Sunday, January 31, 2010

Day-Glo Camouflage

From Paola Antonelli, Safe: Design Takes on Risk (NY: Museum of Modern Art, 2005), p. 42—

In 2004 a group protesting against fox hunting evaded security and broke into the hallowed corridors of the British House of Commons' debating chamber. They did so wearing fluorescent jackets and, when questioned by a policeman, they simply explained they were going to inspect the electrical system. In his book Invisible (2005), the British photographer Stephen Gill photographed people whose clothing made them invisible. They were not wearing the latest Hussein Chalayan creation, but rather "high-visibility" jackets. These Day-Glo, fluorescent jackets, with their retroreflective stripes, are designed to protect workers night and day on roads, railway lines, and building sites. It is ironic that in trying to make them ultravisible, these workers are instead rendered invisible. We are so accustomed to seeing workers in these jackets that we remove them from our radar. In the photographer's [Stephen Gill's] own experience, if he wears a fluorescent jacket, he can move and photograph where he likes. No one pays any attention to him.