“Markings... of whatever sort, tend to obliterate, to cancel, by their separate and conflictingpattern, the visibility of the details and boundaries of form....” 1
Both predators and prey use camouflage. It can also be used by neither.
Camouflage and retreat are not tactics of escape, but rather submergence and sublimation. Becoming scenery, background, furniture.
Octopi camouflage themselves and spray ink. Masquerading as a coral, they cloak themselves in a black cloud. The pursuant is confused and disorientated.
Intentional invisibility. Our interior lives cloaked in a mushy material, which creates the contours of our form.
Kneaded into the night.
In Maurice Sendak’s illustrated children’s book In the Night Kitchen (1970) a boy wakes in the middle of the night to the sound of kitchen noises. As he leaves his bed, curious to investigate, he falls into mysterious space. He lands, naked, in a bowl of bread batter, surrounded by plump cooks. He is baked into a costume of bread, and then flies in a bread airplane across the night sky. Finally he drops into a giant bottle filled with creamy milk. Submerged in the milk, he sings: “I’m in the milk and the milk’s in me.”
We do not only cloak, but we transform into monsters. We wear eyes across our skin in order to resemble larger beasts. We simulate patterns and shapes that confuse and dazzle. We maneuver irregularly, resembling street lamps or wobbly broomsticks. We move seamlessly inside and outside the boundaries of our form. We must always become more difficult to track.
Sendak, after writing Where The Wild Things Are (1963), recalls receiving a drawing from a young admiring fan. He was so charmed by the note that he decided to write back. Shortlythereafter, he received a letter back from boy’s mother saying the boy loved the card so much he ate it.
Within this we find our moment of retreat. A letter is not something to be read but to be eaten. Bread is not only something to eat but to exist within. The child is cloaked, but not hidden or fleeing. They are flying. The bread and the milk are also it, and the child is also them. Power and fear, action and agency, collapse into ecstasy and joy. When the child is baked into the bread it isn’t killed, or consumed. The logic of the product isrefused. It’s an implosion of one-ness.
There are predators and prey, but there are also monsters – masquerading, cloaking themselves into the night.
“To be dissolved into something complete and great. When it comes to one, it comes as naturallyas sleep.”2 —
1 Concealing-Coloration in the Animal Kingdom, Abbott Handerson Thayer, 1909
2 My Antonia, Willa Cather, 1919