“Milk is not opaque because it is white, – as if white were something opaque. If ‘white’ is a concept which only refers to a visual surface, why isn’t there a colour concept related to ‘white’ that refers to transparent things?” -Ludwig Wittgenstein, “Remarks on Colour”
Things that can be imagined but not seen. Things that can be seen but not named. Things that can be said but not seen or imagined. I think “Transparent White” belongs to the last of these categories.
Of course, I use words loosely here.
But imagine, for instance, contemplating a picture of a Martian landscape. We imagine a place, like a red desert. We look toward its hazy horizon as if we could actually see it. In a way, we imagine the object – the target of our gaze – knowing that we do not (cannot) actually stand on Mars. In fact the only way we can access the object is by seeing it in terms that are imaginable. We look from the wrong context, we are displaced, yet we transpose our horizon onto the picture’s and we see a desert. Desolate but nameable.
Can a word mean without representing something? Or can a word be understood if we do not know or have not seen what it represents?
Shifter’s 9th issue Ruin|Monument focussed on the way in which the empty ruin signifies. Like a vacuum it absorbs everything. Like a mirror it reflects back our pointing fingers. The Monument, it was proposed, is the past (memory) embodied, hurtling backwards towards the future.
If the “Ruin” is an absence, which is transformed into object by our projections, then “Transparent White” is fully formed language which does not stick to an object. In a way they are mirror images of each other. While the Monument like the ruin exists physically (it occupies space, we can walk around it, we can photograph it), “Transparent White” occupies a conceptual site of contention. One is not sure if/ what it could represent. Yet one can imagine using the phrase “Transparent White”, in a poem for instance, and meaning something.
Shifter’s 10th issue “Transparent White” will attempt to engage this untethering of utterances from straightforward representation.