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Colour, Art and Empire

Visual Culture and the Nomadism of Representation

Colour, Art and Empire by Natasha Eaton
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Colour, Art and Empire explores the entanglements of visual culture, enchanted technologies, waste, revolution, resistance and otherness. The materiality of colour offers a critical and timely force-field for approaching afresh debates on colonialism. Located at the thresholds of nomenclature, imitation, mimesis and affect, this book analyses the formation of colour and politics as qualitative overspill. Here colour can be viewed both as central and supplemental to early photography, the totem, alchemy, tantra and mysticism. From the eighteenth-century Austrian empress Maria Theresia to Rabindranath Tagore and Gandhi, to 1970s Bollywood, colour makes us adjust our take on the politics of the human sensorium as defamiliarizing and disorienting. The four chapters conjecture how European, Indian and Papua New Guinean artists, writers, scientists, activists, anthropologists or their subjects sought to negotiate with the highly problematic stasis of colour in the repainting of modernity. Specifically, the thesis of this book traces Europeans’ admiration and emulation of what they termed ‘Indian colour’ to its gradual denigration and the emergence of a space of exception. This space of exception pitted industrial colours against the colonial desire for a massive workforce whose slave-like exploitation ignited riots against the production of pigments – most notably indigo. Feared or derided, the figure of the vernacular dyer constituted a liminal force capable of dismantling the imperial machinations of colour. Colour thus wreaks havoc with western expectations of biological determinism, objectivity and eugenics. Beyond the cracks of such discursive practice, colour becomes a sentient and nomadic retort to be pitted against a perceived colonial hegemony. Its alter materialities and ideological reinvention as a resource for independence struggles make colour fundamental to multivalent genealogies of artistic and political action and their relevance to the present.
I.B.Tauris; October 2013
432 pages; ISBN 9780857722768
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Title: Colour, Art and Empire
Author: Natasha Eaton