Black | Beyond | 18th January 2022 | Virtual Wire
“In order for the light to shine, darkness must be present”- Anonymous Close your eyes: you see a space. It’s empty, it’s dark. While your eyes are closed, think of the words that come to your mind when I say the word “Black”.
The most common answers I’ve heard are – Dark, Fear, Nothingness, Empty, Death, Evil, to name but a few. When I asked a bunch of writers in a group discussion, their responses amounted to and rested on the fact that most observations and insights fell under the category of negative connotations. Why is it that this colour which is a contradiction in itself, attracts much more negativity than it deserves? I decided to dive in and look at various areas where black goes against these misconceptions. I think the best way to begin is to know that Black is literally the absence of colour. This contradicts the phrase “colour black”. If we look at the colour pigments like RGB or CMYK (Cyan, Magenta, Yellow, Krypton(black) Red Green and Blue mixed together gives us black, and the colour scheme CMYK consists of the colour black. In the world of Physics, fast rotation of the colour wheel gives us white, whereas, if all the colours in the colour wheel were mixed together in pigment form, the colour obtained at the very end is a dark hue (black).
This in a way twists the theory that black is colourless. In fact, it houses all the colours. Emo and Goth cultures are two of the most common cultures that incorporate black in their attire. While Emo cultures derived their style out of the music they listened to (mainly Punk), Goth culture emerged from an offshoot of the post Punk period. The Goth culture dates back to the Gothic and Victorian-era attires and styling. Emo culture focuses more on styling that incorporates black and music band t-shirts. The similarity is that both these groups associate with the colour black because it binds them as a community. A misconception exists with the term Emo.
A lot of people who are “Emo” are categorised as depressed, sad, suicidal and the colour black seems to enhance those assumptions even more. Such people are said to have pasts of hurting themselves, and always being extremely quiet. People have branded them as “Emotional”. Speaking to a fellow student of mine who identified themselves as Emo, said “Emo doesn’t mean Emotional. Rather, it means Emotive”. Emo people are more in touch with their feelings. They are sensitive and express their feelings and so does their music”. Comparison is one of the most visible ways of knowing the differences between objects, materials, colours and ideas.
When you hear someone talk about purity or cleanliness or angel-like, the word your mind associates it with is the colour white. At the same time, white is the purest because it is compared to the colour black, which our mind is conditioned to perceive as something impure, dull and devilish. White without its counterpart black would not mean the same thing as it does today. In the concept of positive and negative space, positive space is white and negative space is black. What’s interesting is that even though black is negative space, it is the background that gives definition and context to the object, without which it would be unrecognisable.
Why is it that black is always associated with death and endings? Every movie ending, where some character of importance dies, their transition into the heavens above is always shown as a beam of white light. This light is shining and “pure”. It marks the end of the journey of that person in the physical sense. But have you ever noticed how movies depict the moment newborn child opens their eyes to stare into the unknown world: to meet the eyes of their parents and see what is in store for them? It begins with black. It seems that the end is not actually black. In fact, it is the beginning. Before the eye allows light to penetrate and illuminate a newborn’s mind, life has already been gifted. The eye makes its way through black: the very beginning and then emerges, into its physical sense.
It is said that a certain amount of darkness is required to see the stars. Those stars, float around in space that is has no colour and brings life and beauty to the residents that inhabit this limitless lake. Space: black and infinite, stretches from unknown points, and its end, might just be something else’s beginning. This space has infinite possibilities, it stores the unknown and it captures and emits curiosity. The black hole: what is it? It’s a section of space that has a huge magnetic force. It sucks in everything close to it, even light. This entity of measureless black now also houses a black hole. It is an abyss within a larger endless rift. The power, possibilities and the sense of infinite can only be experienced within this colourless colour black.
In physics, we learn that certain colours are more absorbing and some are less absorbing. It is said that white is a colour that keeps the heat and light away, while black, absorbs all the energy. It is a colour that absorbs everything, embraces everything and receives everything.
Is white really pure? Or is black the purest of them all? If a tiny speck of dirt falls on a white
surface, this blemish is noticeable to the naked eye. If dirt falls on black, it goes unnoticed, absorbed and masked by black. The colour people associate with being dirty is in fact the purest colour.
Polluted, soot, unclean this is what coal is. This material, which gets every person’s hands dirty, blackened and filthy, is also the very same material that enables every woman to live the fairy tale dream. On their wedding days, sitting on the bride’s finger is a diamond ring. This diamond is called beautiful, sparkling and polished. It is a gem that is obtained from coal. Its refined and elegant body is the result of this black and filthy coal, shedding its layers to bring alive this beauty. Our bodies, this sacred house, is coloured in different shades. The result of these shades is due to a pigment called melanin. Throughout the course of history, many instances of white people, degrading, insulting and looking down upon people with darker skin has existed.
This supremacist mentality arose due to the people with lighter skin, feeling that lighter tones of skin are superior. What’s ironic is that cause of white or pale skin is actually due to them lacking in melanin. It’s interesting how people with lighter skin feel proud when in reality, they lack the pigment in their body, that would have otherwise let them enjoy the beautiful sunny days without having to stay away from the brightest light. This is what the conscious mind thinks. The mind is aware and present. But what about the unconscious mind. The mind that we are not aware of, the mind that holds mysteries and secrets. This space of the unconscious is best described in terms of being black, vast, unknown and mysterious. Similar to space its possibilities and potentials are limitless and infinite, but like space, if we delve deep into this realm of the unknown a lot can be found out about ourselves, and our ways of thinking and perceiving.
Sigmund Freud depicted and explained the conscious mind is like the tip of the iceberg, only a portion of it is visible and that is what we comprehend. And the unconscious mind is the other portion of the iceberg that is entirely submerged in the vast ocean. No one knows how big and the iceberg is and how deep it goes into the ocean, into that vast black space both holding atmospheres of unknown. Our mind is like the yin and yang: a Chinese symbol that portrays the perfect harmony required to maintain balance. If there was only white then the balance dips to one side, and if there is only black, it dips more to the opposite side. Combining both allows for structure, free flow and stability.
The same goes for the balance between the conscious and unconscious mind. A person requires both the conscious mind: that’s aware and continuously getting illuminated by the world, as well as the unconscious mind: that’s unknown, unexplored, limitless and secretive, to complete a person and bring balance into their life. This entity houses all and yet none of the colours. It has the properties of being undefinable. And it turns these features to its advantage. This undefinable property makes space for multiple possibilities to exist together Such properties allow room for change to take place, making sure uniqueness can be found in its monochromatic plane. While black embraces change it doesn’t forget to pay equal attention to its property of mutability.
Black has another feature, duality. Colours like green, yellow and red, just to name a few are extremely noticeable whereas black as compared to the brighter colours goes more unnoticed. But this is the power of black, it can choose when to get noticed and when not to. This ability of duality allows black to complement everything. Black is all around us, silently assisting other colours to shine and be noticed while it stays in the background unnoticed. We unknowingly used black as a metaphor to express our deepest desires and secrets.
Its limitless and abyss like nature allow for it to absorb and give out multiple meanings that otherwise no other colour is capable of doing. It’s been used in various areas as symbols for harmony and balance, and its contrasting nature makes it a colour that’s compatibility is 100%. In conclusion, I would like to say that while visible to the naked eye, black is dull, dingy, awful, and obscure it also houses meaning of infinity, power, strength, possibilities, balance and possibilities. All of which is what makes this colour inclusive, unique and a body that can house millions.