Week 10 | Butterflies | Contents
Aurora Borealis - PubDom NASA.gov
Over the next two weeks Silkworms Ink is going to be thinking about Butterflies & Bees. The idea is to establish a wee polarity between the two and see what happens. Unscrupulously, it is a nod-plug and a wink to Polarity Magazine. Issue 1 out now; concepted and edited by the super-smart George Ttoouli and designed by yours truly, generally a good thing. I suggest you immediately buy a copy.
Scientifically speaking, Goethe’s Theory of Colours is not a theory at all. According to Wittengenstein is nothing more than “a vague schematic outline” with no ‘experimentum crucis’. Although Goethe admits in the introduction that he has not provided a true explanation of the essential nature of colour but instead a postulation on it as phenomena – how it is as apposed to what it is. Peter Hughes sums it up nicely by stating that for Goethe, "the highest is to understand that all fact is really theory. The blue of the sky reveals to us the basic law of color. Search nothing beyond the phenomena, they themselves are the theory."
It is easy to see why Newton’s ideas have held firmer ground in the scientific community. However, Goethe’s studies and thinking did find footing in art. Kandinsky was particularly influenced by Goethe’s ideas and in 1840 when the text was translated into English by Charles Eastlake, it was widely adopted by the art world, Pre-Raphaelites and J. M. W. Turner etc.
Colour is something that is pretty fixed. Red is red. Right? Well, no, we can never be sure as what evidence and definition stands for the real-world quality of redness independent of our perception. To even attempt to answer the impossible we would need to step back from specific colours to look at light itself. Newton says light is white and heterogeneous – splitting into its component parts at prism. Goethe says light is white, pure, homogenous – splitting into colour through the turgidity of the prism. In short, Newton understood colour to be parts of white light, whereas, Goethe saw colour as arising from the interaction of light as dark.
According to Goethe, "Newton's error... was trusting math over the sensations of his eye."
Newton narrowed the beam of light in order to see what he was looking for – Goethe widened the aperture, he didn’t see the colours nearly ordered, instead was only confronted with colour at the edges – marginalised like taboo and other great ideas.
Actually butterflies, quite incredible sentients. Widely recognised as things of fancy – a creature of costume jewellery. To an extent this is true, the butterfly does have a certain bravado – but it does have more to offer on closer inspection (as with all small things….apart from the apostrophe…agreed, but what about the plural possessive you say…how about replacing the ‘s with a z?) the butterfly you see is an incredibly acute animal in terms of evolution; the Batesian and Müllerian may spring lethargically to mind.
A major factor in the mating habit of the butterfly is the colour of its wings.
It is important to remember here that the butterfly (an umbrella term for the plethora of species) is under threat. The key statistic in the decline of British butterflies is the astonishing 97 per cent loss of mature grass meadows since the 1930’s. Mature meadow is virtually irreplaceable. The natural environment of the butterfly has been unwarmly eroded on a global scale.
As aforementioned the butterfly is very much on its toes, and this is the most remarkable thing about the butterfly – through those evolutions and mimicry there has arisen instances of two separate species mating to form an entirely new species.
Modern art before humans conceived it, the wings of a butterfly under a microscope show their scales and are paint strokes of the universe.
Colour for the butterfly is that of Goethe, not Newton – a phenomena of the eye.
Please join in on the Big Butterfly Count - July 24th-August 1st.