Saturday, January 16, 2021


Theatre of War: Spectrum Gouache on paper 56 x 76 cm 2021


Theatre of War: Spectrum is my fifth Theatre of War painting. It seems I am developing a series. 

My earlier Theatre of War paintings are:

Theatre of War

Theatre of War: Terrain Visualisation

Theatre of War: Smart Team 

Theatre of War: Pattern Recognition

Theatre of War

'Theatre of war' is a term used often by General Carl von Clausewitz in his early nineteenth century book On War. He describes theatre of war as a "portion of space over which war prevails as has its boundaries protected, and thus possesses a kind of independence." 

Clearly the contemporary theatre of war is very different to Clausewitz's explanation. Contemporary war now extends beyond geographic boundaries, reaching into - and using - multiple aspects of the digital and cyber world. Of particular interest to me is the increasing interest, by militaries around the world, in the electromagnetic spectrum [EMS] as a domain to be harnessed and controlled. 

Signals carried by radio and microwave frequencies assist and operatively enable contemporary militarised and civilian technology - and the militarise-ability of the latter. Infrared frequencies facilitate surveillance, and imaging technology. New high energy laser technology can be used for communication, but also a weapon. Hacking, jamming, deliberate pulse attacks and activities such as spreading viruses are enabled by appropriating various wavelengths for nefarious deliveries. Arguably, the use of social media, phising, spreading misinformation are also fundamentally enabled by technologies reliant on signals carried by the EMS. 

Theatre of War: Spectrum
In this new painting I have tried to visualise the EMS as a theatre of war. I have placed this 'theatre' against a cosmic background to indicate a couple of things. Firstly, there are no boundaries - what are the ramifications of this? Secondly, that the EMS is woven into the fabric of the universe and its history. In the few seconds after the big bang, photons - quanta of energy - appeared. These photons are the foundation of the EMS, as all wavelengths are made up of photons that operate as both particles and waves. 

In our human sphere of influence, over time, we have harnessed aspects of the EMS for various things, including activities and technologies that benefit humanity and the planet. But, we have also harnessed it for activities and technologies that, as time goes by, could pose existential threats [regular readers know of my interest in existential risk posed by emerging technologies].   

Back to the painting - I wonder what my spectrum warfighter, in the red box carrying various equipment with obvious antennae, thinks? Is this warfighter human or robotic? Is the warfighter a simulation on a screen? Is the warfighter actually a bipedal node? Is the warfighter a posthuman reminder of human hubris?

Oh, but, there's a computer game called Full Spectrum Warrior It was first launched for X-Box in 2004. 

The contemporary theatre of war is no game, but some might say that it includes 'games' of all sorts....



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