“The task of camouflage is to deceive. Confusion, concealment, deception, and diversion are the means to fulfill this task. If complete subterfuge in evading recognition cannot be accomplished, disturbance of accuracy of observation is the next goal.”
Industrial Camouflage Manual- Pratt Institute, 1942, pg. 57
I first got the idea of using camouflage as an artistic idea back in the late 1970’s when I was visiting Northern Ireland. “The Troubles” were still going on. Derry (or Londonderry) was an occupied city, with British troops stationed in and around the city. One day, as I was walking around in a very urban part of the city, when suddenly I found myself face to face with a fully armed British Soldier standing in a stone doorway. He was wearing Jungle camouflage. His camouflage pattern was so out of place that it actually made the soldier stand out more. I found no small amount of irony in this situation. It was the beginning of my long journey down this rabbit hole.
Flashback to World War I…
…the British were losing ships at an alarming rate, the victim of German submarines. The problem was how to protect these ships out in the open sea where there is nowhere to hide. It was determined that since they couldn’t hide, the next best thing to do was to confuse the enemy. With that rationale, the British developed a type of camouflage called, “Dazzle,” which were developed to obscure the ship, as to size, type, direction and speed, thus buying precious seconds that might give them time to spot and evade their hunters. What a visual feast for the eyes! What a visual way to transform an object!
Destroy the form!
So I create an object from simple shapes which usually take on the form of dynamic objects, such as an airplane or fish. Each shape has a form that reflects its unique brand of dynamism. After having created these forms, it is my goal to visually destroy it through patterning, much as the Dazzle camoufleurs did with ships. It is not an attempt to hide or blend in; rather, it is an attempt to confuse, obfuscate and transform. I find that my forms take on an anamorphic quality which seems to give each object a personality and life force. It is something completely surprising and wholly delightful to me. It has not been lost on me that these forms assume a humorous almost childlike charm.
The relevance of this approach should be glaringly obvious in relation to today’s political climate. The tactics employed by camouflage: deception, confusion, concealment, and diversion; are the same as those used by people in power to ruthlessly gain political advantage. By using these same tactics to create something that is both harmless and humorous, serves as a visual counterpoint to the politics of the day.