An issue that has affected the plastic arts of virtually every culture over time is that of visibility, as art has a persistent tendency to be seen. Many attempts have been made to deal with this without any real measure of success. For example, glass as a medium was heralded as a remedy until it was pointed out that, while one could see through the glass, one could usually see the glass as well.

Other initiatives have been undertaken, including a number of experiments with fabric. The extinguishing of lamps has long been employed, as has the closing of doors and windows. These practices have often been criticized as effectively throwing the baby out with the bathwater, but continue to be widely employed. In the mid twentieth century, however, a paradigm shift resulted in at least one person puncturing a balloon in a museum and then declared the helium thus released to be a work of art. The event in question was greeted with the sound of one duck clapping

Recently a more effective approach has come to light. While still in its early stages, the methodology holds considerable promise. It appears that light can now be shunted around objects in a manner analogous to the formation of mirages. The net effect for the viewer is to see light emanating from behind the object as though the object were not there to intercept it, thus rendering the object virtually invisible.

There are those waiting for this new technology to come to market. An organization, called the Citizens’ Low Observable Action Committee (CLOAC, pronounced cloak) has already drawn up plans and marshaled resources to “devisualize” a growing list of art objects in the public domain, including a number of pieces here in Cleveland. It is anticipated that, as the technology becomes more affordable, cloaking kits will also become available for use in galleries and museums.

Concetto Spaziale by Lucio Fontana
devisualized as a demonstration at the CMA

CLOAC is seeking to add new candidates to its present list, and would like to hear from you. I have reached an agreement with the group whereby your suggestions will first be shared on A&P, and I will then communicate them to the committee.