During World War I, Allied forces painted their battleships in dazzle camouflage. These “dazzle ships” were meant to disorient enemies from gauging speed, direction, and size from a distance. In addition to inspiring Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark's (OMD) highly underrated 1983 experimental electronic album, Dazzle Ships, dazzle camouflage has also had a major influence on Brooklyn-based multimedia artist Vandana Jain.
Jain, whose art ranges from installations and embroidery to painting and architectural models, also has a thing for taking aim at corporations and their logos. Her latest installation, Dazzle, is set to appear at Smack Mellon gallery as part of this weekend's Dumbo Arts Festival. With Dazzle, Jain takes the visual vocabulary of dazzle ships—the disorientating effects and optical illusions caused by their patterned paintjobs—and fuses it with the high-impact symbolism of corporate logos.
“[Dazzle camouflage] was especially interesting [in] that it was rendered useless with the invention of sonar,” Jain told The Creators Project. “At the time I made the first work, I was already working with the language of corporate logos. I was particularly interested in imagery that was generic or pictographic, where the design lay within a larger tradition of symbols that could be understood globally.” Jain thought of corporate logos as a “type of invisibility or cloaking,” wagering that the dazzle camouflage patterning would be the perfect visual and conceptual accompaniment for her installation. “[It's] kind of like hiding in plain sight,” said Jain.
The first works involved single panels of tape on a wall. Ranging from 6' x 8' to 9' x 12', they were composed of one logo intersected within itself several times. Each portion was filled with a different directional striping. There was a lion, which is the brand for Delhaize group (a Belgian food distributor) in blue painters tape, and a pink unicorn representing a British pharmaceutical company's trademark. To pull off the Smack Mellon installation, Jain used a projector to transfer the original drawings to gallery walls. The tape was laid in sections, then cut, re-laid, and cut again. Some sections required two or three passes to complete, she noted.
“For Smack Mellon, I'm expanding this idea to fill all four walls of the gallery, from floor to ceiling, over 80 linear feet at 12' high,” Jain said. “Rather than working with single panels of color, I am using multiple colors and gradient patterns. Both the lion and the unicorn make an appearance, along with some hearts, hands, and an eye; a seated yogi figure with radiating circles; and a intersection of peacocks.”
Vandana Jain's “Dazzle” installation will be on display at Smack Mellon at the Dumbo Arts Festival from September 26-28th.