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February 24: Camouflage Media / Professor Hanna Rose Shell (University of Colorado Boulder)

Camouflage is an adaptive logic of escape from photographic representation. This presentation traces the evolution of camouflage as it developed in counterpoint to technological advances in photography, innovations in warfare, and mysteries of natural history and experimental art-making alike. Today camouflage is commonly thought of as a textile pattern of interlocking greens and browns. But we shall discover the ways in which it reveals itself to be much more: a set of institutional structures, mixed-media art practices, and permutations of subjectivity, that emerged over the course of the twentieth century in environments increasingly mediated by photographic and cinematic intervention. The talk discloses three conceptually linked “species” of photographic camouflage. With these in mind, it considers late twentieth and recent twenty-first century incarnations of camouflage practice, as camouflage becomes simultaneously the mechanism of mass surveillance on the one hand, and the means and media of individually-articulated resistance on the other.

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