Sorrow, Anarchy, Erotica: Excerpt From The Book “Black. History Of Color "

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Sorrow, Anarchy, Erotica: Excerpt From The Book “Black. History Of Color "
Sorrow, Anarchy, Erotica: Excerpt From The Book “Black. History Of Color "

Video: Sorrow, Anarchy, Erotica: Excerpt From The Book “Black. History Of Color "

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Another worthy release within the framework of the non-fiction book festival - at the intersection of fashion, culture and anthropology: the publishing house "New Literary Review" released "Black. The history of color”. Why did nuns start wearing black clothes? How did black become a symbol of chic? What does black have to do with anarchist movements? All these questions are answered by the book of the French researcher Michel Pastouro, who in simple language talks about the misadventures of the black color in the West. Pasturo is a scholar and head of the Department of the History of Western Symbols at the School of Practice for Higher Studies in Paris. This publication became part of a large-scale project on the historical semantics of color, which brought him worldwide fame - here is an excerpt.

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Black jackets, rockers, Black Panthers and representatives of all movements or groups who in the second half of the 20th century dressed in all black to express their protest sentiments, had predecessors, including those in the distant past. For example, pirates: since the 14th century in the Mediterranean, some Berber pirates used a piece of white cloth as a flag with the head of a black Moor wearing a white bandage depicted on it. In early modern times, on portolans and geographical maps, this icon always indicates pirates, but then instead of the head of the moor, a skull appears on it more and more often, and the arrangement of colors changes: the background is black, and the head is white. By the end of the 18th century, the head of the Moor is found less and less and its place is finally taken by the black flag, and not only among Mediterranean pirates, but also among robbers of all the seas of the planet. Then a black flag appears on land: it is chosen as their emblem by various anarchist and nihilist movements. In the 19th century, it can be seen relatively rarely: for example, it was invisible during the revolutions of 1848-1849, when the revolutionary red banner fluttered over the streets everywhere; but in the next century, the black flag will take revenge: it often even supplants the red one among leftist movements, as was the case, for example, in France during the grandiose student demonstrations in 1968.

However, the black flag in politics does not always express rebellious or anarchist sentiments. It also has other meanings. On the one hand, it can be ultra-conservative: for example, under the black banner were clerical political parties that were very active and influential in the 19th century, but then went into the shadows. On the other hand, the activists of the Italian Fascist Party, the “black shirts” (camicie nere), marched in all black; their organization was formed in 1919 to ensure the rise to power of Benito Mussolini. The defenders of another, even more brutal totalitarian regime, Nazism, also wore black - the SS (members of the so-called Schutzstaffel, abbreviated SS, and also Waffen-SS), who in 1934 managed to oust them from the political field and then eliminate their less radical competitors - stormtroopers (Sturmabteilung), wearing brown uniforms. Sometimes it seems that all these heterogeneous hypostases of black - reactionary, anarchist, nihilist, fascist, Hitlerite - will one day come together, unite and form one common black color, expressing the most extremist beliefs. Indeed, one of the most enduring characteristics of Western European symbolism is the convergence or fusion of opposing trends. Maybe the same will happen in ideology and politics?

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For many centuries, it was believed that items of clothing and fabrics that directly touch the body should be white or unpainted. But these were both hygienic and practical reasons: when washing, the linen was boiled, and it shed; But most important of all were the requirements of morality: as we have said more than once, bright colors were considered something unclean or shameful. Later, from the end of the 19th to the middle of the 20th century, among the snow-white items of underwear and bedding, towels, bathing suits, etc., colored ones began to come across - at first only in pastel colors or striped.What seemed impossible in the 1850s - wearing a blue petticoat, a green shirt, drying off with a red towel, sleeping on a striped sheet - became common, almost commonplace, three generations later. A new range of colors for lingerie emerged, which gradually acquired social and moral connotations. Some colors were considered more feminine, others more chaste, and others more erotic. Since the 1960s, advertising has used a kind of test: "Tell me what color the lingerie is under your dress, and I'll tell you who you are." Since white is considered to be chaste and hygienic, its antagonist, black, has long been perceived as obscene or immoral, suitable only for prostitutes or corrupt women. Today it is a passed stage. Black has not only ceased to be associated with prostitution or sexual freedom: for two decades now, for European women, it has taken the place of white as the most common color of underwear. Many women, dressing in black, wear black underwear under a skirt, trousers or blouse so that it does not shine through. Others believe it is a chaste color or that it matches their skin tone better. Still others - and most of them - know that black dye sticks best on modern synthetic fabrics, so black linen can last long enough, despite frequent washing. Nowadays, when black has become commonplace, other colors are responsible for the eroticism of lingerie - or for what is left of it. Moreover, not red, which was previously considered attractive or frankly depraved, but red-purple, bodily and even white. This latter no longer seems as innocent as in the old days. In any case, when modern men are asked what color against the background of delicate female skin awakens desire in them, they first of all call it white.

The only areas of human life where black has retained its reputation as a dangerous or sinister color are vocabulary and the world of superstition. It is in the sphere of vocabulary and superstition that long-forgotten value systems come to life in a person. Nothing can eradicate them - neither technical progress, nor changes in society, nor even a change in life attitudes and attitudes. In all European languages, there are phrases and sayings that indicate the secret, forbidden, formidable or sinister essence of black. "Black market", "black salary", "black thoughts", "rainy day", "black list", "warlock", "black hole", "black mass", "black ball", "vilify" and so on … Such expressions, highlighting the negative or frightening aspect of black, are found in all European languages. Sometimes, however, other colors play the role of black: for example, if the French say “drink black,” the Germans call it blau sein - “to be blue”; in France a detective novel or film is called "noir" (black), and in Italy giallo is called "yellow" (they are usually released in yellow covers). There are few such examples, but they represent a curious phenomenon in the history of culture.

There are also a large number of proverbs and sayings that have carried echoes of long-standing superstitions associated with black to this day. They show how tenacious the omens and prejudices, rooted in antiquity, are. For example, meeting a black animal on the way (a cat, dog, chicken, sheep or, worse, a crow or crow) portends trouble. Meeting a man dressed in black doesn't bode well either. In case this does happen, there are various recipes for salvation from evil doom: cross yourself, cross your fingers, show your horns, carry a pebble or black amulet with you. For the popular belief says: black scares away black, and even the Devil, with all his blackness, is afraid of black.

In the European village of these superstitions, which actively reminded of themselves in the 50s of the last century, today not a trace remains.Everywhere the symbolism of black has lost its frightening power. Even mourning and death are now less and less associated with this color; it is replaced with gray or purple, or they try not to appear in it in public. However, if black is no longer perceived as negative these days, the same can be said about the positive, prestigious aspect of this color. Once upon a time a coat, tuxedo, black dress or black suit were considered the highest chic; now black has become perhaps the most common color of casual wear, both for men and women. Even representatives of the authorities are now almost never seen in black, neither in the palaces of justice, nor in the stadiums. Police officers and gendarmes wear blue uniforms, and judges increasingly appear in their civilian clothes. And football referees instead of black come to the match in something bright. Thus, they have lost some of their power: everyone is used to respecting the decisions of an arbitrator dressed in black, but if these decisions are made by a person in pink, yellow or orange …

Today, black as a symbol of luxury, which originated at the end of the XIV century and remained relevant two or three generations ago, is not found almost anywhere; the only exception can be considered black caviar, and also containers for very expensive goods (jewelry or perfume). The advantage of black over all other colors has been preserved only in sports - on the belts of judokas and on the ski slopes. In all other spheres of life, black has become a common color: this is also shown by public opinion polls on the topic "Your Favorite Color". After the end of World War II, these polls, both in Europe and in the United States, regardless of gender, age or social status of the respondents, show approximately the same results. Among the six primary colors - blue, green, red, black, white, yellow (in order of preference) - black and not the most favorite (this, as we can see, blue), and not the least favorite (this is yellow): for the first time in its entire history he found himself in the middle of the chromatic scale. Has it become a middle color? A neutral color? Just one of the flowers?

Photos: New Literary Review, dule964 - stock.adobe.com

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