WHAT IS THE COLOUR OF WATER?

Our Product (installation view) ©Pamela Rosenkranz, 2015

To point out the glaringly obvious, water is integral to the survival of ourselves and the planet, yet it is also an elusive natural element, difficult to contain and define. Placing water in the context of art and society is a difficult task. Inevitably I must talk about “blue” and the social processes enabled by technology that fundamentally change the way we relate to the world. Even before the advent of modernity and the immateriality of the digital blue, our depictions of sea and sky have been in constant flux. In How Culture Conditions the Colours We See, Umberto Eco attempts to give a semiotic breakdown of “neither a psychological nor an aesthetic” problem but a “culture one … filtered through a linguistic system” (Eco, p.159, 1958). Eco explains that not only did Latin not distinguish between blue and green clearly, but flavus, one of the many terms applicable to red, has also been described as a mixture of green and white! Similarly, the optical difference between dark blue and light blue is the same as red and pink. Yet, although the Russian language differentiates between the two blue shades as distinct colours (Khamsi, 2007), English has no equivalent terms…

‘What is the colour of water?’

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