I picked up David Batchelor's Chromophobia because it was supposed to be "A provocative contribution to the discourse of color theory." (Or so says James Meyer on the book jacket.) Essentially, the argument is that Western culture has eschewed color since ancient times. Color is childish, gay, feminine, vulgar, oriental, superficial, or inessential, and therefore bad. I wanted to hear more. I wanted to see Batchelor trace this history of color. But unfortunately, this book was very disappointing. Batchelor apparently takes "theory" to mean "I can ramble on as I please without providing a context for anything I say; I can mix Pleasantville with Plotinus in the same paragraph without justifying the juxtaposition, and I can rely on broad generalizations as the basis for proving my point."
This is not how I like my theory. Still, I picked out two passages to share with you. One I disagree with vehemently. The other has the potential to be intriguing.
"If colour is single and colours are many, how can we have both? Plotinus said colour is 'devoid of parts', and this is probably among the most significant things every said on the subject. For Plotinus, then, colour was single, it was indivisible. But in being indivisible, colour also put itself beyond the reach of rational analysis - and this was exactly is point. To analyze, after all, is to divide. If color is indivisible, a continuum, what sense can there be in talking of colours? None, obviously...except that we do it all the time" (Batchelor 85-6). The idea that it's pointless to talk about anything that exists on a continuum seems absurd to me. Is analysis just division? Is all division a falsehood? Perhaps, but we could take anything and call it a continuum. But we still find it useful to divide it into categories. (Oh god, my writing sounds like Batchelor's now. Shoot me before anyone else is infected!)
"I have mentioned at least as much literature, philosophy and science as art theory, and I have said more about films, architecture and advertisements than painting or sculpture. Fair enough: colour is interdisciplinary. Except that I feel uncomfortable casually passing something off as 'interdisciplinary'. I want to preserve the strangeness of colour; its otherness is what counts, not the commodification of otherness. The interdisciplinary is often the antidisciplinary made safe. Colour is antidisciplinary" (Batchelor 97). We discuss "the interdisciplines" (as someone recently referred to it in a_a) here a lot, so I thought this passage might be of interest in spite of the overall suckitude of the book. Does calling something "interdisciplinary" strip it of the freedom it sought by escaping the disciplines in the first place?