The Black Singularity

Vincent Como

To Know the Unknowable


Vincent Como, 4.5 Cubic Inches (Volume of the Inside of My Head), 2007, Cast sumi ink on wooden shelf.

‘Black prior to light is the substance of the Universe, what escaped from the World before the World was born into the World.
[…]
Man approaches the World only by way of this transcendental darkness, into which he never entered and from which he will never leave.’ -Francois Laruelle [1]

 

‘How great my terror and my joy at the thought of being dragged into the vortex of initial chaos, the pandemonium of paradoxical symmetry – the unique geometry of chaos, devoid of sense or form!’ -E. M. Cioran [2]

Black, all encompassing and relentless, is the constant through which humanity became manifest and is that which will one day resorb all of what can be understood as reality, folding everything back into its dark embrace, never to be seen or heard from again. Black is the ever-present phenomenological event which realizes the very fabric of the universe itself, the pure state of reality. Unable to be observed in its infinite totality, obscured and devoid of stimulus, black is the mystery of the unknown, the darkness encompassing all, holding the unseen and unknowable deep within as its proprietary secret, thus voiding the chance for relation with the myriad possibilities underneath the surface, or beyond the potential for independent comprehension. Where, then, does one begin with black if there is no entry point, no secret decoder ring that can be pulled out of a box of Cracker Jack? Black is that which can undoubtedly never become fully illuminated. The mystery which lies beyond the threshold of conception, whose depth and scope are nothing more than void, only to be inferred through other points of reference in the same way astrophysicists utilize gravitational lensing to divine the existence of dark matter.[3] So what, then, is revealed by staring into the very face of god, nothing, and everything; into the endless abyss described as ‘staring back through you’ by Nietzsche?[4] How can one possibly be able to glean the mysteries of everlasting darkness and void; that which is considerably more vast and complex than could ever be imagined in a hundred lifetimes? In being above and beyond the human capacity to comprehend the infinite possibilities that comprise black and darkness, the solution lies in coming to terms with the finite scope of that very comprehension. In tracing the dark lineage to the beginning of human understanding through ritual and archaic belief, the structure for realizing and interacting with the great and all-encompassing blackness anterior to the human organism becomes revealed. In order to realize the massive expanse of the unknowable, accepting the given limitations inherent to humanity, both in body and mind, becomes central. Thus, before even considering the dense and intertwined realities of black, darkness, and void as a singular object of scrutiny, this exploration seeks to dissect the methods and tools used to divine and mine the infinite possibilities and staggering power contained therein.

At the beginning is the ur-black, the concentrated state of universal chaos, the Prima Materia – or, Original Matter – of hermetic lore, the place of origin and transformation from which the entire known universe emanates. Prior to the ignition of the first stars, about four hundred million years after the Big Bang, there was a massive dark age throughout the deep and impenetrable universe.[5] Before the complex union of gasses forming and fueling stars, or baryonic matter coupling together, one can only logically conceive of a world of endlessly dense and impossible darkness. A world which will eventually collapse back into darkness as the last stars finally extinguish their resources and die off. Pure and whole, this blackness of the universe was all, and is from which all has been derived. Comprising a staggering ninety-five percent of the known universe[6] , Dark Matter and Dark Energy are the final remnants from this birth of the universe. Through the cosmic microwave background radiation, these elements have been traced all the way to the beginning of time itself, densely packed, gestating within this cosmic womb only to rupture, and in doing so unleash all from within itself toward an eternity of infinite expansion. Meanwhile the remaining five percent, of which galaxies, stars, planets, and all that can be readily quantified for knowledge are an infinitesimally small part, has become illuminated and realized into being, but only to the limited extent that one can engage with and understand it, impeded by the fixed position that is the location of observation.

From early on in recorded language, references to the darkness and the things forever associated with black and darkness are prominent features which shaped the understanding of and commensurate direction they have taken. The Greco-Roman notion of chaos as a void-state, existing in the space between the separated heavens and earth was an early conceptualization of the vast black mass at the beginning of the universe. It is from this primordial chaos that Nyx, the goddess of Night, was born to stand before the edge of all creation.[7] As the mother of the night, along with her consort Erebus, Nyx brings form to all of the requisite creatures one would expect to come crawling out of darkness including the gods of death, sleep, doom, strife, retribution, deception and even the three fates, thus forever sealing the destiny and purpose of black through early written and oral traditions shaping the future consciousness of many western customs. Similarly, the yin aspects of the yin and yang in Chinese philosophy represent the dark, hidden, and feminine elements of reality and work with, rather than against, the light, visible, and masculine imbedded within the yang, in order to compliment and engender a more complete whole of understanding. The dichotomy of good or bad as ethical judgment then becomes applied to the concept and related colors much later, during the Han Dynasty, through the spread of Confucianism.[8] Meanwhile, on the opposite side of the planet, independent of any knowledge of these other cultures, the Maya were framing their understanding of the universe which begins with an empty sea and sky, but according to the Dresden Codex ends with utter destruction and references an ominous Black Earth.[9]

Independently, each of these point toward an idiosyncratic framework for how the respective cultures ordered and attempted to break down and classify the constituent properties of existent reality as it was perceived, while collectively a common thread can be seen revealing itself with respect to the true nature of black. That is, what contemporary French philosopher Quentin Meillassoux would regard as an arche-fossil.[10] Hindsight always being 20/20, by permeating the boundaries of these disconnected peoples, the intrinsic qualities and power of black prior to terrestrial life becomes more apparent. Simultaneously designating the material support through which any and all may find relation and meaning, the universal qualities inherent to black are thus revealed to the extent which they can be understood.

Maintaining consistency with early philosophies of the beginning of time, creation, and eventual destruction, as well as the balance of yin and yang, the genesis of alchemical work and concepts of transformative properties and intentions, reveals black continuing to expand on and deepen the complexity of this lineage and the commensurate derivations which followed. The hermetic injunction ‘As above, so below’ is used to describe a perpetual balance within the world as understood by these early practitioners.[11] As such, the use of the Nigredo[12] , which symbolizes a putrefaction or decomposition, as the first stage of transformation along the pathway towards the Great Work, or rather, the unraveling of the very secrets of the universe, is telling. This first stage is that which mirrors the greater celestial canopy above, down here, in the earth’s tiny corner of reality. Just as the great chaos, or the dark age of the universe, is the manifestation of truth which this same work strives to balance, that which one may aspire toward in order to unlock these dark mysteries, beginning with the beginning; the Nigredo. Teeming with possibility, the magical work of alchemical transformation returns again and again to the beginning of the universe to explore the very nature of existence. This same mimesis of reality extends all the way from these thousands-year-old theories of ritual practice to the present day, with the Large Hadron Collider in Switzerland attempting to recreate the Big Bang[13]as above – through technological innovation to explore the early stages of the universe on a sub-atomic scale – so below. Regardless of the framework for any attempted comprehension of the darkest mysteries of reality, be they magical belief structures or mathematical theorem, the desire remains the same: to understand that which is hidden from view; a view which is biased, contingent, and severely limited.

Infinitely regressing, one must strip back this veil of reality to come to terms with the limitations imposed upon consciousness by its very finitude. Evolution under the stars has created a dynamic within the eyes wherein they are attuned to the particular light emitted from the sun and the surrounding environment which it illuminates. Like the prisoners in Plato’s cave allegory[14], limited and beholden to their only source of reality, where shadows on a wall are all they know of that which is outside of the self. This knowledge outside of the individual is limited to such a degree whereupon an engagement with the world beyond the cave is met with disbelief. Realizing that the human condition has set up a scenario where any external reality of potential interaction is subject to one’s ability to relate to the presented reality. If the predominant source of relation hinges upon an organic device, say, an eye, specifically tuned to channel the wavelengths of light emitted by the closest star, the preeminent source of localized illumination, there become near limitless possibilities for what may occupy the unseen set of spectral information floating out in the massive void of space. Any or all of which is just as incomprehensible to these available senses as the sunlight and the green of the grass outside is to Plato’s cave dwellers.

This is the present handicap; the threshold. Should one dare cross over into the realm of the unseen, the darkness is thus entered with no map or guide, only potential; vast, unknowable potential.

 

Being and Event Horizon


Vincent Como, Things In My Studio That Make Black, 2004, multiple mediums on paper.

‘Ontology presents being as at once multiple and unitary: it is “counted-as-one” and presented as a consistent multiplicity. Thus to be is to be multiple […]’ – Ray Brassier[15]

Fast forward to the early twentieth century and the case can be made that consciousness is still in the same position with a slightly different context for framing out this mythology and belief. In breaking down the constituent particles of universal matter, physicists dive deeper and deeper into the unseen building blocks of reality until arriving at the door of quantum mechanics. Following many of the same principles for understanding seen in Plato’s allegory of the cave, Erwin Schrödinger updates the concept to fit an expanding and evolving comprehension of physical certainty, and perhaps more realistically, uncertainty, through the quantum superposition. Rather than a cave, Schrödinger describes reality through the use of a cat, a box, and a deadly device.[16] By placing both the cat and device inside of the box, a situation of potentiality is created; a paradox where upon the device’s natural decay it will trigger a potentially deadly result such that the cat inside may be killed, or perhaps won’t. Now, the cat’s position in the world, or rather, its superposition, is demarcated by two potential states of reality: living or dead. Only one state may be observed at any given point in time and therefore upon observation of any one state presented the other possibility is collapsed, relegated to a place of the non-existent, of that which is currently unreal, not impossible, but definitively outside of the reality being offered. Prior to observation however, both potentialities are actively possible at the same time in reality, just unable to be measured as such because their location cannot be quantified until the observation takes place. Thus, the unobserved is the dark possibility of what may result as much as it is the as yet unknowable truth of what is.

Plato speaks with regard to an ability to become informed and engaged with external reality through the senses, those which are present-at-hand. Schrödinger, however, goes a step beyond in revealing the possibility of possibilities which cannot be directly observed. This quantum reality provides the framework for existing elements or variables which are unable to be filtered through the immediately available senses or tools; realizing a space of temporal existence which is unavailable to one’s receptors, or rather, which is reliant on a perception that is not possessed. Thus, the input and eventual comprehension of this sense data is overly contingent on the things which can be related to on a physical level or mediated through a technology which intercepts and translates the relation. This is why human subjectivity needs to be extracted, or at the least, minimized from the immediacy of the equation in order to arrive at a place of greater possibility. This is where the ego gets in the way and generates interference. By recognizing the extremely small part being played in the infinite universe, the human must somehow learn to be slightly more objective. Understanding that there is a limit to this ability to absorb information and within that limit one can only speculate on what possibilities may lie beyond this narrow scope. Positioned as if at the edge of a black hole, and watching in suspended animation these other elements of external reality which disappear as they cross the event horizon; rupturing the visible and becoming one with the possibility and the unknown held deep within. This is the true nature of a relation to the infinite darkness of the universe, knowing that all possible material being is and always has been absorbed into the folds of the black reality. Hidden from view; obscured from the reach of technological innovations while still an implicit part of this shared reality. A reality, while unknown to the limited minds of humanity, is understood to be steeped in quantum potential.

This potential being described is infinite, or at the very least, existing at a scale to which its far reaching scope can no longer be comprehended; the distinction of which is not really relevant to the purpose set forth here, rather, it is the limit of comprehension that is the focus of this concern. If all that is known of the universe – which, considering how small the role of human consciousness is within it, is phenomenal – emanated from these black depths, the possibility of what may never be known, or revealed out there, still lies in wait, like sleeping giants within the vastness of the outside world. Compressed into every corner, orifice, and pocket of tangential reality which remain unavailable to the senses, the excruciating limits of these physical and technological thresholds still cannot divulge the information as to the existence of realities within this darkened otherness, while at the same time taunting the very nature of consciousness for its inadequacy. Fully realizing the blackened universe as the un-human, the beyond human. Not necessarily in-human, in so far as that implies something which is coming out of, or branching off from the existent language-model that humanity developed as the starting point and location for its own derivation. Instead, humanity is itself coming out of the ancient black vastness of the deep. Humanity is the in-blackness; the illumined and realized bastardization of the perfection that was the whole of the black universe in its incomprehensible totality.

The singular consistency of black, the comprehensive and all-encompassing reality that exists outside of the threshold to engage in it is a multi-layered and complex mystery. While a unified theory in its presentation to the senses as truth, black by its very nature is the exponential multiplicity of all which will never be known. By absorbing, enveloping, and hiding all of the information contained within itself, black negates, or voids, all possibility beyond comprehension, excepting for the conception of possibility in and of itself, thereby always and forever containing within itself the complete set of that which is unknowable.

While one may not know what it is that goes bump in the night, clearly the possibilities are endless.

 

Fear of the Dark


Vincent Como, Composition to Threaten Your Existence (02), 2012, Acrylic and dry pigment on canvas over board, beaten into wall.

‘Everyone carries a shadow, and the less it is embodied in the individual’s conscious life, the blacker and denser it is.’ -Carl Jung[17]

‘What is this that stands before me?
Figure in black which points at me’ -Black Sabbath[18]

It is in this realm of unknown potential, this uncanny darkness, that one may come to realize the scope of reality both inside and outside of the individual person; that of the great black unknowable. While neuroscience has debunked the longstanding myth that humans only use ten percent of their brain’s capacity[19] , with each successive revelation a new series of queries rise out of the folds of that grey matter to continue furthering these investigations into the psyche. Buried deep in the abyss of the mind there are secrets hiding from conscious realization. Hidden, or placed just out of reach, as part of the network of involuntary functions regulating the organism of the body, these dark mysteries are where neural arrangements fire away in their covert operations deep within the place of origin for secret desires, fears, and fetishes. In this is where the full extent of the power that lies within black can be realized, beyond the threshold of consciousness. In the inability to relate, comprehend, and see, the mysterious black leads one toward the shocking truths inherent to what it hides. Holding information just beyond the grasp of realization, this great absence, in its fullness, is no more absent or full than the illuminated wonders of this cogent reality. It is simply a lack of ability that obscures the possibilities within. Black is the glory of the unknown and the unknowable. Black is the force for obfuscation and secrecy. Black is the power of all consuming reality in a reality which physically cannot be realized as such. Existing before, during, and after time, black is the whole of the universe beyond individual knowledge and beyond individual command.

Equal parts futile and horrific; this limited understanding of black and the hidden reality within drives its myriad misconceptions and continuously fuels its dark mythology. It is in here where human consciousness has cultivated and come to accept without question a Pavlovian reaction toward black as that which is evil, always fearing that which is not understood. These things which have found their existence just beyond the periphery of vision or comprehension have often been met with aggressive hostility; a classic knee-jerk reaction of xenophobia toward the unknown, the different, the other-than. These very reactions have been both reinforced and exploited by those wise enough to realize the potential impact of black upon a receptive psychological framework. The CIA and its black ops[20] render the impossible possible through their multi-layered and clandestine actions. By functioning below the radar and without a visible paper trail to place an operation, it becomes anonymous, invisible, hidden. Hollywood and television have been feeding consumers the notion of the bad guy wearing black from the black-hatted cowboy of the 1960s to the black leather jackets and turtleneck sweaters of 1980s terrorists in cold-war styled propaganda and espionage thrillers. Not to mention the dark alleys or corners of rooms which house multitudes of serial killers and hit men, further reinforcing the legacy of black and darkness as both unknown and that which serves to harbor danger. The major exception here would be the icon of the Batman, the comic book hero who utilizes the same tactics of secrecy and darkness as psychological warfare, often attributed to the criminal underworld, to his advantage when patrolling the streets of Gotham City, thereby instilling a sense of that same terror, reflected back onto the unsuspecting hooligans of the night.

This use of black to conceal is prevalent particularly in the landscape of homogenized western culture. It can be seen being put into action when hiding the particular nuances and emotions of an individual through the black clothing of the mourner. As both a sign of reserve and an agent for masking one’s sorrow, and by extension, any appearance of weakness or frailty, black supports its wearer through the inherent strength of its determination. A determination to supplant the human emotions with the stoicism of its infinite potentiality and infinite mystery, black voids the individual in place of a temporary propriety, a form of puritanical reserve. Just as a redacted document will be voided of the information that is deemed too sensitive for certain viewers, black becomes the blessing and curse of businesses and governments by disguising certain elements within the context of informational disclosure. Used effectively, black is the barrier between truth and the understanding of truth.

This same tactic can be seen employed by both the classic black hood of the executioner, and the black cassock of the clergy[21], where the wearing of black eliminates, or voids, the individual in place of the societal function they represent. The role that is performed, then, is not enacted by a person, but rather, is the embodiment of an occupation filtered through that particular vessel. It is the anonymous service of something bigger than a mere human. Black, then, functions by supplanting the free will of the individual and allowing the wearer to channel the requisite means to carry out the calling of their office. There is an element to this which is often seen as particularly disturbing to many because of the vital character of will necessary to set aside one’s individuality for a larger purpose. To find a way to work within the structure of the vocation to appease the ego while still fulfilling their obligations is a particularly trying endeavor, and it is not surprising that a large portion of humanity cannot understand it. While the very function of the ego is to be the individual, one must also consider the comprehensive existence of the individual who can be more than themselves, who can engage through the power of black that which lies beyond the self.

Unbeknownst to the majority of the populace, black remains that which mocks all else by staring, pointing, and laughing at the vast scale of human uselessness in its myriad failures to divine these dark secrets contained therein. Black knows that one day humanity will be wiped from the face of this reality and exist as no more than the same pure nothingness which can only be assumed as starting all of existence from within the dark folds of endless night. This is the destiny, not only of humankind, but everything that can be observed and imagined within the limits of comprehension. This is the lasting knowledge which has been impressed upon the psyche since the beginning of time, no matter how hard it is struggled against and this is why black is approached with such trepidation. Holding back, resisting in fear because while being the totality of all, black is also very much the end, the funeral garb of humankind, forcing a look into and mourning of the individual’s own absence, their own redaction. The dark abyss of this collective consciousness finally silenced. Humanity will occupy but a brief moment of the life of the universe, and yet, it remains ignorant enough to think it may come to understand any of the complex secrets contained therein.

Through these dark mysteries and unknown possibilities, humanity pushes forward within this reality attempting to grasp the sublime territory of the infinite and the impossible.

 Channeling the Black Aesthetic


Vincent Como, Dark Benediction, 2010, Acrylic on canvas over board with black tourmaline crystals.

‘I felt only night within me and it was then that I conceived the new art, which I called Suprematism.’ –Kasimir Malevich[22]

Consider the notion of the sublime as framed by Edmund Burke[23] as that which is beyond the realization of beauty, and inherent to that is an understanding that beyond this threshold for beauty resides a space of terrible and magnificent horror, then one can begin to understand the black aesthetic and its relation to the overarching whole within the black universe. The completeness with which one is consumed by the sublime conception of the endless expanse of darkness that is the universe, beyond any other external reality, is the driving force for any potential stasis, transformation, genesis, or destruction within. A cathartic wrenching of the actualized self which serves to erase the gap between viewer and the void-space, or the hyperobject of the black that is the sum of the universe, collapsing the conceivable and rationalized in favor of the inferential and the unknowable. This negotiation of the sublime is produced in the black object, as channeled through the wyrd ones, the shamans, the psychonauts, those peculiar few in tune with the unseen reality. Those who bridge the realms of the known and the Other.

Kasimir Malevich, as the obvious progenitor toward black aesthetics and the locus of a shifting consciousness through which Modernity peaked, is the most logical first stop in this correlate. At their very least the black monochrome works which came prior to Malevich are still grasping at the notion of some semblance of representation within the picture frame. Here, I’m thinking specifically of the black etching[24] introducing a section of Robert Fludd’s seventeenth-century alchemical opus ‘Utriusque Cosmi maioris salicet et minoris metaphysica…’ which represents the Prima Materia and is framed on all four sides by the Latin missive: Et sic in infinitum (And so on to infinity), as well as the collected folio of monochromes[25] by Alphonse Allais and Paul Bilhaud from the late nineteenth-century which each present a static color along with a descriptive text which then becomes a tongue in cheek title for the image, or rather, the lack thereof. These works still buy in to the concept of looking at a painting and expecting it to be of something, even if that something is the infinite void of space, whereas Malevich’s ‘Black Square’ painted on a white ground is the first clear example of an artwork which takes itself to be no more or less than what it purports to already be as a painting. In this, there resides a drastic shift both in the ability of the modern human to accept such an abstracted or non-objective notion, and the ability for a painting to finally, truly transcend its own material objectivity. Not to then become a representation of the sublime void or infinite darkness of the universe, but rather, to be an autonomous object, located firmly in this world, analogous to the universe itself; to be the so below to the universe’s as above.

Malevich transforms the fallacy of caricature by turning toward the universal. The pure and unrepentant mark made not only to describe, by demarcating space or form, but as if to state unequivocally: this is truth, stop being fooled by your eyes and know what you have so long denied. Simple trickery of perspective and tonal shifts in color do not make a flat piece of fabric and pigment into a bowl of fruit or a king of Spain. We are beyond this. We are better than this. We are Modern. Here is that which is truly horrific and truly revolutionary; the object of painting.[26] Malevich further discusses these failures of representation through the example of monuments produced in the squares of Russia; turning images into a distortion for the propaganda of a system or plan on the part of the artist, rather than the clear and direct genesis of a lasting manifestation of the monument itself.[27]

While offering an interesting take on Modernism, the void, and place, I must reject Zizek’s claim that Malevich reserves the location of the sublime void by filling it with detritus or excrement.[28] Zizek is too short sighted in his interpretation, too reliant on a Marxist commoditization of this sublimation as it relates specifically to cultural artifice, and by extension, tied to the human experience within the bubble of the known toward the engagement. While there is a genuine interest in the limits of one’s capacity to have a relation with black, the void, the ensuing sublime, I want to move beyond and into the theoretical space, or location of the absolute, as something that exists outside of the self, or regardless of humanity’s engagement with it, moving beyond the exchange as something autonomous and of the universe rather than just of the human understanding of the universe. While he does offer a sense of the importance and gravity of the piece within the canon of painting and Modernity, he also misses the greater point of its related affect on the human by virtue of its placement in the timeline of human evolution, where Malevich’s ‘Black Square’ unlocks the beginning of the final stage in the evolution of the mind, by instead concerning himself with ‘the symbolic order’, which is predominantly a social construct and could not exist itself as a notion without the ‘Black Square’. Granted, there is more than enough fodder to dissect the differences in Zizek’s take on Malevich for the next decade and certainly there are legions of overlapping nuances and many shared notions, but these particulars in and of themselves are not of the greatest concern here. Rather, it is in this expansion of the mind where Malevich thus becomes a de facto spirit guide to the sublime black universe through the transformative hallucinogen known as Modern Painting. It is a one-way street, this realization of the painting as Itself rather than Other, and beyond its threshold resides a different wavelength of conscious interpretation of the universe. Through the non-objectivity of his painting and commensurate shifting of human consciousness Malevich paved the way for possibility and expansion within human thought. Clearly, Ceci n’est pas une pipe (This is not a pipe).[29]

It is in this finality, this end point of the comprehension of the ‘Black Square’ as an analog to the absolute, rather than a failed description thereof, or reserved parking space, that opens up the realm of possibility within human understanding. This is also directly parallel to the potential for the development and comprehension of quantum mechanics, which culminated in the end of Modernity by realizing the destructive possibilities of the atomic bombs dropped upon Hiroshima and Nagasaki. In employing the vast potential of the sub-atomic realm on this plane of existence, the structure of the universe is thus cracked open and unleashed, not just upon two cities in Japan, but upon the whole of humanity, from which there is no returning. By utilizing an analog of the Big Bang which heralded the very genesis of everything in this reality to usher in complete and total destruction; truly, humankind has mastered its own fate. In becoming the gods of this tiny world, what is thus created – this genesis – is also its own finality.

Beyond the formation of a Post-Modern existence, the Freudian death-drive[30] can be seen hard at work in a Necro-Modernity.[31] Building off of the spiritual journey and expanded consciousness with Malevich and the unleashed quantum potential of complete and insurmountable destruction, humankind are placed in a holding pattern of willful ignorance toward conscious reality. A scenario has been created where there is an active and prescient awareness of final resolution to the extent that the next major act, en masse, will be the negation of this very being. Beyond the threshold of Modernism and its utopian underpinnings, the immediate conscious reality is divided by the active and passive, the self-referent and the exteriority of the unknown possibilities beyond oneself. These elements outside of immediate control, outside of immediate realization, are the very shape and form of finality. Once the mysteries of this power are unlocked, observed, quantified, the other potential wave functions will collapse, sending humanity into the abyss once and for all.

It took a black painting from 100 years ago to reveal this fate, this punctuation, and by extension, the full potential contained within sentient beings, which is the same now as it was in the beginning and will be in the end.

 

Everything and Nothing


Vincent Como, Object(s) of Failure | Object(s) of Veneration, 2012, Enamel on canvas, wood and latex paint.

‘Before me blackness, an inky black sky studded with stars that glowed, but did not twinkle; they seemed immobilized. Nor did the sun look the same seen from earth, it had no aureole or corona; it resembled a huge incandescent disk that seemed embedded in the velvet black sky of outer space. Space itself appears as a bottomless pit. It will never be possible to see the cosmos the same way on earth.’ – Aleksei Leonov[32]

Like the serpent eating its tail, the beginning is the end and the end is the beginning. Regardless of how far Homo-sapiens have come since crawling out of the ocean, walking upright and harnessing fire, one must understand without any uncertainty where this path leads and where everyone will finally end up: wiped clean off the face of the earth and plunged into the eternal darkness of the great abyss that is the universe in its entirety. The same black void which spawned everything that has come to pass and the great black universe will not even notice.

Being that which is all and is from which all has been derived; black is the exponential sum of itself and the absence of the known. From the infinitely small to the infinitely expansive, black influences everything from perception to the nuances of psychological make up. An extensive black network weaving together the seen and unseen, known and unknown, black is the very fabric of existence: dark matter in its entirety. Whether consciously aware of its steadfast company, or subjected to its powers of obfuscation, black is ever present as a universal constant. Whether horrified by its possibilities or employing it as a device for external manipulation, black is the singularity that permeates all. Transcending these myriad limitations is the only way to find deeper relation with black. Give up the notion that humankind has a larger role to play in this world. Humans are nothing more than puppets of this darkness awaiting the black hand of fate to either set events in motion or destroy everything completely (or destroy everything completely by setting things in motion). To understand this is to be closer to understanding the universe; the key to unlocking the mysteries of black, at least to the limited degree with which something can engage the infinite.

To consider the world as anything beyond infinite blackness – that of unbridled potential and simultaneous impossibility – is to play in to the very limitations which are also hidden behind in the fallacy that is human understanding. The recursive nature that is the quest for knowledge expands both inward and outward. While there will never be an end to these queries one can find better relation with this known quantity of existence through an engagement with the hidden. In this is found the ongoing quest for nothing. In knowing nothing beyond this place in the world, desperately wanton for purpose and a sense of importance, humanity must turn toward that which is its own mirror; the very absence of the world beyond oneself. The sunyata, or emptiness, in Buddhist thought is the achievement of this self-absence on a personal level. It is the reflection of the exterior reality of void in the microcosm of the individual, the great and vast unknowable in which consciousness resides, thus becoming one with the absence and unknown of the self. If the dark shroud that is reality can be penetrated to find meaning deep inside its black depths, curiosity crosses a threshold which opens an infinite whirlwind of potentiality within and perhaps will then translate to an understanding of the self. As above, so below. Et sic in infinitum.

The significance, then, of black to humankind goes beyond simple perception, beyond conceit, beyond these limitations and thresholds. Intertwined in this dark world of unknowables is found both terror and ecstasy. Therein can be found the ability to suffer and to provoke suffering, to surrender or be overwhelmed. This is the place for gods and their absence, forever collapsing like the possibilities of Schrödinger’s cat upon

observation. Relation with the universe, the massive black expanse of endlessness and void, is the impossibility of transcending humanity’s myriad failures and resultant powerlessness in peeling back the curtain of truth.

Black is Everything. Everything is Nothing. Nothing is All.

________________________________________

[1] Laruelle, Francoise, and Abreu, Miguel (trans). 1991. ‘On the black universe in the human foundations of color’. In Hyun soo choi: Seven large-scale paintings., New York: Thread Waxing Space: 2-4.

[2] Cioran, E. M. 1992. ‘The return to chaos’. In On the heights of despair., Chicago: University of Chicago: 90.

[3] Narayan, Ramesh, and Matthias Bartelmann. 2010. Lectures on gravitational lensing. Paper presented at Introduction, Lectures held at the 1995 Jerusalem Winter School. http://arxiv.org/abs/astro-ph/9606001

[4] Nietzsche, Friedrich Wilhelm, and Hellen Zimmern. 2009. Beyond good and evil. ‘Aphorism 146’. Premium ed. Hamburg: Classic Books.

[5] Loeb, Abraham. October 2006. ‘The dark ages of the universe’. Scientific American 295: 46-53.

[6] DOE/SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory. Nov. 3, 2009. ‘Dark matter and dark energy make up 95 percent of universe, detailed measurements reveal’. Science Daily. http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/11/091102121644.htm

[7] Homer, and White, Evelyn (trans.). 1914. The Homeric hymns.-the epigrams of Homer.-the epic cycle.-Homerica.-the contest of Homer and Hesiod.. London: William Heinemann.

[8] Taylor Latener, Rodney Leon. 2005. The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Confucianism, Vol. 2. New York: Rosen Publishing Group: 869.

[9] Leonard, R. Cedric. 2010. ‘Mayan Heiroglyphic Texts’. http://atlantisquest.com/Hiero_Txts.html

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Vincent Como (b. 1975, lives and works Brooklyn, NY) is an artist and theorist working with a broad array of media, including installation, painting, printmaking, and artist books. The subject of his practice is the color black, drawing on ideas from art history, color theory, physics, alchemy, heavy metal, religion, and mythology. Como has exhibited his work throughout the United States and abroad, including New York, Boston, Chicago, Washington DC, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Oaxaca, London, and Vienna, among others. He holds a BFA in Drawing from the Cleveland Institute of Art.