Time for some Razzle Dazzle!

Used extensively in World War I, Dazzle camouflage was a unique creation that saw the marrying of art with military strategy. At the outbreak of World War I the British Navy was having trouble hiding its ships from German U-boats because there was no sure way to conceal ships on the open seas. Due to constantly changing weather it was impossible to produce a camouflage that would consistently hide navies from the enemy sights. While painting ships grey did reduce visibility, ships would still leave a wake as they travelled and a revealing trail of smoke that resulted in British ships being sunk by the German Navy in devastating numbers.

To counter the extreme exposure and destruction that the British Navy was being subjected to, Dazzle Camouflage was created. Popular belief has Norman Wilkinson – an artist in the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve – creating Dazzle Camouflage in 1917, however there is a potential point of contest, with others recognising John Graham Kerr as pushing this idea forward three years earlier. On the 24th September 1914 after the destruction of several British ships in only one day, Kerr wrote to Winston Churchill outlining some ideas on how to camouflage large ships, including a form of paint application that was similar to the dazzle camouflage realised by Wilkinson. In this letter Kerr describes the following method of camouflage:

“It is essential to break up the regularity of the outline and this can easily be affected by strongly contesting shades. The same applies to the surface generally, a continuous uniform shade renders conspicuous, this can be countered by     breaking up the surface by violently contrasting pigments. A giraffe, or zebra, or jaguar looks extraordinarily conspicuous in a museum, but in nature when not moving, is wonderfully difficult to pick up. The same principle should be made use of in painting ships”.

This idea was well received by Churchill and passed to naval officers, however it was up to individual officer whether or not this principle was acted upon. In 1917 Wilkinson once again revisited the notion of disruptive colouring, and a much more organised and coherent effort was implemented across the navy to make use of, what is now known as, Dazzle Camouflage.

The purpose of this camouflage was not to hide the ship, but rather to utilise a form of obliterative colouring that confused and distorted its shape. This would mean that when German attackers sighted British ships in Dazzle Camouflage they would find it difficult to identify its type, size, speed and direction of travel, making it extremely difficult to target.

To commemorate this artist creation, as part of the ongoing events around the centenary of World War I the arts organisation, 1418 Now has commissioned the artists Tobias Rehberger and Carlos Cruz-Diez to recreate Dazzle camouflage in both London and Liverpool on the HMS President and the Edmund Gardner.

Image courtesy of 1418 Now: Dazzle Ships. Liverpool, Carlos Cruz-Diez, 2014. Image credit - Helen Hunt

Image courtesy of 1418 Now: Dazzle Ships. Tobias Rehberger, 2014. Image credit – Stephen White

 

Image courtesy of 1418 Now: Dazzle Ships. Dazzle Ship Liverpool, Carlos Cruz-Diez, 2014. Image credit - Helen Hunt

Image courtesy of 1418 Now: Dazzle Ships. Liverpool, Carlos Cruz-Diez, 2014. Image credit – Helen Hunt

 

You can see a time-lapse video of these ships being painted here.

As to the Glasgow School of Art’s role in camouflage, during World War I many students were appointed roles where their artistic talents were utilised in the creation and execution of different forms of camouflage to protect their fellow soldiers from enemy fire.

Resources used in this post, and interesting articles regarding Dazzle camouflage not already mentioned are:

Dazzle Camouflage in Space! Image courtesy of Jedi Council Forums

 

Advertisements

Residency at the UCA Animation Archive – Day 1

An interesting look into Sonia Friel’s residency at the UCA Animation Archive, where Sonia is using the archive to investigate artists and animators to help inform her PhD.

UCA Archives

Hello all!  My name’s Sonia Friel and I’m a researcher based at Norwich University of the Arts. For the whole of this week, I’m going to be based in the Animation Archive at UCA, working with Rebekah Taylor.  Each day I’m running workshops from the Animation Archives on topics that are close to my heart, and closely related to the PhD I’m working towards, which focuses on the artists and animators Jan Švankmajer and the Quay brothers (my areas of interest are art history – especially international Surrealism – and animation).  For more information, see here, and for a timetable, please see here (although please note that the film screening, of Švankmajer’s latest film Surviving Life (Theory and Practice) (2010) is now going to take place on Wednesday at 6pm, in the Glasshouse.  It’s free, and all are welcome).

Each day I’m going to writing a short blog post to document…

View original post 370 more words

How Archives Inform the Future

Unbroken Thread Exhibition Material  DC/076/20)

Unbroken Thread Exhibition Poster (DC/076/20)

 

Archivists are often seen as the guardians of historical collections. Over time we collect, protect and disseminate materials ranging from an organisation’s paper records, to ceramic tea sets; almost anything can fall under the gaze of an archivist. In the case of the work we do here at the Glasgow School of Art Archives and Collections Centre, we are attempting to preserve for posterity works and records that reflect the school, its major events, and its inhabitants (both student and staff) from 1845 to the present. This is why we seek to acquire new works, such as the recent acquisitions from this year’s degree show (see here for these unique items) that will add to the constantly evolving picture of the School’s history.

China Tea Service 1915 - Ann MacBeth NMC/233)

China Tea Service 1915 – Ann Macbeth (NMC/233i)

 

China Tea Service 1915 - Ann MacBeth (NMC/233/ii)

China Tea Service 1915 – Ann Macbeth (NMC/233ii)

Of course, while it is great fun to be one of the caped-crusaders of the heritage world (an attic full of sketchbooks you say? I am on my way!), archives can also be perceived as housing, well, a lot of ‘old stuff’. What is the relevance of such stuff you ask? Well I can tell you. Archives provide the opportunity to gaze back at the innovations, creations and events of particular organisations or people, and in doing so can inspire those in the present to innovate and create on their own.

For an archive based around artistic works and collections this is particularly easy to demonstrate as students use what exists in the archive to inspire and inform their own works. For instance, one of our recent graduates, Rosie O’Grady based her degree show on articles she found in the archive (a rather interesting piece involving a camel… please see here), and classes looking to examine a specific discipline – such as textiles, or poster work – can look through a mass of material that reflects how disciplines have progressed at the School.

An interesting decorative animal  by Shirley Tweedale , 1959NDS/GB/070)

An interesting decorative animal by Shirley Tweedale , 1959 (NDS/GB/070)

 

You have to love such an extravagant tea cosy! - Miss Robertson 1880s NMC/1542)

You have to love such an extravagant tea cosy! – Miss Robertson 1880s (NMC/1542)

Of course, the fact that archives can hold amazing collections that can be used to inspire new works is not really a secret. Recently the Marks & Spencer Archive has teamed up with the University of Leeds to help inform a new online course in business innovation that looks to stimulate creative ideas in the business sector. It will feature videos, forums and quizzes and will draw on case studies developed from the Marks & Spencer Archive. Or you may also have noticed the recent appearance of a number of items in John Lewis that draw on its archive to celebrate its 150th anniversary. These items include special edition versions of archival prints or direct reproductions in order to celebrate its history.

John Lewis Display

John Lewis Display

 

Archives can be used as a tool to aid the creative process in a number of industries. Take a look at these archives to see some of the different approaches.

 

The John Johnson Collection

National Media Museum

The Clarks Archive

The Cartoon Archive

The Adidas Archive

 

The Grant Loaf

 

Image of Doris Grant courtesy of 'Exorphin Junkie: Confessions of an amateur breadmaker'.

Image of Doris Grant courtesy of ‘Exorphin Junkie: Confessions of an amateur breadmaker’.

Doris Grant (nee Cruikshank) was a student at The Glasgow School of Art in the 1920s. She won a scholarship to study in Rome before being forced to leave the school upon her engagement. She also had a very unique claim to fame. After art school, Doris Grant went on to become a nutritionist and during World War II accidentally invented what is now known as the Grant Loaf after discovering that she had forgotten to knead the bread before baking. Campaigning against refined carbohydrates and the production of over-processed foods such as white bread, this simple loaf became an important point in Doris Grant’s nutrition theory.

Having suffered from severely painful rheumatoid trouble in her joints, Doris Grant found little relief and was nearly crippled by the condition. However this all changed when presented with an unorthodox treatment: a diet consisting of three columns of food – proteins, starches and acid fruits – with the following instruction, ‘Don’t mix foods that fight!’. These instructions had a profound effect on Grant’s life, apparently relieving the pain she had previously felt and by her own account making her feel happier, fitter and healthier. This diet was based on a theory put forth by Dr William Howard Hay, and it  inspired Grant to publish two books based on the Hay system of eating.

In honour of our multi-talented alumnus, it seemed only fitting to try and bake a Grant Loaf. Following the recipe by Lorraine Pascale on BBC Food, Jocelyn Grant our archive assistant mixed the following ingredients:

  • 225g/8oz strong white bread flour, plus extra for dusting
  • 225g/8oz strong wholemeal flour
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 x 7g sachet fast-action dried yeast
  • 1 tbsp clear honey
  • 300ml/11fl oz warm water
  • vegetable oil or oil spray, for oiling
  • a little milk, for brushing

She left the dough to rise (crucially without kneading first), shaped it and baked at 200c for 35 minutes. See an exciting time-lapse video of this process here.

A slice of Grant Loaf.

A slice of Grant Loaf.

After thorough testing by the archival department, we can certainly recommend this recipe.