Alive-nesses: Proposal for Adaptation

Public Art Installation for the High Line
New York, NY

Three storage containers, two are 8’ 6” h x 19’10” w x 7’ 11.5”d, one is 8’6” h x 10’7”w x 7’111/2”d.

In my ongoing exploration of landscape, I have become interested in a type of camouflage that attempts to render an object “unrecognizable” rather than “invisible”. In fact, the figure becomes visually aggressive. The original form is concealed through heightened disorder, misdirection or disturbance. Such hyper-visible camouflage controls our perceptual experience by breaking up the continuity and regularity of the original form. The military adapted this more aggressive strategy of concealment to ships in World War I and II through a technique called Dazzle painting. My High Line art installation, titled Alivenesses: Proposal for Adaptation uses this technique.

A.H. Thayer coined the term “razzle-dazzle” within the context of camouflage in Concealing Coloration in the Animal Kingdom (1909) to describe natural systems of camouflage that utilize disruptive and high-contrast patterns to make it indistinguishable from its environment. The military applied this strategy as an anti-range finding maritime camouflage technique between 1914-1945 by painting an entire ship with high contrast “dazzle” patterns. The oblique angles and complex geometric shapes rendered it nearly impossible for the enemy, looking through a periscope, to determine the front of the maritime vessel, its speed or direction.

In Alive-nesses, which is similarly situated on the waterfront, I painted the patterns over the surface of three large storage containers. The visual effect disorients the viewer by reorganizing the form of the containers. The patterns on the containers formalize the geometric features of the surrounding buildings and construction.

This type of visual transformation of storage containers has the power to render the original object as unreadable, opening the potential to rewrite its meaning just as the High Line Park transformed industrial form into aesthetic form. The walkways and plants camouflage the industrial past by adapting to the original form in a way that reorganizes our perceptual experience with nature reducing the tension between nature and culture.

This High Line Art Commission is presented by Friends of the High Line and the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation. High Line Art Commissions are made possible by Donald R. Mullen, Jr. This program is supported, in part, with public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council and from the New York State Council on the Arts.

Abstracting the Fleet: Dazzle Camouflage’s Influence on Contemporary Art and Design by Jonathan Magdaleno, The Creator's Project. Published on June 3, 2013.

Charles Mary Kubricht's Alive-nesses: A Proposal for Adaptation by Tabitha Piseno. Published in BOMBLOG on January 4, 2012.

Charles Mary Kubricht Dazzles High Line With Alive-nesses by Jim Allen. Published in Société Perrier on August 23, 2011.

The Art of Deception: Charles Mary Kubricht, High Line Art.

Charles Mary Kubricht. Published by - International Contemporary Art.

Art on and Around the High Line by BigCitiesBrightLights. Posted on November 15, 2012.