I’ve posted about camouflage before, but mainly in an historical context: the issue looms large in two recent essays, ‘Gabriel’s Map’ and the soon-to-be-completed ‘The natures of war’. But it is, of course, of vital contemporary importance, and I’m thinking through its implications for my ‘Militarized vision‘ project. After all, ‘seeing like a military‘ also involves what is not seen…
Here the work of Isla Forsyth is indispensable: see in particular her ‘Subversive patterning: the surgical qualities of camouflage’, Environment and Planning A 45(2013) 1037-52 and ‘Designs on the desert: camouflage, deception and the militarization of space’, Cultural geographies, online July 2013; I also like James Philip Robertson‘s ‘Darkened surfaces”: camouflage and the nocturnal observation of Britain, 1941-45’, Environment and Planning A 45 (2013) 1053-69.
But these are all historical investigations, and for those new to contemporary camouflage Kelsey Campbell-Dollaghan has a helpful summary of advances (and failures) in ‘digital’ camouflage over at Gizmodo, ‘The history of invisibility and the future of camouflage’.
The article takes off from the failure of the US Army’s ‘Universal Camouflage Pattern’ introduced in 2004, which was supposedly designed to work anywhere: not surprisingly, it didn’t. Cindi Katz‘s wonderfully waspish descriptions of the post-9/11 deployment of the National Guard in New York City are irresistible:
‘I’ve grown accustomed to their presence — frighteningly so — but still can’t get over their costumes. Green, woodsy camouflage. To blend with Penn Station?!’
Kelsey interviews Guy Cramer, CEO of Hyperstealth Biotechnology, ‘leaders in camouflage, concealment and deception’, and one of four finalists in the US Army’s Camo Improvement project. He has interesting things to say about fractals, pattern and scale but also about the temporal horizon of camouflage: how long does the deception have to work? Perhaps it will soon be time to head over to Penn Station again….
UPDATE: I’ve just stumbled across Stefka Hristova‘s ‘Digital Animalized Camouflage: A Zone of Biopolitical Indistinction’, from interstitial last year, which make a series of imaginative connections between digital camouflage and the state of exception: you can access it here.