Monday, June 13, 2022


 Light Speed: Crash (After Virilio) Oil on linen 66 x 112 cm 2022

The light barrier “is not something one can cross: you crash into it.”

"To have reached the light barrier, to have reached the speed of light, is a historical event which throws history in disarray and jumbles up the relation of the living being towards the world." 

Both quotes Paul Virilio Speed and Information: CyberspaceAlarm!,” CTheory (August 27, 1995).  

Regular readers will know of my interest in the speed of light, the electromagnetic spectrum, technology, war, humanity and the future. One of my other recent paintings is called Speed of Light

Light Speed: Crash (After Virilio) (above) was inspired by reading French cultural theorist Paul Virilio's multiple works on themes of speed, technology and war. As you can see from the date of the above two quotes, Virilio was insightful and incisive in his critiques of technology and speed in the twentieth century. His book Desert Screen: War at the Speed of Light  was first published in 1991, during the first Gulf War. Like Jean Baudrillard, Virilio saw this war's embrace of instantaneous signal transmission of instructions and imagery, as a historical milestone. Since then, the utilisation of the electromagnetic spectrum to enable seeming instantaneity, has conditioned us to speed - light speed or near light speed signal connectivity, interconnectivity, to enable operability and interoperability across civilian and military technologies and systems.

One limit, if not the only limit for these technologies and systems is light speed. It is "not something one can cross: you crash into it.” As we scramble to make sure speed gives us an edge, whether it's high frequency stock trading or weapon delivery/detection, how far/fast can we go?

In Light Speed: Crash (After Virilio) I have tried to give an impression of speed. The cosmic landscape alludes to the fact that the electromagnetic spectrum is universal with a history embedded in the universe's cosmological history. The painting seems to indicate an imminent crash. A 'wall' of symbols visually suggests a limit. These symbols are  c - light speed and y - photon. All frequencies in the electromagnetic spectrum are made up of photons travelling at the speed of light. Radio waves have longer wave lengths, while gamma waves have the shortest wave lengths.  The light spectrum is the only one visible to the unaided human eye.


In May, Autonomous Weapon Systems and the Protection of the Human Person: An International Law Analysis by Dr. Diego Mauri, was published by Edward Elgar Publishing. Thrilled that my painting Manhunting 2017 is on the front cover. I met Dr. Mauri at the Aesthetics of Drone Warfare conference, University of Sheffield in February 2020. We were both presenters. 

The book is a thoughtful examination, through an International Law lens, of issues associated with increasingly autonomous weapon systems (AWS). This is intersected with a history of AWS, ethical issues & more. The examination keeps the human being as central to the discussion.