Wednesday, May 18, 2022


HYPERSONIC (AUKUS Dream) Oil on linen 56 x 112 cm 2022

Speed has become a central concern of mine - light speed, hypersonic speed, terms like 'accelerated warfare' +++. I have a chapter on speed in my developing PhD exegesis. I am informed by cultural critic, Paul Virilio's various commentaries on speed - speed of technological development and speed of technological operation. I am also informed by his intersection of speed and war.

This new painting HYPERSONIC: (AUKUS Dream) references Australia's commitment, through the AUKUS [Australia, United Kingdom, United States] partnership, to develop hypersonic weapons and counter-hypersonic capabilities. The painting maps trajectories taken by hypersonic weapons. Ballistic missiles that can fly at hypersonic speeds have set flight paths, and are less manoeuvrable. Hypersonic glide and hypersonic cruise missiles are more manoeuvrable, thus they can evade detection. Evading detection means a target is more difficult to identify. Hypersonic weapons fly at speeds beyond Mach 5 [Mach 1 being the speed of sound]. Google hypersonic weapons, and you'll find lots of information.

An AUKUS update, April 5, 2022, from the White House clearly identifies hypersonic weapons and counter-hypersonic technology as key activities under the heading Advanced Capabilities. "Hypersonic and counter-hypersonic capabilities. The AUKUS partners will work together to accelerate development of advanced hypersonic and counter-hypersonic capabilities."

Note the word accelerate in the quoted sentence above. Everything is about speed!

Like many of my paintings that visualise signals, flight paths, the techno-cloud and more,  HYPERSONIC: (AUKUS Dream) is an attempt to visualise discrete or invisible aspects of contemporary war. HYPERSONIC: (AUKUS Dream) reveals a 'landscape' of trajectories - hypersonic ballistic missile trajectories and hypersonic glide/guided weapons trajectories. Hypersonic weapons cannot be easily tracked with the naked eye. Sound becomes a residue. Manoeuvrable hypersonic weapons cannot be easily tracked, full stop. Hence the AUKUS partnership is not only about hypersonic weapons R & D, but also "counter-hypersonic capabilities". 

This landscape, like all my obvious and not-so-obvious landscapes, is inspired by my experiences growing up, and living, in western Queensland, Australia. I grew up on a naturally treeless blacksoil plain. While the western horizon is a flat line, often blurred by shimmery mirages, to the east, the Bunya Mt range cuts a majestic silhouette against expansive skies. Driving between my childhood home and Brisbane, to stay with my grandparents, meant travelling through fertile farmland, over the Great Dividing Range at Toowoomba, across the verdant Lockyer Valley, to the big city. 

As an adult I spent eighteen years living further west, in a town called Goondiwindi. Here, the landscape is not naturally treeless, but it is mostly flat. It is a harsher landscape due to less fertile soils. Prickly plants, grey plants, and hardy gums thrive. Driving to Brisbane meant crossing the Great Dividing Range at Cunningham's Gap, near a town called Warwick. One of the most spectacular landscapes I have ever seen, is on the return trip, as you drive towards Cunningham's Gap from the lowlands of the Brisbane Valley. The mountains loom like sentinels, shadows move like ghosts, and the sky is punctured by pointy peaks. It's beautiful!   

HYPERSONIC: (AUKUS Dream) suggests that invisible forces 'etch' landscape, creating new kinds of insidious scapes that mediate landscape, as well as concepts of environment. This mediation affects how we think of human movement, borders, sovereignty, security, life and death. A patch of red dots, left of centre, references geolocating, terrain visualisation and targeting computer-graphics. This reminds us that landscape is mediated for technologies with increasingly autonomous functioning, particularly movement.  What are the implications for the future of war and humanity? 

For any living creature, human or non-human, at or near a target, speed is life changing or ending. 

Speed is key. Speed can be weapon and a purveyor of weaponry. 

"There is a certain inevitability in the domain of science and technology. We never decelerate." Paul Virilio , Desert Screen, p. 33.