Nexus 4 'Chromophilia'
Nexus 4.1 'Chromophilia' 17.10 (AST) 26.3.16
with the participation of
Nexus 4.1 by Mathew Aldred is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.
The property possessed by most cells of staining readily with appropriate dyes.
[chromo- + G. phileō, to love]
One of the many things I have learnt from the Nexus experiments is the emotional power of colour within the collective intelligence. No part of the process receives so much attention from the collective intelligence. This has encouraged me to reflect on the instructions given in the Nexus relating to colour, and how the whole idea of colour might be a fruitful and apt area for experimentation with the process. Part of this reflective process has been my reading of ‘Chromophobia’ by David Batchelor (Batchelor, 2000). A very interesting historical/psychological exploration of general cultural responses to colour, and the art world. This led me to Goethe’s Theory of Colours, which was often referred to in the English speaking world as the ‘Doctrine of Colours’. As the ‘Doctrine’ suggests this was very influential on the development of artists attitudes to colour. In the chapter on ‘Pathological Colour’ he talks of vivid colour as something only for animals, children and ‘savages’.
“…it is also worthy of remark, that savage nations, uneducated people, and children have a great predilection for vivid colours; that animals are excited to rage by certain colours; that people of refinement avoid vivid colours in their dress and the objects that are about them, and seem inclined to banish them altogether from their presence”
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Theory of Colours, p.55 (Goethe, 1840 English translation)
Few would admit to such a view today, but I suspect, and Batchelor certainly argues, that there is still a strong association of colour with vulgarity:
“Even for many who have maintained a strong interest in colour, its perceived proximity to popular culture or mass culture, its association with kitsch and artificiality, has remained a major problem. For these commentators, the feminine, oriental, infantile and narcotic aspects of colour have often been a parts of its attraction, but its popular, vulgar and commercial associations have been altogether less appealing” (Batchelor, 2000:110)
Later, Batchelor reports American painter Peter Halley as saying ‘over the last few years he has felt a bit out in the cold because of what he recognises as a general art world aversion to painting. But also because maybe collectors and critics find his colours too working-class. The think muted colour are more tasteful’ (Batchelor, 2000)
This association of colour with the popular, the masses, the ignorant, the ‘working-class’, I take as a provocation, a challenge. My conception of collective intelligence art is the democratization of art, the bringing together of the masses via networking, to create an emergent and creative intelligence not bound by any ‘doctrines’ around art making. That is not to say that any art practice, no matter how ‘Chromophilic’ can create great visually aesthetic work without a touch of ‘Chromophobia’. In a recent recording (2008)for MOMA interview for the show ‘Colour Charts’, Batchelor refers to this balancing act:
“My experience in working in the studio since then…is that this relationship between the Chromophobic and the Chromophilic is much more complex..they are intimately related forces..the fearing and the loving are almost two parts of the same operation..and they must co-exist in a work..no matter how Chromophilic you are there will always be some sort of resistance to that..our attitude to colour in the west is very ambivalent..we are both strongly attracted to it and experience a repulsion from it..at the moment we summon up colour we also repress it in certain ways..or at least we contain it..even if contained only by the edge of the canvas..our ambivalence to colour is manifested in an uncertainty and anxiety towards it..you might expect as an innocent that art shows would all be about colour but you rarely see this..the colour chart in some ways represses or contains colour…the colour chart show is a show about rectangles as much as about colour..the rectangles are about the anxiety of colour..everything I’ve made in the studio is about colour containers…the summoning up of excess and then holding it in” (MOMA, 2008)
The Nexus experiments have really been an interesting example in the containment of the strong attraction and reaction towards colour emanating from the collective. The strong black lines of the cellular structure of the grid used as a starting point have kept the colours in check, as well as the instructions to propose only palettes with 5 colours.
It is a happy coincidence that the biological defintion of Chromophilia (its most common usage) refers to the colouring of cells. This is so apt when my Nexus experiments involve cells, and a desire to create a symbiosis of science and art.
With the next series of experiments, Nexus 4, I propose to see how far I can ‘summon up excess’ of colour from the collective intelligence, and still keep it ‘contained’. Naturally, I will call the series ‘Chromophilia’. The first experiment was conducted today and the result is shown above.
Batchelor, D (2000) Chromophobia Reaktion Books Ltd. London
Goethe, J (1840) Theory of Colours, John Murray, London
MOMA (2008) Interview with David Batchelor At:https://www.moma.org/momaorg/shared/audio_file/audio_file/293/ConversationsonColor_040908.mp3 Accessed 23.3.2016