Saturday, July 17, 2021


Theatre of War: Photons Do Not Care Oil on linen 92 x 112 cm 2021

This is the tenth in my series Theatre of War. It is, however, my first oil on linen in the series. The others have all been works on paper.

The title of the painting was inspired by words written by Maj John Casey in a very interesting 2020 article "Cognitive Electronic Warfare: A Move Towards EMS Maneuver Warfare" for the online journal OTH: Over the Horizon: Multi-Domain Operations and Strategy. Casey wrote "The EMS knows no limits and the photons do not care about threat envelopes, fire support coordination lines, national interests, or boundaries."

As regular readers know I am currently undertaking a creative practice-lead PhD through Curtin University, Western Australia. My research examines the increasing interest militaries around the world are paying to the electromagnetic spectrum [EMS] as an enabler of technology, a type of fires, a 'maneuver space' and a domain. Given that interconnectivity, networking and interoperability draw EMS-reliant civilian technology into militarised capabilities, I argue - we all need to pay attention. 

All frequencies in the EMS [radio to gamma] are made up of photons, massless particles agitating at different energy levels, but all travelling at the speed of light. Lower energy radio frequencies have longer wave lengths and gamma waves have very short wave lengths. The light spectrum is the only one visible to humans [without tech assistance]. 

Casey's comment that photons "know no limits" reminds us that networked and interconnected technologies utilising the EMS have operative functions that, for example, reach light speed. Photons are quantum particles existing in dimensions of space and time that are beyond human access, but not beyond human desires for optimised tactical advantages. Here, I am reminded of Paul Virilio's comment, 

The fact of having reached the light barrier, the speed of light, is a historic event, one which disorients history and also disorients the relation of human beings to the world. If that point is not stressed, then people are being disinformed, they are being lied to. For it has enormous importance. It poses a threat to geopolitics and geostrategy.*

As Casey reminds us, photons do not care about "national interests, or boundaries". Thus, we need to pay attention to military interest in the EMS as accelerating speeds of technological operation, even light speed operative capacities, are likely, as Virilio warns, to disorient the relation of human beings to the world to the point that geopolitics and geostrategy are threatenedIf we are disoriented - will we even notice? 

Theatre of War: Photons Do Not Care 
Stars in the universe sparkle, light indicating their presence and history. Mars and Earth are visible. I have painted four Loyal Wingman drones with small dots to indicate their reliance on spectrum. Are the dots photons? Are they false stars? Whatever they are, maybe they create a false universe, a strange simulation? The dotted geolocating points in the landscape reference a marshalling of natural resources to conform to strategic needs. I remind readers that the EMS is a natural and universal resource, photons appearing in the nano-seconds after the Big Bang. 

I will leave you to ponder more. 

Cheers, Kathryn

P.S. Last Theatre of War post was Theatre of War: Spectrum Access  For other posts use the Search This Blog is available on the right side of this post. 

*Paul Virilio, “Red Alert in Cyberspace,” Radical Philosophy (Nov/Dec 1995): 2.


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