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Deception by Design

Described as “a critical look at digital escapism and current control techniques of our ongoing spectacular society,” Blue Star Contemporary’s “Augmented Reality” unites six artists who creatively mine the intersections of visual art and the technology. Opened in June and on view through September, the group show shares “parallel themes and practices” with Deception by Design — a 2015 Australian documentary screening in conjunction with BSC’s Film Friday program. A project five years in the making, the hour-long doc investigates the “critical but little-known role” artists have played in warfare through the development of camouflage and other forms of visual trickery. Although first proposed by 19th-century American artist and naturalist Abbott Thayer, camouflage first emerged in the military realm during WWI-era France, where camoufleurs hand-painted cloaks designed to mesh with natural surroundings. Besides outfitting soldiers, these artists also obscured potential targets — building artificial suburbs atop aircraft factories and even papier-mâché horse carcasses for snipers to hide inside — and creatively confused enemy submarines by painting thousands of warships with striking patterns inspired by Cubism and other art movements. Informed by more than 20 interviews with camouflage experts, historians and camofleurs, Deception by Design sheds light on the roles of an array of extraordinary characters, including Retired Lieutenant Colonel Timothy O’Neill (considered the father of digital camouflage), Hyperstealth Biotechnology Inc. CEO Guy Cramer (whose “quantum stealth” invisibility cloak “is so top secret, that no one is allowed to see it”) and anti-surveillance designer Adam Harvey (who creates “anti-drone” garments that hide wearers from infra-red surveillance).

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