Phenomenon ‘Colour’: Aesthetics – Epistemology – Politics

Hana Gründler, Franziska Lampe, and Katharine Stahlbuhk

Hrafnhildur Arnardóttir/Shoplifter, Chromo Sapiens (detail), 2019. Photo: Annie Dalbéra, CC BY 2.0,

Colour and its perception is dependent on a variety of subjective predispositions and external physical conditions, and is decisively determined by social and cultural preconditions, as well as linguistic meanings and attributions. Both seeing and talking about colour therefore prove to be complex processes that do not only touch on perceptivity, but are also closely connected to aesthetic, epistemic, ethical and (power-)political questions and problems, and are not least accompanied by (pre-)judgements. This ambiguity – even indeterminacy – of the phenomenon ‘colour’ is a starting point for the interdisciplinary project to grapple with its sometimes divergent characterisations, and to question historically rooted attributions and contentious categorisations.

The project’s main aim is to take a critical look at the hierarchies and ideologies associated with colour and to examine what consequences result from the colour schemes, theories and harmonies often determined in the West. The project thus sets out to explore to what extent metaphors and symbolisms associated with colours are instrumentalised in the present, and if and how the excess or absence of colour is ideologically used and abused. Finally, the project seeks to analyse the (power-political) dispositifs in which judgements about colours are made.

The project team has initiated a lecture series with a multidisciplinary and international group of scholars, and has curated a special issue of the journal kritische berichte.



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