Monday, September 17, 2012

Hiding in Plain Sight

(Above and below) Naturally, the best camouflage artists are found in nature.

Click any image for larger view.

(Above) The Lockheed Burbank aircraft factory in California just prior to WWII, before the need for camouflage. (Click image for larger view)

(Above) Same factory, after the Army Corp of Engineers layered camouflage netting over the entire factory to make it appear to be just another subdivision with small farm fields. (Click image for larger view)


(Above) The HRMS Abraham Crijnssen disguised as a tropical island, April, 1942. (Click image for larger view)

(Above) From Playboy Magazine, the model Veruschka. Though beautiful and statuesque, Veruschka spent most of her life attempting to change the way her body was perceived by others. She was, by all accounts, a conceptual artist who used the modeling platform as a means to showcase her art.

(Above) Veruschka, for Playboy, 1971.


(Above) Emma Hack goes a step further by introducing a new object, in this case the owl, to further throw off our eye to the camouflaged woman. (Click image for larger view)


(Above) Emma Hack, an artist involved in fashion, again uses patterned wallpaper as a foil in which to hide her model. (Click image for larger view)


(Above) Dutch artist Desiree Palmen, who lives in Rotterdam, takes photographs of a particular place, then uses a person dressed in clothes she has painted perfectly to blend into the background. (Click image for larger view)

(Above) Desiree Palmen, Park Bench, 1999. (Click image for larger view)

(Above) Liu Bolin, camouflage artist, China.

(Above) Liu Bolin, camouflage artist, China

(Above) Liu Bolin, a “camouflage artist” from China, says that his artwork about “hiding” is a political statement. (Click image for larger view)

(Above) Liu Bolin, camouflage artist, China, disappears in plain sight. (Click image for larger view)

(Above) Liu Bolin, China. (Click image for larger view)


I STARTED OUT THIS MORNING INTENT ON DOING A POST about the Chinese artist Liu Bolin. Now, midstream in my research, I realize that I cannot do a post just on him without attempting to put what he does into some sort of context. What does the idea of camouflage mean? How has it been used and how did the process become co-joined with art? Without question, Bolin’s art is powerful stuff, but I will attempt to explore the whole idea of camouflage and how his art fits into the idea of transformation.

Liu Bolin’s art is about camouflaging himself as a means of political protest in his own country. His political protest against the Chinese government is a statement against repression (the authorities shut down his studio in 2005). He has written that, in nature, many animals, insects and creatures have the ability to alter and adapt their physical appearance to their surroundings. This is a defensive measure to protect themselves from predators.

Chinese artist Liu Bolin desires to survive in a country that is a predator to him. Creatively, he is saying, “I must blend in to survive, I cannot be different.” His art is telling the western world about the repressive state in which he attempts to survive.

As an artistic statement, you have two things at work here. One, is the actual process and performance of creating the illusion. That in itself must be carefully orchestrated for the next and most important part—the photograph. In the end, it is the photograph that carries the weight of the process.

At the same time, Emma Hack is a talented Australian make up artist, stylist, hairdresser and artist who paints on the human body. No political statement here—just a way to work with fashion directors in a new, creative and fun way. Visually, the viewer must take extra care to disentangle the human being from the surroundings.

And, Dutch artist Desiree Palmen, is doing a thing that is quite akin to Liu Bolin’s art—except her art has more to do with being unseen and undetected. Palmen’s prior study was involved in biology and geology—so her work stems from her understanding of the natural world.

Mankind, on the other hand, even with his superior intellect—cannot alter his appearance naturally without creating a new physical covering of some kind (like ordinary hunting camouflage, etc.) And therein lies the connection between these images. With man, camouflage is an artificial thing, something brought in and applied. With nature, it just is.


“We live among its people now, hiding in plain sight, but watching over them in secret, waiting, protecting.” Optimus Prime, from the film “Transformers.”

95 comments:

Matt Hunter Ross said...

Very cool post! It pays to take time and be observant.

LIRIO said...

great stuff i love your blog

Professor Estevez said...

A post on dazzle camouflage would be a great follow up!!

nashashibi said...

its amazing of how the same work of art means different things to different people, in china it was a political statement and elsewhere it is a normal artwork!... its like love, it means different things to different poeple

John Foster said...

Thanks everyone... Dazzle Camouflage, hmmmm, I will look it up. Thanks Professor!

The Storialist said...

Oh my goodness!

You have such amazing stuff on here--I just love reading about these oddities that you have curated.

I can't believe that the woman was in Playboy?!? So artsy!

Amanda said...

I love the pictures of the camouflaged woman with the animals, they are so beautiful. The political statements made through camouflage are truly amazing. The effort that goes into the statements is mind boggling. I think that people in western cultures often take for granted the freedoms we have to speak and create freely. Great post, thanks.

Maureen said...

I grew up an army brat and when Google Earth came out, I tried to trace all the places I lived as kid just to make some sense of my history. Interesting enough, several of the places turned out to classified military bases (my dad built bombs) and were blotted out all together or looked like enormous sand traps. Made my childhood even scarier than I remembered.

Red-SSR said...

Great images, thanks again...Gary

norm magnusson said...

Reminds me of this decorating nature work:
http://decoratingnature.blogspot.com/

submandave said...

When I see something like this, i.e. hiding in plain sight, I can't help but think of steganography.

ZZMike said...

There's an American artist who does art illusions, usually on an American Indian theme. Her first name is Beth - I can't remember the last name. She has at least one art book out.

Her paintings are all of outdoor scenes. Your second phot of an ermine is very much like her work, except that the animal would be much harder to spot.

Clare said...

Absolutely crazy. I cant even imagine how long that takes!

CPeterson said...

thank you for this post! those are some pretty interesting shots for a Playboy magazine..

Laura@popdesign said...

very interesting! thanks for the great research work that went into this.

Laura Lynn said...

Thank you for such a fascinating post !
Who remembers the days when Playboy was artistic...
we need to get back to that but a country that does not fund the arts...sadly I do not see it happening any time soon...
Thanks so much it was really good reading it!

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