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BIOGRAPHY OF A COLOUR
BY JEROEN VAN HONK
 

The colour HEX3B579D, like many of its siblings, has a large number of birth dates. It was born in harmony with the universe at an unspecified date that can only be plotted as ZERO; it was born with the discovery of lapis lazuli somewhere in or around the NEOLITHIC; it was born with the dawn of the photographic age and the invention of RGB by James Clerk Maxwell in approximately 1860, and like any other colour it was born an infinite number of times in between: when the combination of object and pigment and light and perception and shadowplay was just right to create said colourís unique tint.

However, this is just sophistry. HEX3B579D was really born on the day it got called HEX3B579D, which was a slow and gradual birth over the second half of the twentieth century, sneaked aboard the Ark of the digital revolution. Indeed it is the duality of our digital, bite-driven worldview that has given HEX3B579D its lifeblood. Before that, in an analogue world, it was part of a continuum; one infinite, indistinguishable and undistinguished colour of truth, the way we ourselves were once part of a continuum, a gnostic oneness of holy light that shattered into individuality.

Yes, HEX3B579D and its siblings were unique in many ways; most importantly of all in that they existed before carving out an existence. When we were still analogue, the orange fruit would give its name to the orange colour, and not the other way around. Now all these colours sprang out of the earth with no tasks to their names, waiting for the devil to come by with work for their idle hands to do. Luckily for us, the internet has heeded that call.

The first years of HEX3B579Dís existence were uneventful. Every now and then a website of this burgeoning thing called the World Wide Web would stumble upon it, often in a highly contrastive color scheme doomed from the start. It would be forced to work alongside such infamous culprits as HEX2D9483 and HEXB5EA6F, where clashes were thus pretty much inavoidable. These short-lived websites were like trees falling in a forest. They did not vindicate HEX3B579Dís right to be and to be seen. In these salad days the colour wasnít very popular. The abysmally designed layouts in which it was used didnít help, but in more general terms it simply wasnít in vogue (in spite of its bluish cheeks!).

Of course we smile at such accounts the way we smile at an ignorant toddler, knowing what we do now. I would not be here today writing this piece about HEX3B579D if it did not land firmly on its feet in the end. In this particular story, the fate of the colour is inextricably linked to the fate of a man. Both would be nothing without the other. Popular accounts have it that young Mark, walking the sorry streets of Dobbs Ferry, New York, would be haunted by the sight of the colour. Stricken with red-green colour blindness from birth, his whole world was built out of the breezy nebulosity of blue. Blue, for those of us lucky enough to have the whole spectrum at our disposal, is the colour of what isnít; the colour of sky, sea and transparency. But HEX3B579D, more opaque and palpable than most blues, was the best Mark could do. It was utopia for him. When he got his chance, he marked the colour his forever, and the colour in turn marked him; a match made in heaven.

Two blues, ours and Markís. Being blue; ephemeral, transcendent and faraway. But then being blue; opaque and omniscient. The blue of apparent distance versus the blue of apparent proximity. A blue as a lens through which to see things versus a blue through which we are perceived.
As for Mark, so for us. The ubiquity of HEX3B579D pleased us all. It walked the tightrope that the times called for: a blue solid enough to feel real, but blue enough to be perfect for a cyberspace that will never ever be real.

Naturally there is tragedy to the story as well. Unbeknownst to many, colours too adhere to simple principles of supply and demand. A virtually unknown colour like HEX3B579D that becomes well-nigh ubiquitous overnight will be able to rely on its reserves for a while, but it will eventually spread itself thin. Like the minerals and stones that our pigments spring from, colours are not an infinite resource. Exhaustion is weighing on HEX3B579D, and the cracks are starting to show. It strains to please all, but in the process becomes invisible, a colour like a face in the crowd.

If HEX3B579D wants to prolong its success into the future, it will have to turn in early nights again, and pick its moments to sparkle in the spotlight. If not, ahead of it will be a slow, long car crash and a blue funeral.

[Forever after at http://eyeshot.net/colour.html]
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