Monthly Archives: November 2008

Reception. Perception. Deception.

1_bbb-okpage11_v2 Scientists distinguish between the sensation of black and the perception of black. Theories have been advanced to explain both aspects, one espoused by a group of physiologists whose best known representative  was physicist and polymath Hermann von Helmholtz, the other developed by physiologist and brain expert Ewald Hering. For Helmholtz, the sensation of black derived from the absence of light, from the lack of light stimuli. By contrast, Hering claimed that all visual perception including seeing black involved light, explaining the perception of black as the result of contrast. Von Helmholtz discovered that the human retina has three different kinds of cone enabling us to see colours and that these do not register stimuli at night. For Hering, this did not delve deeply enough. Incorporating the brain into his theory, he proposed that both the sensation and the perception of black result from a physiological-chemical reaction taking place in a nerve fibre. The two theories were eventually reconciled. For the perception of black this meant that first, a surface appears black when it does not reflect the light striking it, that is, when it absorbs waves that the eye can register; and secondly, although we register phenomena with our sense organs, lack of information received by the rods and cones in our retina does not make it impossible to see black, because ultimately we perceive with our brain.

Nevertheless, it has not been established how exactly the brain enables us to perceive black. We possess nerve cells that react to red and green, to circles and triangles, and to moving bars, but none of our nerve cells register black, which our brain processes in the areas reserved for shapes and movement.


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a Black is a Black is a Black is it ?


There are many different kinds of black.

Ad Reinhardt distinguished between “a black which is old and a black which is fresh. Lustrous (brilliant) black and matte black, black in sunlight and black in shadow. For the old black one must use an admixture of blue, for the matte black an admixture of white; for the lustrous black gum (colle) must be added. Black in sunlight must have grey reflections.”


Not all shades of black encountered in works of art contain black pigment.

As the painter and picture restorer Max Doerner explained in 1921, some blacks can be obtained from a mixture of dark blue and red. Doerner distinguished six black pigments: bone black, plant black, lampblack, manganese black, slate black and ferric oxide black.


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BBB-Bela Tarr

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Esquisse d’un scénario pour un court métrage muet

Première partie
Premier plan
Les fenêtres closes du village (filmé en caméra subjective un peu comme le plan-séquence de “L’Année dernière à Marienbad” quand la caméra s’attarde longuement à filmer les moulures du plafond), les bas-reliefs moyenâgeux sur les façades, juste au-dessus des fenêtres.
Deuxième plan.
Une main qui agite une cloche.
Troisième plan.
La troupe de la RTT arrive au village (un village reculé, des maisons de pierre, une végétation aride, sur les façades des visages de pierre sculptés, style roman). La RTT en première place suivie du cheval et du graveur. Dans les rues, personnes. Atmosphère hivernale. La troupe est filmée comme si elle était vue par les visages de pierre.
Quatrième plan.
La RTT, seule, abandonnée par ses servants, le vent qui agite les gravures. La machine est perdue dans le décor désertique. On a l’impression de n’entendre que le vent qui siffle dans les fils électriques. Des gravures jonchent le sol, certaines déchirées ou roulées en boulettes de papier.
Deuxième partie
Premier plan
La caméra filme les gravures accrochées au cheval avec le rythme posé qu’un lecteur attentif prendrait pour lire l’ensemble des images gravées. Le cheval demeure immobile ; on dirait une statue de bronze. La caméra opère ce faisant un mouvement spiralé autour du cheval de manière à ce que toutes les gravures soient vues et lues.
Deuxième plan
L’opérateur’s grimpent dans la montagne accompagné par le cheval revêtu de son harnachement de gravures. Buissons et pierres qui roulent. Vues des feuilles qui tremblent au vent. Montée saccadée à cause du terrain difficile : montée, arrêt, reprise de la marche, etc.
Troisième plan
Plan fixe d’un pic montagneux.
Quatrième plan
Le cheval seul au sommet de la colline avec une seule gravure noire accrochée à la corde qui entoure son cou. Il tourne autour d’un ancien fortin installé jadis au sommet de la colline. Le cheval est filmé du centre du cercle, la caméra le suit comme si un fil reliait le cheval à la caméra. Au centre du cercle, un monticule de pierres.
Cinquième plan
Les nuages en vue subjective, ensuite coupure et la caméra redescend vers les visages de l’Opérateur’s, et des visages vers les mains.
Sixième plan
Dans une pièce sombre, les mains du graveur en gros plan occupées à graver l’image d’un cheval et dans le fond de l’image la RTT, l’Opérateur qui imprime.

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I believe in nothing

Cologne Cathedral

In August 2007, the city of Cologne unveiled Gerhard Richter’s startling new window for the south transept of Cologne Cathedral. The original window had been destroyed during the second world war and replaced with clear glazing in 1948. Nearly 60 years later, Richter elected to fill in the sections of the Gothic tracery with thousands of gridded, vibrantly coloured squares which suggested that the early, stained-glass images of Magi and saints had been pushed through a processor to the point of hyperchromatic digital breakdown.

The seemingly arbitrary distribution of colours at Cologne was generated using a specially developed computer programme, and his renewed interest in using chance to determine composition led Richter to develop the idea for 4900 Colours at the Serpentine.

In this most recent work, acrylic chips are chosen at random, spraypainted, and glued to an aluminium sheet. “The random programme presents an instantaneous and apparently countless collection of coloured groupings,” the catalogue explains, adopting the tones of a public service announcement. “The computer executes instructions without conscience or discernment, without intuition or will, without feelings or inductive thought. We are in the finite and infinite universe of numbers where the calculation process is transformed into a production role.” All human agency has been removed.

Why would a painter present a series of 49 identically sized, identically gridded panels made of industrially manufactured paint chips and present them as a single exhibition ?

As long ago as 1966, Richter wrote: “I steer clear of definitions. I don’t know what I want. I am inconsistent, noncomittal, passive; I like the indefinite, the boundless; I like continual uncertainty. Other qualities may be conducive to achievement, publicity, success; but they are all outworn – as outworn as ideologies, opinions, concepts and names for things.”

And two years earlier: “I consider belief of every kind, from astrology to every elevated religion and all great ideologies, to be superfluous and mortally dangerous. Now that there are no priests or philosophers left, artists are the most important people in the world. This is the only thing that interests me.”

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