Words by Lula Criado (Twitter @Lula_ClotMag)
American and European intelligence services are using drones to detect people by their heat and monitoring people’s Internet use, phone calls and much more by collecting a wide range of data from private companies such as Microsoft, Yahoo, Google, Facebook, PalTalk, YouTube, Skype, AOL and Apple.
Adam Harvey —New York-based artist— has created a collection —Stealth Wear— in collaboration with fashion designer Johanna Bloomfield to promote critical thinking about the use of drones to detect people and to explore how fashion can challenge authoritarian surveillance.
Stealth Wear is a three pieces collection —a burqa, a scarf and a hoodie— that makes the wearer invisible and protects them against the thermal technology used by drones. Other projects developed by Harvey focused on reclaiming privacy for us, are: Camoflash — an anti-paparazzi clutch —, CV Dazzle — a make up that protects us from facial recognition— and OFF Pocket — a pouch that blocks the phone’s signal when covered—.
The right to privacy is a fundamental one protected by international treaties as the European Convention on Human Rights but the world is under such a lack of privacy never seen before and Harvey thinks that fashion should reflect this I see fashion as a way to empower the wear. Stealth Wear is about empowerment in an age of total surveillance.
All your garments hide/conceal us from surveillance which is a very disruptive idea. How did you come up with it?
I think there’s a real lack of wearable technology that improves privacy. I live in a culture of mass surveillance and think that fashion should reflect this. I see fashion as a way to empower the wear. Stealth Wear is about empowerment in an age of total surveillance.
Do you mean to protect us from surveillance or rather promote reflection on the lack of privacy?
Both. Stealth Wear aims to promote a dialogue. But it’s not design fiction. I want to inspire others to do make something better.
The garments you have created/designed are (true) pieces of concept art that have a practical use. Do you think there is an actual market for them?
There is growing market for these items. The burqa is the most conceptual. The hijab is more practical. The OFF Pocket is the most commercially successful item from the Stealth Wear collection. Sometimes that’s important too.
What do you want to accomplish before you get old?
Even more challenging projects.
If you were to give up one of your five senses, which one would it be and why?
Hearing, perhaps. One of my friends is deaf and we easily have a great time hanging out together.
You couldn’t live without…
An uncensored Internet.
One for the road… Have you heard of any intelligence firm or security experts?
I have. I continue to work as an independent artist.