"Animal Mimicry and the Media of Reconnaissance"

a lecture by Hanna Rose Shell

June 28th, 2008


This event, a talk and "stencil making exercise", examines the work of artist, naturalist and media innovator Abbott H. Thayer (1849-1921). Through an analysis of his work, the talk explores the mixed-media foundations of modern camouflage. Protective coloration in nature motivated Thayer's media experiments in science and illusion, concealment and revelation. In 1896, he first articulated his laws of "obliterative coloration" and "disruptive patterning," thereby initiating a debate among natural historians, psychologists, representational artists and militarists. Over the next fifteen years, Thayer attempted scientific proof of his laws through the production, dissemination, and demonstration of three-dimensional models and stencils. He incorporated media (including photographs, films, skins, textiles and paints) into interactive collages and installations as part of an effort to articulate a science and practice of protective concealment.

Hanna Rose Shell's talk is based on her book HIDE AND SEEK (Zone Books, forthcoming) that articulates how, why and to what effect camouflage emerged in the twentieth century. It was coined as a word and implemented as set of linked scientific theories, media practices and formulations of identity based on media interactivity and immersion into nature.