Colour and stories are interrelated. They are two forms of life that surround us, and because of that, they have tremendous importance to how we perceive space. It may not be the most immediate association, but as you think they do not belong together and we have nothing to learn from combining the two into one phrase, read along and see how I challenge you on this.
As humans, we like making things. Everything from wheels to meals, from art to cars, from sophisticated technological machinery to elusive and ephemeral music. All start with a need, an inspiration or a soft whim floating away from the wings of summer winds.
Before the eye ruled over the other sensory organs, the world was full of so much more. We read our surroundings through all our senses, and we were pocked with many. The smells of produce, and sounds of birds, and the water from a rainy sky were no less present than today, yet, our bodies responded and gave them more attention. Then we rejected the smells and became allergic, invented headphones and limited sounds, and with the harsh clunk of automation, we’ve learned to fearfully pull out umbrellas at the first drops of rain.
The more we made, the more we’ve isolated our sensorial space and allowed the vision to become ruler. A ruler that made the virtual world possible, a virtual world that took over, little by little, every day. And we love it because it is a glorious vice, and like any vice and glory, it gives us pleasure and comfort.
But beware, with comfort comes a certain numbness. A laziness of the mind that, when too much of it, will slow down and eventually extinguish the perpetual effervescence of our brains. Then the mind looks for it elsewhere, for it needs it in order to live.
Some like to find extra stimulation in substances; some prefer activities – I am of the latter, and travel is one of my poisons. Because travel, if you let it, has the power to reconnect you with the lost senses, the ones from before, when rainfall had no umbrellas. See here what I found in San Francisco after the rain 👉 What I feel is who I am – Tasting travel in so many colours, part 1
When did things really change, though? When did we really become these myopic creatures that trust everything as long as they “look,” right? The heavy reliance on visuals is not something we see in other species. So why are we so devoted to it that some of you, as you read this, think it’s absolutely and perfectly normal that things are the way they are on this front?
The first whiff of sensorial hierarchy that evolved into visual hegemony started in the Renaissance.
When humankind walked the earth in Medieval times, Antiquity and before, body odours were recognizable, categorizable and heavily used in signalling moods and economic status and setting the tone for human interaction. It was as much a reference as, and we relied on it, if not more than eyesight. Remember, there were no glasses at that time. Stories like Hansel and Gretchen, with the old witch and her lack of vision but a keen sense of touch and smell, were deeply rooted, like any other stories, in a reality of sorts.
During the Renaissance, the major shift that happened was looking at Antiquity through the lens of the then-contemporary eye. Ruins were elevated to artifacts, and drawings and representations became mathematically constructed. When the dramatic perspective that paved the way for photographic cameras entered humanity, everyone revered in awe at the supernatural-like capacity of the eye to represent the world. None of the other senses could compete. You could not create nor perceive a whole world through smell or sound. Yet the eye could grasp a geometrically constructed image and understand it as if it were looking at the actual picture itself. Before Magritte’s seminal artwork “Ceci n’est pas une pipe”, the renaissance person discovered the power of visual representation.
And then things happened as if we’d opened Pandora’s box. Photography, cinematography, three-dimensional renderings, virtual reality, gaming, metaverses, they all rolled and still roll out unhindered by anything else sensorial but the all-seeing eye. Everything else is secondary.
What would happen, though, if we were to stop seeing because we over-see? We’re almost there, bombarded by so much imagery that in order to truly “see,” something needs to be extraordinary, absurdly loud, ostentatiously colourful – visually speaking… Why? Because we are numb. To images that, on a dusty renaissance road, would’ve stopped the horse in his galop, we are but jaded and bored passers-by that do not even shift a glance towards the beautiful mushrooms born after the rain on the side of the road. We keep our eyes on the rainbow out on the horizon. Always just a step too far for us to reach it.
Images courtesy of Dochia Media