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Dazzle Camouflage, Neo Geo and Anti-Surveillance

posted Sep 16, 2013, 8:02 AM by Ellen Pearlman


Dazzle-ships in Drydock at Liverpool by Edward Wadsworth, 1919

The song  ”Razzle Dazzle" from Chicago is based on dazzle ship’s camouflage from World War I, where a ship was painted in bombastic patterns to confuse the enemy as to its correct proportions, and "to distort the external shape by violent color contrasts." Accordingly, as can only happen in the art world, Picasso and other Cubists claimed they invented it. What is true is that the actual word camouflage derives from the French word camouflet which means obnoxiously blowing smoke in someone’s face to confuse them. Leave it to the French to think of such a nice way to describe something so vile. 


Norman Wilkinson, an British artist and naval officer who is said to have invented Dazzle for boats

Over 4000 British Merchant ships and 400 navel vessels were painted with a variety of dazzle patterns. Even the U.S. government piped in and dreamed up some schemes of concealment.


United States design for dazzle concealment

There were even “Dazzle Balls” at the Chelsea Arts Club in London


Yvonne Gregory photographed by her husband Bertram Park, 1919, copyright National Portrait Gallery


Face Recognition software is being used increasingly and is especially ubiquitous in London and Dubai.  There are a number of ways the anti-surveillance crowd is dealing with this. It doesn’t work for all face recognition, but only for the type that works with infra-red cameras.


Isao Echizen, associate professor at Tokyo’s National Institute of Informatics, jointly with Prof. Seiichi Gohshi of Kogakuin University, have created special LED glasses that can thwart the ability of the software to recognize one’s face by using near-infrared light. Then when you combine dazzle with “Neo Geo" or Neo Geometric Conceptualism from the 1980s and surveillance pattern recognition wacky thing happen. 


Ross Bleckner, “The Forest”, 1980

The area where the eyes, nose and forehead intersect is the sweet spot for facial recognition software. In order to change that you can use black and white make up, or make a weird hairstyle that hangs down in part of your face. This throws off face recognition software by using abstract designs.


Weird pattern designs from “Figure Drawing for Fashion Design

Or, in a worst case scenario, you can always, like the Lone Ranger, Zorro, Batman and many others, just wear a mask.


Guy Fawkes masks