A luna moth, image courtesy Wikipedia
In the New York Times, author Akiko Busch writes of the concept of invisibility, reticence and camouflage in both the human and broader natural world. By and large, invisibility is seen as something negative, tantamount to social alienation. Busch writes, “If we don’t get the interest, attention and recognition we think we deserve — whether we are men who have retired, women of a certain age (over 50, like me) or millennials who obsess over their brand visibility — we tend to file grievances.” Or, you know, if you keep and professional remove and don’t post wildly about your personal goings-on on social media.
But when is invisibility a positive thing–or further, even strategic? Busch writes about what we can learn from camouflage in the wild:
“…becoming invisible, whether it is in color or behavior, is not the equivalent of being nonexistent, a lesson the human species seems to resist. It is not about denying creative individualism nor about relinquishing any of the qualities that may make us unique, original, singular. Rather, it can be a condition of insight and endurance, a position of strength and power, a matter of knowing how and where we can be best accommodated by the exterior world…Invisibility can be about finding a sense of fit with the immediate landscape, be it social, cultural or environmental. It can be about adaptability and the recognition that assertiveness may not always be in our best interest. Most of all, it can reflect a sense of vigilance, a sensitivity to and respect for external conditions.”
In part, this text reminds me of Hito Steyerl’s video “How To Disappear: A Fucking Didactic Educational .MOV File” (2013), which in part covers the advantages of disappearance in a surveillance state (and the invisibility of being a woman over 50). You can watch an excerpt of the video here.
What are the advantages of invisibility and quietness? Given that art world darlings are now frequently also savvy social media users, what is the fate of the quiet, reserved artist? What about artists that don’t fit into this quiet / rancorous dichotomy? I also can’t help but feel like these issues are heavily gendered, and that our non-quiet counterparts tend to “burn out” faster. Think Moyra Davey compared to Banks Violette.