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  • Writer's pictureDave LeRue

"The Luminous and the Grey" (2016) Annotation I The Neoliberal Aesthetic

Batchelor, David. The Luminous and the Grey. N.p.: Reaktion, 2014. Print

The Luminous and the Grey is David Batchelor’s follow-up to his 2000 book Chromophobia. This book is a poetic inquiry into the origins of colour, exploring myth, philosophy, literature, and film. Batchelor spends much of the book fixated on grey, asking why grey is synonymous with words such as purgatory, gloomy, dull, and neutral. Grey fits in with this project as it's the most prominent colour in the contemporary condominium space and Ikea catalogue, with concrete floors, stainless steel appliances, and monochromatic grey furniture, so this poetic exploration is valuable to exploring the question of the neoliberal aesthetic.

An intriguing example Batchelor uses is the coloured version of the Wizard of Oz movie. When Dorthy is at home in Kansas, the film is in black and white. When she winds up in the cyclone and finds herself in the World of Oz, the film turns to vibrant and disorienting colour, which as Kant puts it, undermines all rationality and stability. (24) After her adventure, Dorothy returns home to Kansas to the grey, drabness of Kansas with an optimism of “there’s no place like home”. (27)

This anecdote gave me pause to consider the poetic relationship colour has to modernist interiors. In a carefully constructed colour palette of neutrals, a coloured painting would be a window to a radical and corrupt universe. These interiors and their associated lifestyles I talked about in the Harvey annotation seem to be architectural Kansas, open to colour in extraordinarily controlled moments and frames. This is what makes a show like the Price is Right so radical in this view; an entire world of radical, untethered colour. The interesting facet for further research is the relationship between those considered modernist painters, many of whom were vibrant colourists, and the modernist home interior.

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