Camouflage and Art
Recent developments in animal ethology, anthropology and evolutionary psychology have urged a questioning of traditional boundaries between humans and animals, arguing that traditional divides between humans and animals, nature and culture, or instinct and education, are not as clear-cut as was previously thought. Instead, it has become increasingly clear that features traditionally used to define the supposedly unique human capacity to create culture, such as language, intentionality, empathy, or the capacity to see something as something else, variously called semeiosis, substitution or analogical thinking, are shared by humans and animals in a continuum. It ranges from comparatively simple sign language or the capacity to plan, to the most elaborate varieties of image-making, language or material culture.
In the research project recently set up by the Universities of Cambridge (Department of Art History) and Ghent (Department of Art History, Musicology and Theatre Studies) we intend
to move beyond existing studies of camouflage that concentrate on the history of ideas about this
in the life sciences, the arts or its military use, to address the fundamental issue raised by camouflage: it invites us to reconsider relations between human image-making and animal camouflage, because in the realm of actual, real living beings, camouflage is the largest, most varied, and possibly oldest producer of visual representations.