The highly artistic vision of Hong-Kong based Nadim Abbas is surveyed in Camoufleur, a site-specific installation combing camouflage and the public gaze. With an inherent interest in how metropolitan living conditions create socially unique trends and subcultures, Abbas’ most recent compositions continue this theme, the exhibition concerned with how urban environments influence human assimilation to the spaces we inhabit.
For Camoufleur, the artist draws on the figure of the “Otaku”, or “Hikikomori”, terms of Japanese origin which reference a stereotype of the socially isolated middle-aged male who immerse themselves in the fictional worlds of anime. Abbas examines the trend within this sub-culture of the fetishisation of the military, an idea that manifests itself in violent video games and conflict memorabilia. Taking this element as a starting-point, he explores the spaces that nurture the formation of these social groups, investigating the cultures as a form of mental retreat from the cramped interior spaces of the modern-day cityscape.
The exhibition muses on the relationship between domesticity and warfare, the title of the display referring to the team of experts, from naturalists to artists, who designed and implemented military camouflage for both world wars. Abbas’ work is centre around a wallpaper pattern, creating a focal point of reference to which the physical elements of the display are placed in relation to. Furthermore, the use of this medium simultaneously references both interior design, and how it can be militarised as a backdrop as a means of concealment, evoking the complex duality between conflict and home life that Abbas is concerned with.
A performer inhabits the installation, mimicking the environment. It is role that is both visually obvious and invisible, the actor presented as so assimilated to the space that they inhabit, they are no longer discernible to observers. Throughout the duration of the show, Abbas reinvents the space through alterations in content and performance, the figure and the backdrop overlap and oscillate over time, creating a sense of an intrinsic relationship between the two. The Vitrine Gallery is a suitable location for Camoufleur, its unique positioning means that it is in public sight for 24-hours a day, producing a contrasting set of possibilities for the very communal display of domesticity.
Nadim Abbas: Camoufleur, Vitrine Gallery, London, from 1 March – 15 April. www.vitrinegallery.com
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1. Nadim Abbas, Marine Lover – A Hermatypic Romance, 2011.