Bewilder (Deimatic Eyespot Camouflage)
Bewilder (Deimatic Eyespot Camouflage) was originally created for Bewilder | Be Wilder, a solo exhibition at the San Luis Obispo Museum of Art in spring 2016, and will be traveling to other venues, including the California Academy of Sciences in 2017.
The project title references Rumi’s concept of ‘bewilderment’: an experience of oneness and release from linear and judgmental thinking, where barriers between subject and object dissolve. With Bewilder, Kendler extends Rumi’s concept to that of being subsumed by the beauty of the natural world — a horror vacui of dazzling complexity. The 13th century mystic and poet hints at how we might thus approach nature in a new way, saying: "Sell your cleverness and buy bewilderment."
Butterflies, often dismissed as cute or cliché, and seen decorating countless throw-away consumer items, are re-recast here as fascinating ‘others’ — equal parts beautiful and strange. Through participation, seductive beauty and an awakening of the senses, Kendler asks us to allow ourselves to be bewildered by nature — and move beyond cliché and consumerist engagement, to an engaged ethics of openness and care.
The pattern, printed on eco-friendly wallpaper and fabric, is composed of thousands of meticulously collaged photographs of butterfly and moth eyespots. Termed 'deimatic' camouflage, this strategy of startling bullseyes of color and form is thought to protect winged insects by frightening or confusing predators.
In the Bewilder project, this deimatic camouflage becomes something new. Visitors are given eyespot temporary tattoos and invited to pose for a portrait in front of the brilliantly colored pattern. These colored marks confuse the digital gaze — just as butterflies' spots confuse predators — and disrupt facial-recognition software, creating a new type of camouflage for the modern, digital world of privacy loss and online tracking.