Tuesday, March 23, 2021


Theatre of War: Photon gouache on paper 56 x76 cm 2021

Electromagnetic Spectrum
This is my eighth Theatre of War painting. In this painting I am experimenting with how to think about the increasing interest, taken by militaries and defence departments around the world, in the electromagnetic spectrum (EMS) as an enabler of technology and a domain to dominate. This is particularly evident in policy and strategy documents produced by the US Department of Defence (DoD) in the last two years. An example is the US DoD's Joint Electromagnetic Spectrum Operations, May 2020 statement. 

All electromagnetic energy is made up of photons travelling at the speed of light. Photons are mass-less particles that travel in a wave-like motion. Each photon has a certain amount of energy which determines different radiation or frequencies. All frequencies in the EMS are created by photons - radio waves have lower energy and therefore longer wavelengths than gamma rays, which have the highest energy and shorter wavelengths. You can learn more at this NASA site

Electronic Warfare - Electromagnetic Warfare
As the term electronic warfare becomes a legacy term replaced by the term electromagnetic warfare, I think some focus on photons provides interesting ways to think about how the EMS, as an environment, a domain and a commons, is actively targeted for military-purpose domination. The change in terms is clearly noted in the Joint Electromagnetic Spectrum Operations May, 2020 statement page  GL-9, and the DoD's Electromagnetic Spectrum Superiority Strategy, October 2020, page 26.  

Theatre of War: Photon
In Theatre of War: Photon I have painted six Y photon symbols. They are painted with wavy lines to indicate frequencies. The colours - red, blue, white and grey - were chosen after reading the DoDs Electromagnetic Spectrum Superiority Strategy, October 2020 document. It describes (page 12) where data to "support operations and analysis" will be garnered ie: across a range of military and civilian sensors, equipment, platforms, activities, communications. - from entities/hosts that are hostile or adversary (red), US (blue), coalition or potentially friendly (grey) and commercial or non-military (white)." The photon symbols are painted against a cosmic-like background to indicate a universal force. Although appearing like a wall, the wavy-lined circular shape on the left is meant to shift perspective. 

Photons appeared moments after the Big Bang. They first emitted light and energy at around 300 million years . The EMS is a natural force and environment. It is part of the fabric of the universe. 

In our sphere of Earthly influence, what are the possible outcomes of militarised EMS domain dominance?        

Links to previous Theatre of War paintings are:
Theatre of War: Ghosts Warn 
Theatre of War: Spectrum  Other links are on this blog post.



Tuesday, March 09, 2021


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

This is my seventh Theatre of War painting - my series is developing! Here is a link to my sixth painting Theatre of War: Ghosts Warn, where there are further links to earlier paintings.

In these paintings I explore the notion of 'theatre of war', oft mentioned by General Carl von Clausewitz in his early nineteenth century famous tome On War. I explore the notion 'theatre of war' as a way to think about how contemporary war has seeped beyond geographic boundaries to infiltrate digital and cyber worlds, the media, social media and information. I also draw the electromagnetic spectrum [EMS] into the contemporary notion of 'theatre of war'. Why? 

The EMS is both an enabler of contemporary militarised technology and a domain of increasing military interest. Importantly the EMS also enables contemporary civilian technology. Thus, as a shared resource the EMS can clearly be described as dual use. However, I argue, that the term 'dual use' belies the complexity of contemporary technology where networking, interconnectivity and the 'Internet of Things' expose civilian technology [systems and hardware] to both overt and insidious militarise-abiliy. This militarise-ability is not just the purview of state-based defence forces, but also non-state and aberrant groups or individuals.

In Theatre of War: Domain Dominance I have tried to convey that EMS domain dominance, a direct US Department of Defence policy, extends the theatre of war into the invisible [except visible light] natural resource of the electromagnetic spectrum. Like the natural physical environment, the EMS is occupied, colonised and used for advantage. As an enabler of technology the EMS is a protagonist in the contemporary theatre of war, and as a domain of military interest it forms part of the extensive, everywhere stage of contemporary war. 

In Theatre of War: Domain Dominance I have depicted a number of black boxes, indicating secret or discrete capabilities. I have painted strings of binary code 'instructing' words like 'NODE', HUMAN', 'DRONE' and 'CLOUD'. Trees-of-life hover in designated zones, as does the group of human figures. Are they targets? Everything is connected by signals and wavelengths delivering coded instructions, data and information. Surveillance night-vision green clouds deceptively float, stored information stacked. Targeting cross-hairs on the far right indicate a possible mission - the map-like depiction of the 'stage' reveals the drama.

And - yes - there is more to say!



Monday, March 01, 2021


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

This is my sixth Theatre of War painting. The other paintings can be accessed via my post Theatre of War: Spectrum

Theatre of War: Ghosts Warn is again inspired by thinking about the famous 18th/19th century General Carl von Clausewitz's famous tome On War . In this book Clausewitz regularly refers to the term 'theatre of war', even devoting a chapter to it [Book V, Chapter II]. In the 21st century the concept of 'theatre of war' extends beyond Clausewitz's idea of a "portion of the space over which war prevails as has its boundaries protected, and thus possesses a kind of independence". While the idea of a portion of space, independence and protected boundaries are blurred by new modes of warfare, such as cyberwar, information war, electronic and electromagnetic warfare, I think it is interesting to ponder what the contemporary 'theatre of war' actually might mean.

For a start, Clausewitz describes journeying to a 'theatre of war' and moving within a 'theatre of war'. With contemporary modes of warfare operating across multiple domains in mind, moving to or within theatres becomes problematic, even obsolete in certain circumstances. For example, what if we ask ourselves, are we permanently within the contemporary 'theatre of war'? If so, journeying to the 'theatre' is not possible. Maybe it's more like moving across a stage, sometimes the drama can be wild, and at other times subdued.

Clausewitz also writes about 'our theatre of war' and the enemy's 'theatre of war'. The 'theatre of war' he describes is geographically based, overlaid by strategy, movement of armies, and politics.  While the politics bit remains, geography, strategy and movement of armies are part of a complex matrix of concerns in an equally complex matrix of battle spaces, where notions of 'ours' and 'theirs' are increasingly blurred, if not similar. In a world where technology renders various modes of state and non-state warfighting capabilities as continuously engaged, escalation and de-escalation can potentially occur at light speed. This includes the information war, and its partner social media. Speed is a key ingredient that helps 'conduct' and 'produce' the contemporary everywhere-all-the-time 'theatre of war'. 

Roles Played in the Contemporary Theatre of War
In the contemporary 'theatre of war' we are all wittingly or unwittingly 'playing' roles that change in type, degree and importance. If we own a mobile phone, for example, we could provide a node for a state or non-state actor to appropriate for multiple reasons. With both state and non-state actors having commensurate or near-commensurate technical capabilities, a more synchronised and ubiquitous 'theatre of war' potentially destroys a traditionally understood story arc - declaration of war, duration of war and end of war. My ideas here are informed by cultural critic Paul Virilio's commentaries on technology, Jean Baudrillard's three essays first published in the French newspaper LibĂ©ration in 1991 ie: “The Gulf War Will Not Take Place”, “The Gulf War is Not Really Taking Place,” and “The Gulf War Did Not Take Place,” March 29, 1991, plus David Kilcullen's very interesting recent book The Dragons and the Snakes: How the Rest Learned to Fight the West [2020].

In Theatre of War: Ghosts Warn I have painted various elements of contemporary war ie: two drones [one a Loyal Wingman drone], parodies of geolocation and terrain visualisation technology, targets, a satellite, indications of built environments, and signals transmitting instructions, information and data. All of these either normally visible or normally invisible aspects of contemporary war create a scape that overlays a background that could be a landscape or a skyscape - are you above or below this 'production' of the contemporary 'theatre of war'? Flipping your perspective could possibly be helpful!

I have also included ghosts. Maybe speed makes everything ghostly? What are these ghosts warning us about?

I'll leave it up to you to ponder.


I was interviewed by Paris-based Cecilia Poullain for her Brave New Women series of podcasts. She asks me about my PhD, the influences of my parents, my artwork, and about being a single Mum. You can watch it here on YOUTUBE