Sunday, September 12, 2021


Theatre of War: The Cloud Gouache and watercolour on paper 56 x76 cm 2021

This is my 11th or 12th painting in my Theatre of War series. I'll have to write one post with all of the paintings, so you can see them as a body of work! 

PhD Research
Theatre of War: The Cloud is informed by my current PhD research into the increasing interest militaries around the world are paying to the electromagentic spectrum (EMS) as an enabler of technology, a type of fires, a manoeuvre space and a domain. I am examining the use of frequencies for military purposes, and the ability for state or non-state actors to appropriate civilian technology via the EMS. I pay particular attention to the spectrum range from radio to visible light frequencies. 

The Cloud ie: the euphemism we ascribe to the contemporary world of networked and interconnected digital and cyber technologies, is of great interest to me. The concept provides the means for interoperability, a key aim for modern militaries. This means that traditional army, navy and air forces work together using technology that networks capabilities across all of their domains. The military term 'joint force' also encompasses the digital and cyber domains of information and cyber war. The space domain is also drawn into this interoperable mix, with satellites playing pivotal roles in communication, operability and connectivity. The Cloud, however, is not just a military asset - civilian technology also relies on the connectivity, operability and communication that EMS enabled Cloud technologies and systems enable and use.

I have been researching the idea of the cloud as a metaphor. One interesting way of thinking about The Cloud is to draw upon John Ruskin's nineteenth century observations of 'plague clouds' and 'plague winds'. Is militarisation of technology, including the militarise-ability of civilian technology, like a 'plague wind' blowing through the EMS? Is The Cloud, therefore a 'plague cloud'? 

Theatre of War: The Cloud
In Theatre of War: The Cloud I have tried to represent an excavation of military interoperability. The painted-in circles at the bottom of the painting are underwater, possibly autonomous underwater vehicles or sensors. Through the middle are land-based and on-sea systems, possibly also autonomous. At the top of the painting, an airborne drone and a satellite over-watch. In each of the circles with obvious clouds, the technology is obscured. This implies that systemic complexity obscures understanding. The repetition of red and white circles across the painting indicates interconnectivity. These circles visually form a stylised cloud that draws all operations together. That this cloud extends beyond the painting is clear. It is part of The Cloud.

While I conceived Theatre of War: The Cloud as an excavation from sea to space, the painting can also be viewed as a map. This play with perspective is deliberate...


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