Briefs: the chromatic landscape of life and death

(Note: no men’s underwear was abused in the preparation of this posting.)

From Kyle Wohlmut on Facebook this morning:

(#1) Available by the gallon

What is the color of immortality? A flat grayish off-white, extending to infinity. Mortality, on the other hand, is a transparent blue, filling all the space around you; swatches available from the Derek Jarman company.

Immortality. A painting of a stormy day in immortality:

(#2) On the Singulart site (for $1,570), a large (well, 2×4 ft) abstract landscape, acrylic on canvas, Distant Memories by Sveta Osborne

Appropriately, the painting is offered as livingroom art, as utterly everyday and ordinary, nearly featureless.

Mortality. From Wikipedia:

(#3) The theatrical poster for the film

Blue is a 1993 drama film directed by Derek Jarman. It is his final feature film, released four months before his death from AIDS-related complications. Such complications had already rendered him partially blind at the time of the film’s release, only being able to see in shades of blue.

The film was his last testament as a film-maker, and consists of a single shot of saturated blue colour – specifically International Klein Blue … This fills the screen, as background to a soundtrack where Jarman’s and some of his long-time collaborators’ narration describes his life and vision.

Jarman was not the first person to make art out of their impending death, but this is some sort of monument in the genre. I have never looked at this shade of blue in the same way since.

An homage to Jarman. For some years now, Randy McDonald has been creating a photographic chronicle of the life around him, mostly in Toronto, where he lives now (he grew up on Prince Edward Island). Exploring Toronto on foot, he’s stitched together a portrait of the city, at street level, in small details, that’s striking, entertaining, and sometimes moving (even if you’ve never been there).

A side project of his is to chronicle the skies above him, wherever he is, as an homage to Derek Jarman. A few of these images are solid blue, but almost all have tiny touches of the human world in them, as this shot of his (from September 8th, in Charlottetown PEI) does:

(#4) Randy’s caption: “A perfect blue above St. Dunstan’s Basilica”

If that blue is the aching color of mortality, those little touches are signs that in the midst of death we are still in life, signs of defiance against the dying of the light, signs of grace from human hands.

A note of triviality. By some absurd coincidence, 1993 was not only the year in which Jarman’s film was released (and in which he died), it was also the year in which the first blue screen of death appeared in a Windows operating system. From Wikipedia:

A blue screen of death (BSoD), officially known as a stop error or blue screen error, is an error screen that the Windows operating system displays in the event of a fatal system error. It indicates a system crash, in which the operating system has reached a critical condition where it can no longer operate safely, e.g., hardware failure or a unexpected termination of a crucial process.

… The first blue screen of death appeared in Windows NT 3.1 (the first version of the Windows NT family, released in 1993) and all Windows operating systems released afterwards

Other systems have black, green, or red screens of death. The black of nothingness would be the obvious choice. Screaming bloodshed red would be way over the top. Green would hold out the (perhaps forlorn) hope of new life. But the vast emptiness of blue strikes me as artistically just right.

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: