Camouflage, or the Temptation of Relationship

Camouflage, or the Temptation of Relationship

Arno Rafael Minkkinen: Continental Divide at Independence Pass, Colorado, 2013. Courtesy of the author.

Usually, camouflage is interpreted within the frame of deceitful communication. Scholars have mainly provided accounts of camouflage based on strategic-tactical sign emissions within the frame of ecological competition. The dominant key is one of antagonism and belligerence, whereby camouflage and camouflage detection are described as a ‘semiotic arms race’. These views are grounded in a utilitarian means/ends scheme of either strategic or tactical nature. By contrast, in this piece, I invite to conceptualise camouflage as the temptation of relation. Approaching camouflage as a specifically social temptation suggests regarding it as something that inherently exists beyond the functional domain. Three illustrations from the art world of photography are provided: Leo Selvaggio’s URME Surveillance Project, Arno Rafael Minkkinen’s Continental Divide, and Matthew Barney’s Cremaster 5.

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Once we understand camouflage as a fully vital phenomenon that cannot be reduced to a strategic-tactical game among antagonists, we can appreciate how the camouflaging animal (or human) enacts a liminal space.
Reading time: 11 min.


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