Friday, September 21, 2007

Specificity of the Virtual-Actual Dialectic in the Instance of a 'Colour'

At once physical and experiential, therefore unrepeatable, spectral colour as conjuncture proposes an infinity other than the 16,581, 535 colours of hexadecimal. Modulations too intense for capture. This is its actuality, ie. to call it 'insubstantial' is incorrect. The analogy with infinitessimals: there will always be another hue between this one and that one, to be achieved by casting this shadow from that surface under this light source under these conditions of refraction. As in the tones of sunset, any tone is always on the brink of becoming another. So far so physis.

This colour – magenta spray under cars at a Sydney crossroads in the rain under sodium arc lamps 20.09.07 around 9.00pm – is unrepeatably specific and actual. The attempt to capture it will a) reduce it to mathematical identity but b) demonstrate that such capture is inevitably poorer which c) can lead to new colours, new techniques

This is notably the case with black, which is 'not a colour', 'the absence of colour', but which, like evil, is an absolute that never achieves purity, the purity of actual existence. Black has the specific quality of being only ever virtual. Like silence, black is physiologically impossible (Cage, Goethe). [Brecht speaks of 'the strain of being evil'].

Our attempts at black are magical: formulated from the remains of fire in charcoal and lampblack. The alternative, especially in film and electronic imaging, has been to achieve maximum contrast, that is to use the wisdom of colour combinations to persuade us that the greys of the screen are blacks. If black is always unreachable as ideal absence, these formal allocations of blackness to greys are equally virtual, an expression of the destiny of certain tones in systems reliant on projected or backlit images, cathode ray tubes: Becoming black.


Milan said...

Dear Mr. Cubitt, I'm interested in translating your book in Serbian language. If you're interested too, you can reach me at:

Best regards

Sean Cubitt said...

will do milan