Seeing See-through

Peter Kirn of Create Digital Motion interviews Yoav Brill, a colorblind animator from Israel whose animated short captures the of life by way of the patterns of colored dots used to test for colorblindness. The film is an elegant gesture on several levels: the use of familiar dots to render scenes, bodies, and the movement of people through space gives an estranging flavor to Brill’s tale. The interview is short, and focused on practical questions; Brill’s mention of the ways in which a colorblind animator learns to navigate the world of color animation is intriguing:

Iíve tried to keep the saturation of the pallet narrow, so the differences between the colors would be unclear also to ďnormalĒ viewers. My color blindness was not a big problem, since itís mostly reds and greens that are problematic, and only with certain hues. After a while you remember the CMYK numbers!

Brill also mentions the way the challenges of an “invisible” impairment like colorblindness map onto other aspects of identity. But it’s the sensorium of the colorless world in Brill’s film that I find most compelling. In the narrator’s belated discovery of the unique power of perspective there is an echo of Helen Keller, whose remarkable book The World I Live In asks the sighted to consider the sensuous grammars to which we’ve grown deaf:

My world is built of touch-sensations, devoid of physical colour and sound; but without colour and sound it breathes and throbs with life. Every object is associated in my mind with tactual qualities which, combined in countless ways, give me a sense of power, of beauty, or of incongruity: for with my hands I can feel the comic as well as the beautiful in the outward appearance of things. Remember that you, dependent on your sight, do not realize how many things are tangible. All palpable things are mobile or rigid, solid or liquid, big or small, warm or cold, and these qualities are variously modified. The coolness of a water-lily rounding into bloom is different from the coolness of an evening wind in summer, and different again from the coolness of the rain that soaks into the hearts of growing things and gives them life and body. The velvet of the rose is not that of a ripe peach or of a baby’s dimpled cheek. The hardness of the rock is to the hardness of wood what a man’s deep bass is to a woman’s voice when it is low. What I call beauty I find in certain combinations of all these qualities, and is largely derived from the flow of curved and straight lines which is over all things.

One of the strange and unsettling effects of technology is the glamor of its efficacy, which renders even our normative powers and senses insufficient. Artists like Keller and Brill can remind us that the first techne consists of the ways in which we leverage our powers to knit together a world out of shocking inconsistencies.

About Mohit

One comment

  1. Finding out I was colourblind at the age of six changed my perspective forever. When, at a family dinner, my question about the shade of a particular crayon sparked a family argument I realized that 10 people see 10 different worlds. It is nothing short of miraculous that we ever agree on any one thing. Colourblind or not, no two people have any way of knowing they are seeing the same thing, and they never will.

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