In this lecture, Prof. Hanna Rose Shell will argue that camouflage is an adaptive logic of escape from photographic representation. Her talk traces the evolution of camouflage as it developed in counterpoint to technological advances in photography, innovations in warfare, and as-yet-unsolved mysteries of natural history. 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 will reveal to the audience three conceptually linked “species” of so-called “photographic camouflage.”

Prof. Hanna Rose Shell is a filmmaker and historian of science and technology, who focuses on the environment, the media, military studies, and material culture. The main body of her work comprises films, multimedia and curatorial work, as well as scholarly articles and books. Through her analysis, she breaks down increasingly untenable divides between production and consumption, art and technology, and invention and reuse. From camouflage netting, old clothes, decomposing vegetable matter, and other artifacts of creative repurposing, she uncovers historical shifts in modern epistemologies of self, nature and representation.

Her film Blind (2012), about the phenomenology of camouflage, and her site-specific installation Camoufleurs (2008) are examples of her interdisciplinary approaches. The installation and the film, along with the multimedia performances and environmental interactions out of which it emerged, both document, and are themselves experiments in hide-and-seek. They investigate how to be, as how not to be seen, both in nature and on film. She also published the related book Hide and Seek: Camouflage, Photography and the Media of Reconnaissance (MIT Press, 2012).

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