Michelle Corvette

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Michelle Corvette's MPhil/PhD Art research project

Colour of the Everyday: The Legality and Psychological Impacts of Colour within Public Spaces

This thesis examines the legality of colours and the psychological impacts of colours within public spaces. By legality of colours, I mean the quality or state of being in accordance and observance of laws that address colour. By colour, I mean a phenomenon of visual light perception described in terms of hue, lightness, and saturation in tandem with the understanding that colour is a vibrating wavelength interpreted through the brain within a complex neurobiologistic construction. This is not to indicate that objects and things do not possess ‘colour’, but rather that they possess specific wavelengths, luminance, and saturations which our eyes then perceive and reinterpret through our neurological networking to indicate a ‘hue’.

By public spaces, I mean a social space that is generally open and accessible to people such as roads, pavements, public squares, parks and beaches, as well as government buildings, which are open to the public, such as public libraries. What are the impacts, influences, force and agency of colours in public spaces? How do colours re(produce) socio-cultural power relationships in neoliberal societies? How do they contribute to fixing and replicating social, national and economical differences? In what ways do colours either explicitly or implicitly work as mechanisms of inclusion and exclusion?

I argue that colour is a mechanism for the commodification of public spaces within neoliberal societies. By commodification, I refer to the Marxist theory used to describe the process by which something that does not have an economic value is assigned a value and hence illustrates how market values can replace other social values. Colour has been controlled, manipulated, and regulated within public spaces by authoritative powers to psychologically influence human populations.

Within this argument, a concern for the psychological effects of colour in public spaces has predominately been overshadowed by a concern for capitalization. An understanding of the historical trajectory of the control of colour immersed with the perspicacity of how colour becomes a device for the commodification of public spaces is essential. The case studies I analyze draw attention to the utilization of colour through control, commodification, commercialism, and capitalism. Colour is revealed to be a multitudinal and complex process. The unraveling of these threads will provide a sharpened sense of colour and the psychological effects of colour within public spaces.