Cultures of Colour

Cultures of Colour: Visual, Material, Textual

Edited by Chris Horrocks
Copyright Date: 2012
Edition: 1
Published by: Berghahn Books
Pages: 196
  • Cite this Item
  • Book Info
    Cultures of Colour
    Book Description:

    Colour permeates contemporary visual and material culture and affects our senses beyond the superficial encounter by infiltrating our perceptions and memories and becoming deeply rooted in thought processes that categorise and divide along culturally constructed lines. Colour exists as a cultural as well as psycho-physical phenomenon and acquires a multitude of meanings within differing historical and cultural contexts. The contributors examine how colour becomes imbued with specific symbolic and material meanings that tint our constructions of race, gender, ideal bodies, the relationship of the self to others and of the self to technology and the built environment. By highlighting the relationship of colour across media and material culture, this volume reveals the complex interplay of cultural connotations, discursive practices and socio-psychological dynamics of colour in an international context.

    eISBN: 978-0-85745-465-2
    Subjects: Art & Art History, Sociology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Acknowledgements
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. Introduction: Beyond the Language of Colour
    (pp. 1-12)
    Chris Horrocks

    Wittgenstein and Serres express in their different ways the problematic relationship between colour as a visual sensation and colour as an object of language Wittgenstein’s aporetic writing fretted over the sense of what ‘red’ meant according to the language game in which it appeared (‘Red’ as a metaphysical entity? ‘Red’ as a piece in a board game? ‘Red’ remembered but indistinguishable as a colour to someone recently suffering brain injury? ‘Red’ existing as a word?).His idea of red as part of a complex of games about words, world and mind was a significant philosophical turn in the study of colour...

    • Chapter 1 Ad Reinhardt: ‘Color Blinds’
      (pp. 15-25)
      Michael Corris

      ‘A color in art’, wrote the American painter and cartoonist Ad Reinhardt in ‘Art-as-Art Dogma, Part V’ in 1965, ‘is not a color’.Similarly,‘colorlessness in art is not colorlessness’ (Rose 1975: 66).² The process of symbol formation teaches us to expect that colour may signify something other than a visually perceptible hue. Colourlessness, too, may serve to express metaphorically, signifying non-aesthetic attributes like lassitude or the proclamation of a defiant nonconformity.Reinhardt took great pleasure in this interpretive loophole provided by polysemy, fascinated by what he called the ‘mysterious delights of multiple meanings’. But it was really pure colour – that is to...

    • Chapter 2 The Eye Is a Sphincter, or Who’s Afraid of the Postmodern Monochrome?
      (pp. 26-43)
      Antony Hudek

      In a text from 1985, Jean-François Lyotard, the philosopher most readily associated with postmodernism, recalls how violently John Cage had reacted to one of the papers presented at the ‘Performance in Postmodern Culture’ conference in 1976, denouncing it as an outmoded exercise in securing ‘the expression of lack of meaning for a subject’ (Lyotard and Cazenave 1985: 474; translation mine),Cage’s intervention pointed to a new role for the postmodern subject, after absence and lack had characterised the modernist one: to play with fragmentary excess, with concurrent, yet incommensurable events. Lyotard’s own presentation at the conference stressed the same point, arguing...

    • Chapter 3 Colour Soundings: After the Tone of Francis Bacon
      (pp. 44-58)
      Nicholas Chare

      This chapter attends to the sound of colours in Francis Bacon’s paintings. Bacon’s use of colour in his compositions is frequently complex, and contributes to the production of a particular figuration, fractured and fraught, which causes his works to oscillate between being abstract and representational. There is a persistent challenge to outline in operation in the paintings, a determined withdrawal from drawing distinct boundaries. The syntax, the orderly arrangement of forms, the meaningful separation of pictorial elements, is regularly disrupted. This calculated unsettling acts to prevent the intrusion of narrative. Bacon sought to subdue narrative because, in his words, which...

    • Chapter 4 Colour as a Bridge between Art and Science
      (pp. 59-74)
      Mary Pearce

      When a British team of scientists sent the spaceshipBeagle 2to study Mars at the beginning of 2003, they decided to send an artwork to the planet: Damien Hirst’s colour spot painting (no title, 2003), which consists of sixteen coloured discs on an 8 cm by 8 cm aluminium plate.¹ Hirst, who from the 1980s had been creating colour spot paintings related to pharmaceutical compounds, whilst also having previously displayed a sheep in a glass tank of formaldehyde,Away from the Flock(1994), and a sliced-in-half calf,Mother and ChildDivided (1993),² had contributed a work of art that...

    • Chapter 5 Colour in Gardens: A Question of Class or Gender?
      (pp. 77-96)
      Beverley Lear

      A desire for year-round ‘colour’ and the orchestration of colour in ways which reflex the sensibilities of ‘good taste’ are major preoccupations in the popular culture of gardening. This prioritization of colour, which is reinforced by images in style magazines and gardening programmes on television, makes the production and enjoyment of colour appear to be a natural and inevitable effect of gardening itself. It is perhaps surprising then to learn that very little attention was paid to colour in gardening before the Victorian period (Elliott 1986: 48). This concern for colour and its usage in gardens was stimulated by a...

    • Chapter 6 Creating a Middle Ground: Critical Remarks on the Colour/Form Relation
      (pp. 97-106)
      Kiki Karatheodoris

      It is surprising to read this statement because when we think of paintings in general, we think of colour. Rarely do we think of paintings in black and white unless recalling specific ones we have seen in books, galleries or museums. Yet we do think of works in achromatic black and white when we recall drawings. Why did Allen Pattillo make such a statement?

      Throughout painting’s history a colour/form opposition with philosophical, political, scientific and symbolic significance has existed. Such differences in attitude towards colour versus representational form have, more often than not, set artists and artistic styles in opposition....

    • Chapter 7 Heidegger’s Pixel: Digital Colour as ‘Standing Reserve’
      (pp. 107-119)
      Chris Horrocks

      When approached as a specific conjunction of technology and optics, electronic digital colour tends to demarcate itself from the ‘natural’ world of colour: the embodied, ‘thick’ environment of colour related to and bound up with a context and a ‘setting’. Kittler’s observation that the technological restrictions on digitally recreating colours of a range and quality able to match the visible spectrum (Kittler 2001: 32) perhaps suggests that digitality is emerging or revealing itself as a deficient yet potential successor to both the natural world of colour and its analogical partner in representation: pictures of the world that attempt to provide...

    • Chapter 8 The Disillusion of the Image: Cinematography, Colour, Sound and Desire
      (pp. 120-140)
      Liz Watkins

      A Deleuzian reading of colour and sound inThe Piano(Jane Campion, 1993) examines the mutability of cinematic meaning as a supplementary register and ‘material’ for the formation of a female imaginary (Whitford 1986: 3-8) that elides the prescriptions of feminine desire that feminist analyses identified in classic narrative form. The interactions of colour, sound, and the residual effects of the film as a photographic material, elicit a sense of movement beyond that of a figure traversing the image or of celluloid winding through the spools of a projector. Deleuze’s theory of the endlessly shifting configurations of cinematographic elements that...

    • Chapter 9 Chromatic Ambivalence: Colouring the Albino
      (pp. 143-153)
      Charlotte Baker

      The apparently ‘colourless’ body of the albino is a contested space that has been claimed alternately as ‘black’ and as ‘white’, but which is consistently positioned in representation as ‘other’. Perceived either to be ‘blank’ and ‘lacking’, or contaminated and racially impure, the albino body emerges as vulnerable to misinterpretation, misrecognition and misrepresentation. Artistic, filmic and literary representations of albinism rarely avoid recourse to the myths and stereotypes surrounding the condition. The focus of these forms of representation is always on the external appearance of the albino body, which is portrayed in terms of the markers of albinism such as...

    • Chapter 10 Toussaint Louverture and Haitian Historiography: A Pigmentocratic Approach
      (pp. 154-166)
      Charles Forsdick

      In what remains one of the key texts on Toussaint Louverture and the Haitian Revolution, James (1938) echoes what contemporary, earlynineteenth-century observers claim to have been the historical reality of the Haitian general and revolutionary leader, namely a ubiquity and a ‘mysteriousness’ central to his strategic advantage over the French, British and Spanish (all of whom, for their different reasons, were trying to prevent the success of the Haitian Revolution).Toussaint kept horses scattered around the country to permit rapid displacements; he used decoys to disguise his movements; and he undertook exhausting and unexpected tours of inspection. James’s observation regarding Toussaint’s...

    • Chapter 11 ‘Linda Morenita’: Skin Colour, Beauty and the Politics of Mestizaje in Mexico
      (pp. 167-180)
      Mónica Moreno Figueroa

      Beauty, appearance, and racialized perceptions of skin colour, as ‘regimes of difference’ (Ahmed 1998), are notions that inform each other within specific social and historical configurations. In this chapter I will explore the workings of such regimes within the specific configurations of Mexicanness andmestizaje(racial mixing).³ how do these regimes of difference collide ‘differently’? Is there an unequal basis on which they operate? These questions will guide us in a discussion of the relationship between skin colour, beauty, visibility and racial discourses, as well as the accumulation of meaning that such ideas have in their empirical experience.

      This analysis...

  8. Notes on Contributors
    (pp. 181-184)
  9. Index
    (pp. 185-188)