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Peter Valentiner's camouflages


Text from pages 73 to 80


Camouflage is the art of concealing what is, to the point of making it non-existent, invisible. Camouflage is always practised with a precise aim, it is consequently operational. Camouflage is a waiting phase. Without camouflage no progress can be made, no cycle can be accomplished. Every species has gone through and must go through a camouflaged phase before reaching its equilibrium, this is a fundamental law in nature. Without camouflage, a species would unnecessarily expose itself to the aggressiveness of its environment (see animal mimicry).

In military terms, camouflage was created and developed (1) for tactical needs: to remove troops from enemy observation and research, particularly by aerial photography, and thus to allow more efficient progress of troops on the ground. Exposing camouflage can have several meanings, including

  • art, in the context in which it is disseminated today, is only a camouflage that only serves to better mask, under an appearance of liberalism and humanism, the flaws of a system whose maintenance is only due to a form of power well known today: police repression.

  • To show the true face of the system in an "artistic" demonstration is to give it back its true face and to publicly demonstrate the obvious: "everything, absolutely everything, is only appearance and appearances are deceptive". (cf. optical illusions.)

  • Finally, introducing the notion of camouflage into the field of artistic practices is a subversive attempt to introduce the public to the different forms of camouflage practiced today. Eventually inviting them to use, in turn, this type of action in a revolutionary process.

(1) Originally, during the First World War, painters, theatre decorators, etc. collaborated with the army to develop it.


August 1971.

HOMOCHROME (krom): adj. that has the colour or visual appearance of its environment.

HOMOCHROMY: n.f. function by which an animal takes on the colour or visual appearance of the background on which it stands still.

- encycl. homochromia. Homochromia is passive, when the animal usually lives on a background that matches its appearance (zebra among the erbs); it is active, when the animal can act on its colour and modify it (chameleon, turbot). In this case, it is the coloured grains contained in the skin which, either by a local and direct reaction to light, or on the orders of the central nervous system or under the effect of certain hormones, dilate or contract, rise to the surface or sink. Fear, sexual activity and vision all play a part in the resulting appearance.

CAMOUFLER, v. tr. (camuffare, ital. disguise). To make up, to disguise in such a way as to render unrecognizable or unapparent: to camouflage a cannon, a tank - fig. to dissimulate, to hide under deceptive appearances: to camouflage a failure. To camouflage one's true intentions.

CAMOUFLAGE, n.m. action of camouflaging - art of concealing, from enemy observation, war material, ships, etc., to ensure secrecy or surprise. - camouflage - an intermediate process between plain language and encrypted language used in military transmissions to ensure the secrecy of communications for a certain period of time: the camouflage of a message. A camouflage grid.

CAMOUFLEUR, adj. and n.m. person who performs camouflage (pr. and fig.)

CRYPT, n.f. (from Greek kruptos, hidden, underground).


Peter Valentiner's camouflages

By Béatrice Janicot

1971: the vines that camouflaged the Buddhas of Angkor now camouflage American machine guns... The last of the savages are camouflaged by the virgin jungles but not well enough because they have forgotten to hide from the skyways discovered by genocidal aircraft... "Women are always sensitive to the prestige of the uniform", say the magazines, and on the strength of this principle, the shops sell plagiarized military outfits like hotcakes... As industry and the urban concentration camp grew, the idea was to protect nature by enclosing it in state parks. In this way, as happens in zoos for city children, one would visit the exiled nature as a curious animal.

Curious if it is! Peter Valentiner has decided to remind us of one of his oldest stories: "Do you know," he tells us, "that there are curious beasts that use the gifts with which nature has endowed them to imitate nature for all useful purposes of camouflage, identification and thus to surprise, because the defensive can become offensive. This is called homochromia, i.e. similarity of colour when the colour of an animal is the same as its environment, and homotypy, i.e. similarity of form and appearance, as in the case of these grasshoppers which are similar to blades of grass. For the sake of simplicity, we will call this phenomenon "camouflage" because this is the name that military tactics have chosen to imitate it.

Indeed, this particularity did not escape the inventive warrior genius who analysed it, adopted it, adapted it and, conquered by his discovery, organised, legislated and operated it. Then were born true masterpieces of martial art and one could exclaim, as fashion promoters do, and this is indeed one of the most horrible derision conceived by man: "ah how pretty war is! "In front of this reverse side of the front, in front of these fabrics and these camouflage paintings so seductive that they disguise the horror that is precisely camouflaged in them, in front of this war in lace, this war in rubber nets, these patchworks of military haute-couture.

All this camouflage, all this new military art, Valentiner exhibits it, informs us of it and lets us see it. Here is the mass geometry of Verdun green in Teutonic camouflage, here is the "Vietnamisation" of American camouflage with opiate shapes for an oriental dream. These colours will be in fashion this winter, says Emmanuelle Khan. Here is the harlequinade in Italy, the parade of khaki, verdigris, watercress and lettuce that hides the sleeper of the valley.

Because one day, in front of the debauchery of the military tarpaulins which displayed their dupe market at the flea market, Valentiner woke up. His fussy eyebrows grew into circumflex accents above his dotted eyes until they metamorphosed into a question mark for the left and an exclamation mark for the right. And that's why he left his war paint and put it on his pale face. He left his brush painting gunmen to study the clothing of those gunmen and the way their aggressiveness was conditioned and programmed. He stopped painting symbols to go to the sources of the myth. He found the key word, the word with a double meaning, practical and mythical: camouflage. And seeing that the war was hiding in the path, he took to the underground and the path of the masked war to better demystify it. Finally, the brushes relegated to the broom cupboard of museums and galleries of the institution, he took the warriors' own weapons, the double-edged weapons, as his own weapons as an artist.

He found a magic word and the doors of magic opened before him, showing him how much this word "camouflage", the importance of which he did not yet know, was present in the historical and cultural tradition of man.

Thus, to cite just two examples, camouflages are the allegories and symbols of mythology when its parables are expressed in a language disguised as poetry: they are then called "metamorphoses". As for the ultimate camouflage of man and animals, is it not the work of death which metamorphoses them into dust similar to the dust in which death has laid them?

Camouflage" is certainly a magical concept and Valentiner, by exhibiting it, invites us to go through its doors and discover its magic for ourselves. However, beware of magic is also the approach that Valentiner proposes for our reflection. Peoples among whom the foreigner named dollar has come to bring war, beware of nature, for behind every tree is a hidden soldier! it is Shakespeare's forest on the march. Beware of poetic metaphors and beware of artist-painters. Remember Adolph Hitler's first vocation and know that Monet painted the first water lilies for the French army.

Finally, dear reader, allow me to ask you a question: "When will you leave your camouflage?


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