For the last few years I’ve been exploring the art, science and politics of steganography, a form of secret writing that hides private information in the public eye. Unlike cryptography, which provides privacy by scrambling messages through the use of codes and ciphers, steganography is intended to provide secrecy by hiding messages in plain sight. Historically speaking, compared to cryptography which was considered more scientifically sophisticated as it was primarily a mathematical endeavor, steganography was its dark cousin, elusively steeped in alchemy, magic and mystery. Some of the steganographic techniques that I’ve focused on are invisible inks, the Cardan grille and text camouflage. There are two main categories of steganography, namely technical and linguistic. Invisible inks which falls under technical steganography, are inks that can be rendered visible from either chemical, optical, thermal or mechanical treatments. Linguistic steganography is a form of covert communication using natural language to conceal the existence of the hidden message so that the very act of communication is undetectable to an outside observer, human or computer. 

‘Tactics and Poetics of Invisibility’ is the title for the body of work that researches and resuscitates obsolete, low-tech and analog steganographic techniques as a tactical response to the rising issue of digital high-tech governmental and corporate spying online. I explore analog forms of steganography as way to make up for the deficiencies of digital communication through the practical act of evading the digital gaze on one hand and on the other hand explore the poetic and creative potential in forming alternative modes of communication to strengthen community bonds. You can hear more about the project in this talk. “Tactics and Poetics of Invisibility: A toolkit of analogue steganography” will be also be published by Onomatopee in early 2018. Read more about it here

The beginning of this project was inspired by an article about the CIA declassifying WWI invisible ink recipes. Invisible ink is in fact the oldest forms of steganography, dating back to the third century BC. The recipes describes how to carry invisible ink in your clothes. Spies were instructed to soak their handkerchief or collar in invisible ink so they wouldn’t get caught with it. According to the article from 2011, the CIA had only released the documents because these old techniques are now considered harmless – no longer posing a threat to national security since advanced digital technology has rendered them obsolete and useless. Triggered by a comment in one of the articles, I too questioned whether such old techniques were as innocuous as they were considered. As we increasingly live and communicate online, rendering our activities and digital footprints trackable, recordable and profitable, I wondered if perhaps resorting to paper and invisible ink is perhaps safer for two reasons; 1) that paper is not ‘smart’ – it cannot send information back and forth to servers around the world and it won’t send data to third parties inadvertently and 2) for the very fact that it’s considered unthreatening. The overlooked does not draw attention and therefore potentially more safe.




PUBLIC ACTIVITIES
Exhibitions:
- Escaping the Digital Unease Kunsthaus Langenthal, Switzerland, 2017
- The Kandinsky Collective, Aksioma, Slovenia, 2017
- Art In The Age Of Technical Re-mediation. Pozega, Serbia, 2015
- Digital vs Archaic exhibition at Van Eyck. Maastricht, NL 2015

Presentations:
- Graphic Design department, WDKA,NL, 2016
- Autonomous Fabric, WDKA, NL, 2016
- Privacy Cafe. Rotterdam, NL, 2015
- Conversas. Rotterdam, NL, 2015

Workshops:
- Influencers, Barcelona, 2017
- Q-space (queer/feminist/maker space), Beijing, 2017
- 3rd year Hacking students. Willem de Kooning Academy, Rotterdam, NL, 2015
- At Indeks, Rotterdam, NL, 2016
- Mine, Yours, Ours Festival in Rijeka, Croatia, 2016

Performance:
- Therapy Session at TENT Rotterdam, 2016


CONTACT
Amy Suo Wu
sudowu@protonmail.ch
A research project on analog steganography* and alternative forms of communication in the age of pervasive digital surveillance
Historical case #1: During WWII, a Nazi captive cross-stitches a seemingly innocently looking decorative pattern around the border. The Nazi's never found out that it was Morse code spelling out: "God Save the King" and "Fuck Hitler".
Taxonomy of Steganography
Historical case #3: "In 1915 Robert Baden-Powell founder of the worldwide Scouts movement, published his DIY guide to espionage, My Adventures as a Spy." He concealed maps and diagrams of enemy fortifications within entomological drawings of butterflies.

“Tactics and Poetics of Invisibility: A toolkit of analogue steganography” will be published by Onomatopee in early 2018. Supported by Creating 010, this publication will be partly a practical how-to guide, with collected recipes, tips and techniques on steganographic techniques such as invisible ink, Cardan grille, text camouflage and linguistic manoeuvres. The publication will also be a media archaeology on steganography, excavating it’s historical and political implications on modern day surveillance. And lastly, it will show my steganographic practice and the body of work that aims to resuscitate analog techniques in light of todays digitally surveilled mediascapes.
Historical case #5 : Denton is best known from this period of his life for the 1966 televised press conference in which he was forced to participate as an American POW by his North Vietnamese captors. During the interview, he repeatedly blinked his eyes in Morse code during the interview, spelling out “T-O-R-T-U-R-E”.
Historical case #2: In 1641, John Wilkins publishes the first major book in English on cryptography and remains one of the best overviews on ancient methods; Mercury or the secret and swift messenger.
Historical case #4: According to popular spy book author, H. Keith Melton, women carried secret messages written in invisible ink on their back during WWI. Image is a screenshot taken from this video.
Historical case #5: During the Cold War, dead rats were used as dead drops by both the CIA and KGB.
Camouflaged Books. After getting censored by Lulu’s proofreader-bots for publishing off-limits gore content, artist Jasper Otto Eisenecker had to develop different visual strategies to camouflage questionable content.
Thermally activated experiments: Using milk and lemon as an invisible ink silkscreened. Message becomes visible after heating it over a stove.
Using waterproof spray as an invisible ink. Message becomes visible after water is applied to it. This was made during the Privacy Cafe presentation at WORM.
Chemically activated experiments: Red Cabbage Juice turns the silkscreened baking soda ink into green letters. No cover message/text.
Chemically activated experiments: Iodine (NL: Jodium) turns the silkscreened baking soda ink into purple/ brown letters. No cover message/text.
Chemically activated experiments: Iodine (NL: Jodium) turns the silkscreened lemon ink into brown letters. No cover message/text.
A Media Archeology of Steganography is an interactive poster that is printed in 3 different types of invisible inks each with different activation methods. Invisible inks are one of the longest traditions of steganography spanning 2000 years of history. Visitors of the show were invited to activate the poster, uncovering and discovering secret writing and it's tactical and strategical use throughout history. 

For the exhibition "The Work Of Art In The Age Of Technical Remediation" curated by Darija Medic, I contributed with this work which involved a performance during the opening night where I publically disclosed my invisible work.





Invited to make a special contribution to the publication Conversas Rotterdam on my research about steganography,
I embedded the starch based invisible ink recipe onto a postcard inserted into the publication. If the reader manages to find the hint to reveal the message (dip me in iodine), they will find the recipe on how to make this ink.
Made during the Van eyck Summer Design Academy 2015 , this intervention was done in collaboration with Polish graphic design studio, Noviki. As a response to it to the existing work (above, left: designed by Joao Doria), an invisible layer (above, right) was superimposed onto it. Silkscreened with a starch based invisible ink, this was conceptually illustrating the pervasive invisible forces governing the design practice; from online tools, digital software, cultural institutions and corporations. The logos only become visible once the print has been in contact with iodine. This work was presented as an interactive installation at the Digital vs Archaic exhibition at Van Eyck.
*
Steganography is intended to provide secrecy by making messages invisible, to conceal the existence that there is a hidden message at all – it is the art and science of being hidden in plain sight, or hiding secret information within public information.
Steganography is intended to provide secrecy by making messages invisible, to conceal the existence that there is a hidden message at all – it is the art and science of being hidden in plain sight, or hiding secret information within public information.
A Media Archeology of Steganography performed at Therapy Session at TENT






Chemically activated experiments: Starch ink activated by iodine on skin.
Invisible ink workshop at Mine, Yours, Ours festival organised by Drugo More, Rijeka, Croatia. April 2016.
Invisible ink workshop at Indeks, Rotterdam. March 2016.
Various methods
Invisible ink workshop at Q-SPACE, a queer/feminist/maker space in Beijing May 2017. Testing out laundry washing powder as UV sensitive ink and Mao Yi is very happy about it. Photos by Varsha Mahajan
The Kandinsky Collective, solo show at Aksioma, Slovenia, 2017.






Greetings from the Invisible Borderlands is a series of messages that experiment with Cardan grille, a form analog steganography, the art of concealing information within plain sight, for contemporary online surveilled mediascapes.