Chromophobia Discussion


The central argument of Chromophobia is that a chromophobic impulse – a fear of corruption or contamination through color – lurks within much Western cultural and intellectual thought. This is apparent in the many and varied attempts to purge color, either by making it the property of some “foreign body” – the oriental, the feminine, the infantile, the vulgar, or the pathological – or by relegating it to the realm of the superficial, the supplementary, the inessential, or the cosmetic.

Chromophobia has been a cultural phenomenon since ancient Greek times; this book is concerned with forms of resistance to it. Writers have tended to look no further than the end of the nineteenth century. David Batchelor seeks to go beyond the limits of earlier studies, analyzing the motivations behind chromophobia and considering the work of writers and artists who have been prepared to look at color as a positive value. Exploring a wide range of imagery including Melville’s “great white whale”, Huxley’s reflections on mescaline, and Le Corbusier’s “journey to the East”, Batchelor also discusses the use of color in Pop, Minimal, and more recent art.

Part 1 answer question: What are your thoughts on this whole idea of colour being either on the surface or having depth. Do not hesitate to site examples from your own experiences.

Part 2: Comment on the discussion posts:

1- I don’t think I can truly say one way or the other on this discussion. There is no denying that color has depth and can be used to convey a wide array of things. However there are sometimes when color can be as surface level as possible. I think a lot of times color does have meaning and has a deeper level to it but sometimes people read way too far into things.

Especially in writing when a lot of times color may just be used to help paint the picture in your mind better. I always wonder when I am reading if the colors are intentionally meant to evoke a feeling or if they are just a choice. I think color to most people inherently has meaning and it is hard for us to realize maybe sometimes an item is blue because its blue. 

In art itself though I feel that most color serves a purpose because it is more of a noticeable choice you make as opposed to writing. whoever at the same time a lot of the color choices are just things that exist in real life so they aren’t exactly deep. 

2- Personally, I find color as a surface level application with selective depth. On its own, color itself is more of a feature of objects. It is effectively the visual perception of reflected light as it hits our eyes. Color itself can be “added” to an object by painting, coloring, or even joining objects together, such as when you use a blender or even stain your favorite pants. On the other hand, color can have depth to it. While I feel color can be applied and altered, I do not feel it is purely cosmetic as discussed in this chapter. We give meaning to colors based on our upbringing and environment. Colors give life to memories. When reminding others on previous events, we may ask them to recall how a location looked, what they were wearing, and any objects that stood out. When doing so, color undoubtedly plays a strong role in connecting us back to the moment. 

The chapter tends to indicate that color is similar to “makeup”, as in it serves to amplify the beauty of a physical object. Yet, it is also called a “disguise of a disguise” which indicates that color is hiding the truth of form. I disagree, I feel each object has a color we associate with it, to the point that it becomes part of its very being. If you mention bananas, one will think of the color yellow immediately. Ultimately, color is not just an added affect, we each derive emotion and memories from different colors. Unlike size and shapes, color leaves a lasting impact. 

3- I found this reference as something that went very in-depth with all of the details. For example, it was definitely interesting to read through the story and have them relate it back into color. for example, when he says “the colour of rhetoric was false, and artificial, immoral and unnatrual. It was in full knowledge of the ‘metaphysical moral perspective’ that Baudelaire began his assault on Nature. With this, it’s definitely important to realize that he wanted to focus on tying the tortoise into a color scheme. Because of that, it’s definitely a way to add in a metaphor about color in a way that people wouldn’t generally think about.

Overall, I think that the story of the tortoise is meant to tell us that we should be more appreciative of the different colors that do show themselves to us. We are meant to take the time to take a look at the colors of the different objects and surroundings that we may find ourselves in, and to take that time to appreciate the different looks that we can see there. nature is something that we should be able to appreciate rather than, like the tortoise, ruin and trash.

4- In my point of view, David Batchelor describes colorful personalities to be two things: a “wild” sense of personality or a true and expressive version of oneself’s personality. Although it was difficult for me to understand this at first, I understand and agree with his perceptions of colorful personalities. In my life I have come across both versions of colorful personalities, my mother for example was considered “crazy” to some and a “real” person to others. When I say the word real, I mean that she was not afraid to show the true colors of her personality and it was admired by many of the people she came across throughout her life.

On the other hand, our distant family referred to her as being “wild” because she lacked a filter and they were offended by her personality. My mother is just one example, although my brother and I are viewed in these same aspects as well. Colorful personality is not a direct term to describe something, and just like many words in the English language, it has multiple meanings. This can be related to the fact that when someone hears the word blue they see different scenarios and objects in their mind from memory.

An observable view that I consider being important, is that as decades have passed and our perspectives of the world around us have changed; colorful personalities have changed from being “wild” to a true expressive version of oneself. So the colorful personality of the politician that David Batchelor described in his chapter of Apocalipstick, was less desirable to some in that time but more desirable to us in these modern times.

Some people believe that a politician that had a colorful personality might be dangerous in public office. Colorful personalities are seen as being radical or, “Inconsistent in their thinking, perhaps, and therefore unpredictable and confusing, but in another sense consistently true to themselves”,(Batchelor 66). Being true to oneself and others was not desirable in previous times and which is why many believed that colorful personalities were wilder rather than true to oneself.

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