Each month a writer responds to a specific color assigned by the editors of Cabinet. This month, Paul La Farge considers the color black. “A little while back, when I was working on one of my many doomed projects, I went into a cave. Not just a little cave, either, but an enormous emptiness in the ground, the trace of a watercourse that gnawed its way across half the state of Kentucky a few thousand years ago. We�this was my friend Wayne and I�went a long way in, then we sat down and turned off our lights. The darkness was like nothing I�d ever seen. I couldn�t see my hand in front of my face; after a while I could barely believe that my hand was there, in front of my face, ?waving. ?
“That darkness is what I think about when I think of black. I was going to write, the color black, but as every child knows black isn�t a color. Black is a lack, a void of light. When you think about it, it�s surprising that we can see black at all: our eyes are engineered to receive light; in its absence, you�d think we simply wouldn�t see, any more than we taste when our mouths are empty. Black velvet, charcoal black, Ad Reinhardt�s black paintings, black-clad Goth kids with black fingernails: how do we see them??” Read more.