Gray on Gray

Schwartz, Stein Rønning

The very title of this conference comes from a famous passage in the philosopher G.F Hegel’s preface to the Philosophy of Right: ”When philosophy paints its grey in grey, one form of life has become old, and by means of grey it cannot be rejuvenated, but only known. The owl of Minerva, takes its flight only when the shades of night are gathering.”

This passage is derived from an utterance by Mephistopheles in Goethe’s Faust, ”Gray, my dear friend, is all theory, and green is the golden tree of life.” Hegel’s phrase has been taken up in various ways by Marx, Adorno, and others in the 20th century. The colour gray also features strongly in notions of boredom, the everyday, and indifference as articulated by Heidegger, Blanchot and Beckett. In art and art history there has been a similar interest in the colour grey, perhaps beginning with use of grisaille technique in classical, renaissance, and post renaissance art, as well as in the art historian Aby Warburg’s account of how grisaille is supposedly a way to absorb and dampen the intensities and pulsions of the past, and by artists such as as Vilhelm Hammershøi, Gerhard Richter, and various practitioners of what might be called deadpan photography.

The common interpretation of the colour gray—stemming from Hegel’s passage—is that it is the color of belatedness, a perpetual coming on the scene too late to do justice to the rich colour and intensity of the world, or that it drains that immediacy and life through abstraction, interpretation, and theorization. This conference is an attempt to question this common interpretation of the colour grey, and to explore the important issues that the colour grey raises in terms of the relationships between abstraction and immediacy, color and colourlessness, life and death, nuance and flattening out, difference and repetition, finite and infinite, boredom and wonder. The papers will draw upon those working in the fields of philosophy, art history, music, ecology, and literary studies.


For detailed schedule, please see here


Participants and Paper Titles (Abstracts)

Hegel’s Shadow Theatre
Rebecca Comay, Philosophy, University of Toronto, Canada

Grey Time: Waiting for Beckett
Laura Salisbury, English and Medical Humanities, University of Exeter

Out of the Polar Night: Climate Phantasms and the Image of Ice
Amanda Boetzkes, Art History, University of Guelph, Canada

Against the Grey: Working with Density and Detail in Contemporary Musical Composition
Wieland Hoban, composer and translator, Frankfurt

The ’Grey-Point’: Deleuze on Klee
Kamini Vellodi, Art History, University of Edinburgh

Monochrome aesthetic. On philosophy’s belatedness
Ingvild Torsen, Philosophy, IFIKK, Univeristy of Oslo

An Obituary on Living Stones
Per Sigurd Styve, Art History, IFIKK, University of Oslo

Grey is (not) Grey. Some Considerations on an Ethics of Attentiveness
Hana Gründler, Art History and Philosophy, Kunsthistorisches Institut in Florenz / Max-Planck-Institut

Surface: On gray as the Melancholy of Silence in Hammershøy
Bente Larsen, Art History, IFIKK, University of Oslo

Barthes’ Tendencies: On Radical Indifference, Adiaphora, and Tone on Tone
Aron Vinegar, Art History, IFIKK, University of Oslo

Published Apr. 26, 2018 1:47 PM - Last modified May 11, 2018 2:40 PM