1. The art of camouflage, disguising and dissimulation

Generally the concept of camouflage implies that an individual (a soldier) or an object (a tank) appears at a precise point of time (the fight) altered to such an extent - posing himself as something quite different (a landscape, a forest) - that he or it in this context of appearing is not recognizable in his/its being as the authentic other (the threatening) or keeps a low profile.

First of all this precise point of time is given in an unusual situation, and for this reason camouflage is related to the subject of war. The cultural scientist Hillel Schwartz is developing the history of camouflage from the trompe-l'oeil, the optical illusion produced in the 19th century by a certain painting technique, from the military history in the Second World War and from the observation of nature.

It's revealing that camouflage is emerging with a new optical paradigm in the First World War (trenches, air reconnaissance, submarine war) that makes necessary new forms of dissimulation and also changes with this technologies up to the nowadays Stealth-bombers nearly invisible to the radar.

In the difference to the forms of mimicry to be found at plants and animals man is able to mislead not only by disguising but also by language like an agent of the secret service. The term "camouflage" is also covering situations in which politicians present things in a distorted way, or in which managers gloss over their balance sheets.

Forged objects or documents like passports or visa do certainly belong to the standard repertoire of dissimulation but they are assigned to the methods of forgery and include a complex procedure going beyond optical effects. In the Nazi era the adaptation of the Nazi style layout helped communist and libertarian underground journals to find some circulation.

Combinations of disguising and dissimulation may have far-reaching consequences, so the orchestrated attack of the radio station Gleiwitz executed by Hitler's own soldiers dressed up with Polish uniforms.

By this Hitler provided himself the reason to attack Poland, and that gave him in the rhetoric of war the legitimation to start the Second World War. One may call this ruse, but in my view the term "ruse" seems to have a more positive meaning to relate it to the beginning of Hitler's insane war.

Already at this point appears a complexity barely to handle: apparently it is not unthinkable to associate with camouflage the fields of morality, rhetoric, the art of acting, the gesture and the attitude with the politics of the performance.

In my view the procedures of camouflage, disguising and dissimulation are cultural technologies intentionally calculated for a certain point of time, namely for the "going into action" that must not mean to give up the camouflage, and the effect resulting from the camouflage.

Does that what is disguised and dissimulated contain an authentic essence? And: in what way is it subject to institutional control? In connection with camouflage it's often a question of keeping secret the institutional context as it is belongs to a military disposition.

Whether this method is following an official or a subversive order is mostly not to be seen from the performance - that means from the progress of a specific action in a determined time with an intended effect - itself. About this I will make some speculations in the following.

2. Stop with dissimulation: "Let's show our colours!"

During the World Cup in 2006 one could observe a phenomenon not very familiar in this extend in the Federal Republic: the willingness to show the national flag. With this apparently were associated two different intentions, the pleasure that one could be proud again to be a German, and the pleasure to take part in a great party as it was mostly demonstrated by Germans that have their origins in Turkey.

The nationalistic declaration of belief in the cause of the German nation is something quite different than the eventful party making only for the reasons of party making in a fun society. A third intention without flags let even me participate in events like this, when I'm, as a photographer, taking pictures of this scenery; I assign myself to a voyeuristic and analytic intention.

The showing of the flag is always an act of confession. By a certain symbolic act the subject of the confession joins to unambiguous facts of matter that represents for the most part a national belonging. By this takes place a kind of signal self-identification appealing to a communications partner: if you confess to it you are admitted, if you show a critical or negative attitude you are excluded.

Thus the showing of the flag is first of all to understand as a gesture of fitting in or subordinating to a heteronomous context. But the showing of the flag is also a conformist gesture. I would even say, today the national flag is to understand as an empty area - a blank space - on which may be projected different contents.

The showing of the flag has become to standardized expression of opinion in a public by now more and more privatized and corporated. If the question arises to express a complex belonging to a simple symbol the intersection is often built by the national flag as symbol of national identity.

At first sight the showing of the flag has a paradoxical relation to the camouflage. If the figure of showing the flag includes also the establishment of clarity - for example in the sense of "Let's talk in plain language" - nevertheless it's not excluded that just this situation makes it possible to carry out a feint by using the standardized sign giving: one only seemingly confesses to a certain opinion to induce the counterpart to make a statement.

Especially in war and politics the breaking of such symbolic standards is used to get a strategic advantage. The dissimulation of the own purpose by the affirmation of the prevailing language or the visual context is to understand as a procedure of mimesis that belongs to the same disposition as the showing of the flag: the disposition of a institutional representation (nation, party).

Without these mimicry-based procedures of the showing of the flag, the camouflage, the feint, the news-encoding or the false report war and politics are unthinkable. The Israelite theorist of war Martin von Crefeld is even arguing that the war is ""the one human activity" "in which imitation is playing the greatest role".

To talk about war seems to me - in the epistemological context of the bellicism set by media theorists as Friedrich Kittler or Paul Virilio as the practise of "the war is the mother of all arts" - not at all to be a preoccupation worth aspiring to.

But due to the fact that the language of war has become, at least since New York's 9/11, the hegemonic culture, I myself, as a cultural producer, feel confronted with it because everywhere one is confronted with expressions of this rhetoric, in a cultural verbal manner or by substantial interventions in the life with institutionally and hysterically increased controls in each and every sector.

With the two cultural theorists Tom Holert and Mark Terkessidis the media communication is to understand as infiltrated by metaphors of war in an extend that it leads to a permanent promotion of the state of emergency: "The war as mass culture is suggesting a permanent state of emergency giving the impression that the legal system is not able to handle it in an adequate way."

In addition to this the normal, everyday state of competition of the "[...] neo-liberalism [...] itself a practice and ideology of war. As soon as the market is transfigured in a natural state the society has, in the Hobbesean sense of the term, to throw itself into the economic struggle for survival, into the war of all against all."

In this context also the war tactics of the camouflage and the showing of the flag have become to allday practices: the wearing of camouflage-fashion and the makeup in the quite normal allday business may either promise dissimulation or establish part-time identity; highly symptomatic seems to be the phenomena of the washable tattoo that enables to have, in the time of its fastness, an other identity.

The sign of the flag follows an institutional strategy (nation, party); only when the Jolly Roger is shown one has to do with subversive tactics, even if this happens on the instructions of a nation (freebooter) or of a corporation (authorized hackers).

3. The art to show the flag with the help of camouflage

Both procedures - the camouflage and the showing of the flag - derive from the notion of imitation that is considered to be the basic motive of traditional art: "Mimesis means the production of an appearance. Yet the artistic representation is not the appearance of the being or of that which exists but the appearance of something which appears."

As far as the visual appearance is as well as the camouflage as the showing of the flag only to understand in an unambiguous reference system may both be seen as a strategic projection of identity, but they have different patterns of activity and different intentions:

the performance of the camouflage serves at first to the dissimulation of the identity and includes then the possibility of a following activity; whereas the showing of the flag evokes an identity and then provokes a similar activity of the counterpart.

If one applies the following sentence of the cultural anthropologist Michael Taussig - "The picture is more powerful than the object it represents." - so may be observed that both identity techniques do have the reference to an own pole of power.

As Gebauer and Wulf and Taussig think that "the appearance of something which appears" and "the picture" are more powerful than the represented object the latter seems not to have an authentic essence that is subject to camouflage or shows the flag. One has to look after the function that determines this relation between a method of sign giving or of preventing a sign and the method in its context of appearing.

Therefore the key factor in this reference relation is not the sovereign giving an identity but the behaviour of the one using such a method. From monarchy over the national state the power of representation defended its as a monolithic one.

The procedures of the camouflage and the showing of the flag were respectively in employ of a certain ethics that in a Platonic sense starts from the assumption that behind the camouflage or the showing of the flag is hidden an original or originally individual or governmental essence.

Now I want to ask in a daring way whether such an ethics has not already lost any representative point of reference in view of the new conception of "empirial" power in the construction of Antonio Negri and Michael Hardt. Today the Pentagon is no longer talking about "manipulation" but of "psychological operations" (Psyop) by which are imposed global forms of opinion or even behaviours.

In the tertiary economy of the ruling neo-liberalism the industrial production is relativized by the representation, and by this the symbolic procedures of change get a strong revaluation. Presently activities of camouflage are in the globalized politics of public relations as a corporative manner of showing the flag more valuable than the actual results of production and the profits.

But if these strategies are not covered by a governmental-corporative ethics they may be in future easily condemned as fraud, given there is to be find an authority to pronounce judgement. When the offences are accused the protagonists of this conditions do only comment the accusation after consulting their sponsors, or the latter take over directly the public communication.

The former Federal Chancellor Helmut Kohl - accused of embezzlement - made no statement to the accusations. Whereas his follower, Gerhard Schröder, already not re-elected, signed consulting contracts with great companies, and thus showed his corporative flag.

In this cultural field are moving the practices of contemporary art in the case that they appeal - based on a notion of the work - to a combination of representative strategy and mimetic procedures that obtain from the symbolic system of the institution art an increase in value. The ideology of the art system is a promise of profit projectable by the alliance of artists, gallery, museum and collector.

In this context Andy Warhol decides to make his last great cycle of paintings: the Camouflage-Painting (1986). Here he achieved what he always wanted, that is to paint abstract paintings that nevertheless realize a concrete reference to a model - the subject of military camouflage.

In the sense of the change between camouflage and showing the flag since the 1990 in increased extent enter artificial practices in this field of the art that perform political themes with artistic gestures: themes of the economic exclusion, the critical urbanism, or gender-, sex- and queer-strategies as well as political-historical questions of representation are put into position. To these artists who overstepped in the field of art traditional forms of presentation or used them by the way of camouflage, is answered with the prejudice that they would have even better worked as journalists or politicians. Interestingly enough such reproaches are based on the opinion that art has nothing to do with political expression. Obviously this criticism concedes to politicians that do not show their colours more artistic freedom than to artists.

Here I continue with the question whether disguising and dissimulating can represent an institutional authentic essence. Or is the possibility of a such essence a product based on the fundamental approval of the representative system within the cultural industry, on the spectacle or on the play of primary and secondary contradictions?

The named political behaviours don't even try any longer to maintain an institutional paradigm of truth that subordinates to governmental ideas of morality, but they feel embarrassed like the fashion that does not transport an unambiguous encoding.

Without any message they let their identity to a play of interpretation and devote themselves to the cause of the neo-liberal context. Thus they project the methods of the camouflage and of the showing of the flag to the performance of a subject, they produce an identity.

4. The other port of destination: Libertalia

The intensities and force coming from the showing of the flag are completely based on the will to mimesis, the will to become identically with an activity that from now on has to be cut from the reference to the nation.

The camouflage is - as already demonstrated - based on the same procedure but in a reversed institutional performance to which the showing of the flag may be preceding or running after: in order not to attract attention the wrong flag is shown until the counterpart is executing an activity in the sense of a temporary identity.

When the Jolly Roger is shown this is accompanied by a shock. The more one adjusts oneself to this aesthetic - or more precisely: visual-espistemic - procedure of self-denition of a liberterian cognition, the more the difference produced in the process of reproduction of the camouflage or the showing of the flag is producing an intensity that makes it possible to sail under the own flag to an other, quite different country.

The flag that is shown is the Jolly Roger, and only the happy few know how it looks (it's not likely to correspond to a death's head banner as this was also used by the political SS in Nazi Germany).

And even fewer we know how this other country looks that is building no nation, does not give and codify identities, oes not define sexes, does only exist by the union of freed individuals, does not accept any practice of ideologization , that's free from ethical and biopolitical affects... - you name it.

On this country that some called Libertalia without being able to show it on a valid map, I refer in a speculative way by quoting the definition from the Greek dictionary:

"peirates: pirate; from peiráomai: to try, to set about it, to make an effort, to aspire, do something, to risk; to attempt or to test something, examine, investigate or seek out; to try one's luck; to try an attack; begin to fight with someone; to lead into temptation; to win somebody's favour; to court a woman; learning by doing."

Interestingly enough this likeable definition that is naming several thing I associate with the practice of art, is ending with the courtship of love and the experience from which one is learning. (Perhaps is here arising a following to lovers who do not commit suicide - as Irit Rogoff said with Roland Barthes in her initial text Exergue.)