Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Even nothing is something

Is Singingbee's black background hard on your eyes? I know it takes my faulty eyes a fraction of a second to adjust before I can read the text easily. However, that little delay is important – I think it requires that the reader commit to reading the page. I only noticed this delay because I've been thinking about a painting by Ad Reinhardt at the Walker Art Center. I noticed (over several visits) that most visitors ignore the painting because it looks like not much more than a simple black square. However, when you do stop and commit to looking at it for a few seconds, you see there is more to the painting. (Here is another at the Tate Gallery.) You discover, among other things, that what you thought was black is not black.

Similarly, when astronomers look at the night sky, they are often less interested in the stars that we see, and more interested in the most obscure patches of black between the stars, which to our eyes seem empty. Only a telescope trained for days on these small patches of nothingness can capture the light of the thousands of galaxies that lie hidden there. These distant things hint at the universe’s earliest history.

None of this is to suggest that there is anything hiding in the black of Singingbee’s pages. Or is there?


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