Skip to main content
Open Access Publications from the University of California

UC Berkeley

UC Berkeley Previously Published Works bannerUC Berkeley

Speculative Propositions: A Visual Pattern Sampler

Published Web Location
No data is associated with this publication.

During World War I, a peculiar example of disruptive patterning was developed to adorn British and American battleships. "Dazzle camouflage" as it was known, did little to "hide" the vessels themselves. Rather, its function was to confuse enemy aim by utilizing chaotic black-and-white patterns. Vintage photographs of these ships provide startling visuals of a kind of graphical warfare. At first glance, the extreme angles and cutout shapes conjure everything from European Modernist abstraction, Russian Constructivism, and colonial ethnic and tribal patterning, to later forms of Op art and design. As an artist researching these images, I began speculating on the side-effects of their routes as global visual transmitters of conquest and empire. What if these patterns, likened to war paint and symbolic markers of dominance, were altered to show their transmission onto other forms, such as modern architecture, commodities, and trade/transit routes - a sort of cross-pollination of hybridity and influence across cultures and continents? How can these patterns be employed by unexpected "clients" of economic and cultural colonialism? How can colonized forms misappropriate this visual technique for themselves? Speculative Propositions: A Visual Pattern Sampler is the result of this exploration.

Many UC-authored scholarly publications are freely available on this site because of the UC's open access policies. Let us know how this access is important for you.

Item not freely available? Link broken?
Report a problem accessing this item