Tuesday, February 15, 2022


Theatre of War: Techno-Colonised Planet Gouache on paper 56 x 76 cm 2022


Third Text Article

Thrilled that my article "Night Vision, Ghosts and Data Proxies: Paintings By War Artist Jon Cattapan" has been published online for Third Text, a leading peer reviewed international journal dedicated to the critical analysis of contemporary art in the global field. The hardcopy is forthcoming.

Cattapan was an official Australian war artist in Timor Leste in 2008. Key to his subsequent paintings were his experiences using night vision technology while accompanying Australian Peace Keeping forces on night patrols. The effect of the night vision green entered his paintings in ways that continue to 'speak' to us today. Thus, I analyse Cattapan's paintings through a 'future of war' lens-a future we are now living, nearly 15 yrs later. I argue that although the paintings were inspired by experiences in Timor Leste, the images could relate to the iterative modes of contemporary, and likely future war, ie: grey zone, hybrid, informational, cyber, as well as kinetic warfare.

Theatre of War: Techno-Colonised Planet 

This new painting relates to a few other recent paintings - examples: Theatre of War: Plague Cloud, Theatre of War: Dromo-Domain and Theatre of War: Law

Invitation to 'Fly'
In Theatre of War: Techno-Colonised Planet you are invited to fly, in your imagination, away from Earth. When you are ready, you peer back at the planet from a distance. And, from this distance what patterns become apparent? For me, I see a planet occupied by an insidious fake cloud that extends from Earth to orbiting satellites. The outline of the pale blue dot shimmers like a ghost behind the 'cloud'. This 'cloud' represents the ubiquitous presence of interconnected and interoperable systems, all reliant on access to, and use of, the electromagnetic spectrum (EMS). 

But, what if you are not 'flying' at a great distance from Earth? What if you 'fly' in closer? What if this is an image on a computer screen and you have flown through the window of a ground control station where remote operators sit in front of an array of computer screens? What if the white circles are computer graphics indicating techno-territorial occupation? Given that civilian technology and military technology rely on the same conduit and enabler, ie: the EMS - is the fake cloud an indication of dangerous synchronicity and homogeneity of techno-system operation? Does it represent an ever-ready always-on war preparedness, especially when various iterations of contemporary war are increasingly perpetrated via technological devices and systems - grey zone, hybrid, information and cyber warfare.

Whether you are flying at close or far distance -  your imagination is the critical tool. For me, this is how imaginational metaveillance works to become a resistance to the kind of normalised techno-surveillance of the world in which we live. 

As artist and writer James Bridle notes, "Today the cloud is the central metaphor of the internet: a global system of great power and energy that nevertheless retains the aura of something noumenal and numinous, something almost impossible to grasp."* In Theatre of War: Techno-Colonised Planet I have tried to 'grasp it'. My invitation for you to take imaginational flight, is my way of sharing this quest.

*James Bridle, The New Dark Age: Technology and the End of the Future (London: Verso, 2018), 6.

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