Disruptive pattern camouflage has become synonymous for military kit. Besides its military use, it is also an icon of its own, a symbol of protest as well as an aspect of fashion.
For centuries, military uniforms had been colourful to differentiate friend from foe on the battlefield, but also as a distinguishing feature towards civil society. With technological progress and the advent of both aviation and improved photography a century ago, camouflage became a necessity. Artists and zoologists played a huge role in developing camouflage patterns. Today, most nations have a distinct national camouflage, and often, specific services or special forces have their very own uniforms as a sign of distinction. Nevertheless, many patterns can be traced back to the 1930s and 1940s. While fooling an observer is at the heart of military camouflage, it remains to be ambivalent, with its roles ranging from a desired cloak of invisibility to an indicator of power and prowess. In the past decades, camouflage has become synonymous with the military, and simultaneously, a global icon on its own, a political statement and an aspect of fashion.
If you, for instance, want to show your audience how to produce explosives and you do it in a way, that the whole thing looks like a cooking show, that is absolutely ridiculous.
Photographer Simon Menner is less and less interested in taking new photographs, the focus of his praxis has for some time now mostly been reflecting photography – he is interested in how we understand images (and why), its different roles and how photography fulfils them. With a series titled Camouflage, he brought into question our faith in the credibility and truthfulness of the photographs. The series shows snipers, hidden in nature. Snipers are not actually being shown, as it is impossible to see them in the vast majority of cases. However, this did not prevent the internet audience from searching for the snipers in an almost “Where is Waldo” manner and spotting them. He addressed a different aspect of the photography with the Surveillance Complex section of his work. The photographs from the Stasi archive are burdened with their potential as the evidence material. Recently, Simon Menner has been obsessively collecting ISIS propaganda. He then analyses it and breaks it down into such details as gestures, beards or embraces. Through this procedure he exposes the often absurd ways of building a propaganda narration. Menner’s projects are diverse, but they revolve mainly around the power(lessness) of photography. We, therefore, began the discussion with the question concerning the role of the artist in today’s world.