Hiding in Plain Sight. Amy Suo Wu’s The Kandinsky

  • Florian Cramer Willem de Kooning Academy. Research Station


The history of 20th century painting conventionally identifies abstraction with modernism and the return of figuration with postmodernism. But abstraction ended much earlier, in a spy operation during World War II, when a British intelligence officer, in a stroke of genius, found abstract paintings to be the perfect carriers for secret messages transported across the ocean. For this purpose, he commissioned a painting to Wassily Kandinsky that included a secret message encoded – in the manner of flag signs or Morse code – into its seemingly abstract visual shapes. This anecdote explains steganography: the clever hiding of messages in other messages. Steganographic messages do not need to appear innocuous. At some point, militant jihadists were reported to run pornographic websites as a cover, using porn images for hidden communication. [...]


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