Monday, March 07, 2022


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

Like many others, the war in Ukraine is occupying my mind. The mix of traditional kinetic activity with improvisation across old and new tactics and technologies again raises questions about asymmetric warfare. 

This new painting, Theatre of War: Techno-Seduction, has a focus on the human. Yes! By presenting everything as an algorithm, even human beings, I pose questions about  technological systems that are interconnected and interoperable. Questions about AI-enabled systems, that reduce or remove human operators are also posed.

For interconnectivity and interoperability to work seamlessly, foundational operative platforms need to be the same or very similar. Hence my use of painted binary code. 

But does homogenisation at any level strengthen resilience or not? Maybe it poses a vulnerability - like pulling out the bottom card of a house of cards, is there risk of collapse. Where does the human being fit in a world of interconnectivity, interoperability and AI-enabled systems? 

So, what have I presented or 'instructed' in algorithmic form?

At the top is SATELLITE. To the left in small zeros and ones is WAR. In the centre, as a circle of code, is MILITARY LAWYER. To the right is DRONE and angled from it is HELLFIRE. To the left of the circle in SURVEILLANCE. The three small circles of code 'instruct' HUMAN - are they warfighters, civilians, friend or foe, victims? The bottom 'instruction' is TARGET. Is the target human or not? If not a human target, destruction of buildings or infrastructure can still cause human fear, suffering and death. 

All these 'instructed' entities are connected by lines that indicate signals, and therefore, reliance on frequencies in electromagnetic spectrum for connectivity and interconnectivity to enable information and data transmission, surveillance capabilities, sensor access, news broadcasting and so on. 

The painting acts as a kind of map.

Despite major advances in militarised and militarise-able technologies that remove many human operators and warfighters from the immediacy of conflict zones, the death and suffering witnessed in places such as Yemen, Afghanistan, Syria, Iraq, Somalia and now Ukraine, remind us that human beings remain in the loop, as my circles indicate, as victims. 

And, we must not forget that human beings also start wars. 


In another recent painting and post Theatre of War: Law I explain the reference to military lawyer.


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.


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