Adam Harvey CV Dazzle at Trace Recordings opening UTS Gallery 2013

Artist Adam Harvey has been interested in camouflage systems for some time. Specifically, he has been interested in types of camouflage that bypass surveillance. He has developed a number of projects that circumvent specific surveillance systems, including StealthWear AntiDrone garments and CV Dazzle.

CV Dazzle is a project in which Harvey develops computer vision (CV) camouflage based on Dazzle camouflage from WWI. He has worked with hair stylists and makeup artists to create a catalogue of designs that will prevent people from being detected by facial recognition software.

As with Dazzle camouflage, the trick is not so much to hide completely as to confuse or distract the software from reading a face. Harvey has studied the algorithms used in facial detection software. Some of the information it uses is the ratio of light to dark in certain areas, and the symmetry of the face. The designs intentionally mix these up, or confuse them with bold black and white stripes and shapes.

In the CV Dazzle Workshop, visitors to the gallery can design and test out their own CV Dazzle makeup and hairstyles. The gallery is set up with some workstations, and visitors can experiment first on a face chart before applying some make-up. There is a large monitor that uses its build in webcam to detect people as they walk around the space. It identifies them with a neon green box.


Have a look at more images of CV Dazzle workshops


Camoufleurs were professional camouflage specialists in the defense forces during WWI and II. It was a very special and esteemed position. Camoufleurs were often professional artists (you may have heard of Paul Klee and Franz Marc). The word originally referred to people serving in the French military camouflage unit in WWI.

Norman Wilkinson: Dazzle Pioneer

The word ‘dazzle’ comes from a type of camouflage devised for navy ships in World War I. Rather than try to blend them in with their surroundings, dazzle works on the principle of disorienting the viewer so that it is harder to tell the size, speed and direction of a ship at sea. It was pioneered by British artist and marine painter Norman Wilkinson for use by the Royal Navy and the US Navy.

Wilkinson was serving in the Royal Naval Volunteer reserve in 1917 when there was a string of attacks on British ships by German submarines. Up to eight British ships were sinking every day. It was around this time he had the idea for a new type of camouflage, one that would make it harder to aim fire at a ship in the distance when looking through a periscope.

Wilkinson was put in charge of naval camouflage, and moved in to a new headquarters in the basement of the Royal Academy of Arts in London. There he worked with a team of artists, model-makers, camoufleurs, construction preparators and draughtspeople. Together they designed different types of dazzle, tested them out on models and sent plans out to the docks where another set of artists would apply their designs to the ships.