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Thinking Colour, Trinity College, University of Oxford, Oxford

24th June 2016 

Round Table | Chair: Pandora Syperek (Paul Mellon Centre)

Flesh of the World: Colour’s Ontological Imperative

Sophie Knezic (University of Melbourne)

The phenomenological insights of philosophers Maurice Merleau-Ponty and Aphonso Lingis reveal how colour operates as a perceptual enabler. For Merleau-Ponty colour is not an external material phenomenon but rather an opening, a conduit between interiority and exteriority that activates the very process of vision  – a vision that comes into being through ‘the thickness of flesh between the seer and the thing.’[1] For Lingis, perception is not a deterministic mechanism but a response to the world’s sensual directives or imperatives. This paper proposes that Merleau-Ponty and Lingis show how colour functions as particular form of phenomenological intensity that propels perception itself. Its philosophical frame interweaves reference to contemporary art via the chromatic projections of James Turrell and Diana Thater as cases in point.


[1] Merleau-Ponty, M. (1968), The Visible and the Invisible, (trans. Alphonso Lingis), Evanston: Northwestern University Press: 135.

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