Friday, August 31, 2018


Lethal Landscape Gouache on paper 56 x 76 cm 2018

The landscape in Lethal Landscape does not look too lethal - does it? It does not even really look like a landscape. In fact, what parts of the painting are landscape? Is the landscape the background? If so, is this background a skyscape or a landscape? Is the viewer above or below the radiating lines, looking up or down? 

What are those lines? They are signals...

The lethal landscape is not the background. Rather, lethality lies in the new imposed twenty-first century 'landscape' of signals that operatively enable militarised and militarise-able technology. As invisible signals ricochet around the world from node to node, into the sky and also space, landscape as we know it, is increasingly under occupation. This silent and invisible occupation enables a persistent readiness for offensive and defensive activities, not only by military forces, but potentially, also by aberrant state and non-state individuals or groups. 

Connectivity and networking enable the new imposed landscape of the twenty-first century to be persistently operational. Sensing/sensoring and strike capabilities across cyber space and geographical environments are enhanced by near light speed connectivity and signalling. Remote operation, long range capabilities, increasing autonomy and distributed systems contribute to lethal capability. As the Chief of the Australian Army. Lieutenant General Rick Burr, in his "Futures Statement",  Accelerated Warfare   (8 August, 2018) observes, "Future conflict is likely to be across domains where networks and integration are the key to generating military power." (1)

Here, I want to ponder the Chief of the Army's choice of the word accelerated. I painted Lethal Landscape before I read Accelerated Warfare. But, as regular readers will know, I have previously mentioned cultural theorist Paul Virilio's ideas about accelerating developments in contemporary technology, and the accelerating speeds at which technology can operate. Speed closes distance, collapsing the space between private and public, civilian and military domains.(2) Here, we can think about cyberspace as an example of a domain where the lines between private and public, civilian and military are collapsed. The dual-use nature of technological infrastructure, including enabling signals, collapses the borders between discrete spaces. Who or what has control? As Virilio provocatively remarks in his book The Great Accelerator “acceleration of reality is now part and parcel of the loss of all self-control”.(3) And, his warning that “no technology has ever been developed that has not had to struggle against its own specific negativity” needs to be taken seriously. (4)

When I was painting Lethal Landscape the idea of acceleration was in my mind. Hence the sense of propulsion, whether you are positioned above a landscape of land and sea, or below a tumultuous sky. The broad array of signals seem to converge, but a persistent sense of movement means there is no destination. The viewer is drawn into the net of signals, trying to keep up, trying to focus, trying to gain clear perspective; but speed forecloses all horizons...there is no distance. 

The Chief of the Army writes "We must pull the future towards us rather than wait for it".(5) Perhaps, we are already too late? 


(1) Chief of the Australian Army in his "Futures Statement",  Accelerated Warfare   (8 August, 2018)
(2) Paul Virilio, “Cold Panic,” trans. Chris Turner, Cultural Politics 1, no. 1 (2005): 28-29.
(3) Paul Virilio, The Great Accelerator, trans. Julie Rose (Cambridge and Malden: Polity Press, 2012), 44.
(4) Paul Virilio, “Red Alert in Cyberspace,” trans. Malcolm Imrie, Radical Philosophy (Nov/Dec 1995): 2.
(5) Chief of the Australian Army in his "Futures Statement",  Accelerated Warfare   (8 August, 2018)

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