loop Gouache on paper 30 x 42 cm 2022

My work is included in the University of St. Andrew’s, UK, newly launched online Museum of Peace . The Museum exhibits an array of different approaches to peace in different themed ‘rooms’. You can see my exhibit in the Visualising Peace room, plus a couple of the other rooms.

I am thrilled that Otilia Meden, in her thoughtful essay "Cyber Peace and Artivism, with Kathryn Brimblecombe-Fox" has connected my earlier work with my more recent paintings.  


Autonomous Systems
As technological systems increasingly include autonomous functions, a plethora of questions about human work and agency arise. These questions relate to human labour and human decision making. With regards to weapon systems, autonomous functions within a system raise questions about a creeping attrition of human participation. This usurped participation could be analysis of data, decisions about deployments of human and non-human warfighters, assessments of kill zones, identification of targets and more. Autonomous functions enabled by AI and machine learning decrease latency, often caused by human beings taking time to think. Speed is increasingly viewed as a tactical and strategic edge, even a purveyor of weaponry, if not a weapon itself. .

These two paintings Human in the Loop and Threat reflect upon the concepts of  'human in the loop' - 'human on the loop' - 'meaningful human control' - 'meaningless human control'. 

In Human in the Loop [above] binary code 'instructs' the word 'Human', followed by text "in the loop.". This is a reference to another recent painting Theatre of War: Law  which is a response to recent news about research into an AI legal assistant for the military. The human being becomes an algorithm?

In Threat binary code at the bottom of the painting 'instructs' HUMAN. The aerial view of what looks like a military air force base, seems to be viewed on a screen. Perhaps this is drone footage? Does the code mean that a human being is monitoring the surveillance, identifying the threat, targeting the threat - or - does it mean a meaningless presence?

Internet of Battlefield Things
Both paintings also indicate that interconnectivity via 'the Cloud' or the Internet of Battlefield Things [IoBT], enables interoperability across multiple domains. Another recent painting Theatre of War: Internet of Battlefield Things responds to this permutation of 'the Cloud'. 

 I have just listened to the proceedings of a very interesting and serious conference "The Kill Cloud: Networked Warfare, Drones and AI" hosted by The Disruption Network Lab, Berlin, March 2022. Sobering listening. It was a call out to look beyond the drone [hradware], and to examine the system. This is exactly the focus of my PhD research, examining increasing military interest in the electromagnetic spectrum [EMS], as an enabler of technology, a type of fires, a manoeuvre space and a domain. Without reliable access to the EMS connectivity, operability, interconnectivity, interoperability - at speed - could not occur. 

And, there's a lot more to write and think about, but I will leave this to you!


Threat Gouache on paper 30 x 42 cm 2022

Monday, June 13, 2022


 Light Speed: Crash (After Virilio) Oil on linen 66 x 112 cm 2022

The light barrier “is not something one can cross: you crash into it.”

"To have reached the light barrier, to have reached the speed of light, is a historical event which throws history in disarray and jumbles up the relation of the living being towards the world." 

Both quotes Paul Virilio Speed and Information: CyberspaceAlarm!,” CTheory (August 27, 1995).  

Regular readers will know of my interest in the speed of light, the electromagnetic spectrum, technology, war, humanity and the future. One of my other recent paintings is called Speed of Light

Light Speed: Crash (After Virilio) (above) was inspired by reading French cultural theorist Paul Virilio's multiple works on themes of speed, technology and war. As you can see from the date of the above two quotes, Virilio was insightful and incisive in his critiques of technology and speed in the twentieth century. His book Desert Screen: War at the Speed of Light  was first published in 1991, during the first Gulf War. Like Jean Baudrillard, Virilio saw this war's embrace of instantaneous signal transmission of instructions and imagery, as a historical milestone. Since then, the utilisation of the electromagnetic spectrum to enable seeming instantaneity, has conditioned us to speed - light speed or near light speed signal connectivity, interconnectivity, to enable operability and interoperability across civilian and military technologies and systems.

One limit, if not the only limit for these technologies and systems is light speed. It is "not something one can cross: you crash into it.” As we scramble to make sure speed gives us an edge, whether it's high frequency stock trading or weapon delivery/detection, how far/fast can we go?

In Light Speed: Crash (After Virilio) I have tried to give an impression of speed. The cosmic landscape alludes to the fact that the electromagnetic spectrum is universal with a history embedded in the universe's cosmological history. The painting seems to indicate an imminent crash. A 'wall' of symbols visually suggests a limit. These symbols are  c - light speed and y - photon. All frequencies in the electromagnetic spectrum are made up of photons travelling at the speed of light. Radio waves have longer wave lengths, while gamma waves have the shortest wave lengths.  The light spectrum is the only one visible to the unaided human eye.


In May, Autonomous Weapon Systems and the Protection of the Human Person: An International Law Analysis by Dr. Diego Mauri, was published by Edward Elgar Publishing. Thrilled that my painting Manhunting 2017 is on the front cover. I met Dr. Mauri at the Aesthetics of Drone Warfare conference, University of Sheffield in February 2020. We were both presenters. 

The book is a thoughtful examination, through an International Law lens, of issues associated with increasingly autonomous weapon systems (AWS). This is intersected with a history of AWS, ethical issues & more. The examination keeps the human being as central to the discussion.


Wednesday, May 18, 2022


HYPERSONIC Oil on linen 56 x 112 cm 2022

Speed has become a central concern of mine - light speed, hypersonic speed, terms like 'accelerated warfare' +++. I have a chapter on speed in my developing PhD exegesis. I am informed by cultural critic, Paul Virilio's various commentaries on speed - speed of technological development and speed of technological operation. I am also informed by his intersection of speed and war.

This new painting HYPERSONIC references Australia's commitment, through the AUKUS [Australia, United Kingdom, United States] partnership, to develop hypersonic weapons and counter-hypersonic capabilities. The painting maps trajectories taken by hypersonic weapons. Ballistic missiles that can fly at hypersonic speeds have set flight paths, and are less manoeuvrable. Hypersonic glide and hypersonic cruise missiles are more manoeuvrable, thus they can evade detection. Evading detection means a target is more difficult to identify. Hypersonic weapons fly at speeds beyond Mach 5 [Mach 1 being the speed of sound]. Google hypersonic weapons, and you'll find lots of information.

An AUKUS update, April 5, 2022, from the White House clearly identifies hypersonic weapons and counter-hypersonic technology as key activities under the heading Advanced Capabilities. "Hypersonic and counter-hypersonic capabilities. The AUKUS partners will work together to accelerate development of advanced hypersonic and counter-hypersonic capabilities."

Note the word accelerate in the quoted sentence above. Everything is about speed!

Like many of my paintings that visualise signals, flight paths, the techno-cloud and more,  HYPERSONIC is an attempt to visualise discrete or invisible aspects of contemporary war. HYPERSONIC reveals a 'landscape' of trajectories - hypersonic ballistic missile trajectories and hypersonic glide/guided weapons trajectories. Hypersonic weapons cannot be easily tracked with the naked eye. Sound becomes a residue. Manoeuvrable hypersonic weapons cannot be easily tracked, full stop. Hence the AUKUS partnership is not only about hypersonic weapons R & D, but also "counter-hypersonic capabilities". 

The painting suggests that invisible forces 'etch' landscape, creating new kinds of insidious scapes that mediate landscape, as well as concepts of environment. This mediation affects how we think of human movement, borders, sovereignty, security, life and death. A patch of red dots, left of centre, references geolocating and terrain visualisation graphics. This reminds us that landscape is mediated for technologies with increasingly autonomous functioning, particularly movement.  What are the implications for the future of war and humanity? 

For any living creature, human or non-human, at or near a target, speed is life changing or ending. 

Speed is key. Speed can be weapon and a purveyor of weaponry. 

"There is a certain inevitability in the domain of science and technology. We never decelerate." Paul Virilio , Desert Screen, p. 33. 


Saturday, April 23, 2022


Speed of Light Oil on linen 112 x 153 cm 2022

Interconnecting circles form a fake cloud across a vast scape. Are you above this fake cloud or below it? The circles are formed by repeating the symbol for light speed - c. 

This painting responds to my PhD research into increasing military interest in the electromagnetic spectrum [EMS]. All frequencies from radio to gamma waves travel at the speed of light in a vacuum. All frequencies are made up of photons. Contemporary military and civilian technologies are increasingly reliant on radio to light frequencies for operation, connectivity, interconnectivity and inter-operability. Speed is key to seemingly instantaneous operation, connectivity, interconnectivity and inter-operability. 

Just a reminder that speed can kill.

As human beings harness the power and speed of the EMS for civilian and military applications, nations attempt to ensure access and use of frequencies. Even the recently announced Australia, United Kingdom and United States alliance AUKUS has, as one of its "advanced capabilities", a focus on, 

"Electronic warfare.  The electromagnetic spectrum is increasingly contested.  The three countries will work together to share understanding of tools, techniques, and technology to enable our forces to operate in contested and degraded environments." (White House "Briefing Room" Statement April 5, 2022) 

Selection of other paintings and posts that relate to Speed of Light

Theatre of War: Dromo Domain

Theatre of War: Internet of Battlefield Things

Theatre of War: Everywhere Cloud

Theatre of War: Photons Do Not Care

Theatre of War: Photon



Wednesday, April 13, 2022


Interface: Being HUMAN Being Oil on linen 56 x 112 cm 2022

Interface: Being HUMAN Being follows my last two works on paper Interface: Being  and Interface. I have been thinking about the human-machine relationship, especially where AI or ML technologies work as interfaces. I am particularly interested in the idea of AI systems operating in more human-like ways, and human beings becoming more like machines. Notice - I wrote AI operating and human beings becoming. 

And, this is a painting, not a digital work. The white on blue represents a fake cloud...

I think I will leave it there! 



P.S. Oh! The code 'instructs' HUMAN

Related Posts:  
Interface Being

Tuesday, April 05, 2022


Interface: Being Gouache on paper 56 x 75 cm 2022

Interface: Being follows my last painting Interface. And, in my last post I wrote "My head is full of ideas. Interface is a result of thinking about a lot of things. I've been writing and researching for my PhD, and this painting has been inside my head - my imagination - for a few weeks." My PhD research focuses on the increasing interest militaries around the world are paying to the electromagnetic spectrum (EMS), as an enabler of technology, a type of fires, a manoeuvre space and a domain. 

This new painting above, Interface: Being has also been inside my head for a while!

The human-machine relationship is a key area of interest. As the speed of technological operation, enabled by light-speed EMS frequency transmissions, increases across inter-connected and interoperable civilian and military systems, the human being is often seen as a point of latency. I have written about this with regards to recent news that an AI military lawyer tool is under development - Theatre of War: Law   and Theatre of War: Techno-Seduction 

Interface: Being 
Interface: Being is also the result of weeks of research and thinking. Like Interface, this new painting also references Douglas Hofstadter, the technological Cloud, real clouds, AI, binary code (01001000 01010101 01001101 01000001 01001110 instructs the word HUMAN), and questions about what it means to be a human being in the 21st century. 

In this new painting, I introduce and play with the word BEING. 





BEING 01001000 01010101 01001101 01000001 01001110 

01001000 01010101 01001101 01000001 01001110 BEING

HUMAN 01001000 01010101 01001101 01000001 01001110 

Interface is both a noun and a verb, and is used as both a noun and verb in computer science, and also in studies of human beings. 

In a human-machine relationship let's think about what is the interface, and what does the interfacing? Is it code - is it signal connectivity - is it human willingness or excitement (therefore, us) - is it need - maybe money - maybe power - is it speed? What do you think? How are we to BE human beings in a world dominated by accelerating developments in technology?

My choice of medium - painting - is deliberate. Painting helps me probe questions and pose new questions, without techno-interfaces or techno-interfacing. Painting is not reliant an any EMS-enabled digital or cyber technology, yet this does not preclude critique and study of these technologies. Painting is technologically and operatively detached. Detachment in a world of techno-interfaces and interfacing is a form of critical resistance.  



P.S. You might be interested in my post AI: Posing Questions I wrote this in response to seeing preliminary publicity at the Barbican, London, for a program AI: More Than Human. Unfortunately, I was not in London long enough to see the exhibition program. 

Tuesday, March 29, 2022



Interface Gouache on paper 56 x 76 cm 2022

My head is full of ideas. Interface is a result of thinking about a lot of things. I've been writing and researching for my PhD, and this painting has been inside my head - my imagination - for a few weeks. 

Here are some ideas, books and thoughts that have influenced Interface 
  • Douglas Hofstader.
    I read Hofstadter's Godel, Escher and Bach (GEB) a number of years ago. A complex, innovative and imaginative book. During my PhD research I've been encouraged by my supervisor to think about ambigrams, a term coined by Hofstadter. I had forgotten that Hofstadter had written briefly about ambigrams in GEB, although I've often pondered on his ideas of  recursion. For Hofstadter, an ambigram is a "calligraphic design that manages to squeeze two different readings into the selfsame set of curves." (GEB, p. P-19) It is something that can be read  in both up and down orientations.

    As regular readers know, I often use painted binary code as a way to 'play' with and parody ideas of digital technology. The painted code represents the object or thing that I am painting or expressing. I enjoy hand painting something that is normally represented so precisely in digital media. In Interface, binary code for the word HUMAN is reflected in the text HUMAN. I am visually 'playing' with up and down orientations and meanings. The painting poses questions about what it means to be human in a world where human-machine relationships are increasing. For example, what about human work, including creative work, being co-opted or assisted by algorithms?

    The 'reflection' of the binary code in the word HUMAN, and vice versa, is a kind of ambigrammatic ploy to question how we might maintain a sense of being human in the twenty-first century. The code and the word HUMAN are like shadows, but can we see them? Maybe they are shadows of shadows? Where does that place us?

    The word 'interface' is both a noun and a verb. What kinds of 21st century technological interfaces should we be aware of, as we interact and interface with them? 

  • The Cloud.
    Here I mean the technological 'cloud' - the Internet of Things (IoT) where interconnectivity and interoperability keep human beings in relationship with technological devices and systems. We cannot avoid, indeed escape, interfacing in the 21st century! Maybe this is what the shadows of shadows tells us? The background of Interface appears to be a cloudy tumultuous sky -  but  - is it a stormy sea? 

  • More Cloud
    Keeping with the 'cloud' theme, rather than the blue background representing a cloudy sky, I deliberately painted the binary code and letters in white to provide an alternative. Maybe the code/text is 'the cloud'. If you - the viewer - imagine looking up at this fake cloud, the blue background is a sky, even the cosmos. If you imagine being above the fake text-cloud, then the blue background is possibly a tumultuous sea. Maybe you are in front or behind the 'cloud', where it turns into a wall or barrier? This kind of imaginational flight, from below, to above, to around and beyond, is a critical form of engagement. I call it - imaginational metaveillance
  • Painting
    The paint medium requires no technological digital or cyber interfaces, yet it can be used to critique them. The hand of a human being is clearly evident. The dynamism between the paint and the paper surface, between the text and the background, 'speak' to relationships rather than interfaces. They 'speak' to relating rather than interfacing.

  • And, then there are ideas of post-humanity. 

  • And, of course, one of my major interests/concerns - militarised technology and the militarise-ability of civilian technology. In an interconnected and interoperable world interfaces and interfacing are key!

  • But, I will stop here and let you ponder!

Monday, March 07, 2022


Theatre of War: Techno-Seduction Gouache on paper 56 x 76 cm 2022

Like many others, the war in Ukraine is occupying my mind. The mix of traditional kinetic activity with improvisation across old and new tactics and technologies again raises questions about asymmetric warfare. 

This new painting, Theatre of War: Techno-Seduction, has a focus on the human. Yes! By presenting everything as an algorithm, even human beings, I pose questions about  technological systems that are interconnected and interoperable. 

For interconnectivity and interoperability to work seamlessly, foundational operative platforms need to be the same or very similar. Hence my use of painted binary code. 

But does homogenisation at any level strengthen resilience or not? Maybe it poses a vulnerability - like pulling out the bottom card of a house of cards, is there risk of collapse. Where does the human being fit in a world of interconnectivity and interoperability? 

So, what have I presented or 'instructed' in algorithmic form?

At the top is SATELLITE. To the left in small zeros and ones is WAR. In the centre, as a circle of code, is MILITARY LAWYER. To the right is DRONE and angled from it is HELLFIRE. To the left of the circle in SURVEILLANCE. The three small circles of code 'instruct' HUMAN - are they warfighters, civilians, friend or foe, victims? The bottom 'instruction' is TARGET. Is the target human or not? If not a human target, destruction of buildings or infrastructure can still cause human fear, suffering and death. 

All these 'instructed' entities are connected by lines that indicate signals, and therefore, reliance on frequencies in electromagnetic spectrum for connectivity and interconnectivity to enable information and data transmission, surveillance capabilities, sensor access, news broadcasting and so on. 

The painting acts as a kind of map.

Despite major advances in militarised and militarise-able technologies that remove many human operators and warfighters from the immediacy of conflict zones, the death and suffering witnessed in places such as Yemen, Afghanistan, Syria, Iraq, Somalia and now Ukraine, remind us that human beings remain in the loop, as my circles indicate, as victims. 

And, we must not forget that human beings also start wars. 


In another recent painting and post Theatre of War: Law I explain the reference to military lawyer.


Third Text Article

Thrilled that my article "Night Vision, Ghosts and Data Proxies: Paintings By War Artist Jon Cattapan" has been published online for Third Text, a leading peer reviewed international journal dedicated to the critical analysis of contemporary art in the global field. The hardcopy is forthcoming.

Cattapan was an official Australian war artist in Timor Leste in 2008. Key to his subsequent paintings were his experiences using night vision technology while accompanying Australian Peace Keeping forces on night patrols. The effect of the night vision green entered his paintings in ways that continue to 'speak' to us today. Thus, I analyse Cattapan's paintings through a 'future of war' lens-a future we are now living, nearly 15 yrs later. I argue that although the paintings were inspired by experiences in Timor Leste, the images could relate to the iterative modes of contemporary, and likely future war, ie: grey zone, hybrid, informational, cyber, as well as kinetic warfare.