Before the invention of radar technology, warships would disguise their true shape and heading using patterns and colour. Zig-zagging lines, high contrast and sharp angles would confuse gunners, who struggled to accurately determine the distance and speed of their targets. “Dazzle camouflage” drew inspiration from the natural world – zebra herds use this kind of visual trickery to confound predators.
Artist Shigeki Matsuyama uses the technique in his installation, Narcissism: Dazzle Room, in which the selfie-snapping subject is lost inside a striped pattern that hides her larger self. A commentary on the false identities we create on social media, the work blurs the boundary between self and self-image.
“In an era where much communication occurs over social media,” writes Matsuyama, “metrics such as ‘likes’ and ‘follows’ fulfill our desire for recognition; however, the ease of which we can obtain validation from others leads to the growth of this desire, and we attempt to satiate it using our self-image or larger self.”
The sculpture is made of fiber-reinforced plastic, while the camouflage pattern is painted directly on the head and limbs using acrylic paint. Hidden mirrors line the edge of the room to make it difficult to distinguish where the floor ends and the walls begin, and radiating patterns further disguise the true shape of the room.
“As a result, depth perception, which normally occurs instantaneously, is delayed,” explains Matsuyama, “and I believe the resulting discomfort connects to the concept behind the work.”