Colour and attraction, Colour and seduction. They seem to go hand in hand. To verify my theory I consulted artist and seduction expert Laura González. Here is our conversation.
AMK: Let’s talk about seduction and colour. Let me start with a simple question… For our purposes, how shall we define seduction?
That is why we find some colors pleasing our mind and some colors irritating as our mind has its tastes and preferences. Visit site to know full details. Sometimes the same color which we loved for days would not be preferable to us suddenly. This is because our tastes keep changing and we get attracted to another color.
Laura G: Great question! I have read a lot of different and contradictory definitions in my research but found one, by scholar Rex Butler, which for me fits most types of seduction. According to Butler, who paraphrases Jean Baudrillard, seduction is the getting of another to do what we want, not by force or coercion but by the exercise of their own free will, even if often mistaken, or misguided.
AMK: Aha! So I suppose that many factors play into this essentially unconscious attraction?
Laura G: Or manipulation. To seduce, one needs to know the object of seduction very well… in essence, to seduce one needs to be seduced first, if that makes sense. Jean Baudrillard, the cultural theorist who most studied seduction, wrote indefatigably about the reversibility of seduction as its main strategy. The positions of seducer and seduced are reversible, and their limits blurred.
AMK: Maybe I need a practical example…
Laura G: A good example is Casanova: he is known as the great seducer, but his diaries, History of my Life, show he was always seduced first and it was his own passion, which made him irresistible to women.
AMK: I’m sure many (men) would wish to know his trick! But I’m not convinced that objects have this same type of ability.
Laura G: Objects, too, fit this scheme: the way designer clothes are displayed in shop windows are seductive; they want us to buy them, no? Furthermore, one is only ever seduced by objects: even in the case of people, in seduction they go through an objectification process.
AMK: So, in clothing, in Casanova, or in other situations – how would you say colour fits into the picture? What role does colour play in seduction?
Laura G: Well, colour is one of the lures, I think. To be seduced, one has, first, to be hailed, to be called into attention, to be lured… and colour is an essential part of this process – as peacock feathers and other animal attributes demonstrate.
AMK: Right. So to ask the obvious – which colour would do that most?
Laura G: What colour? Any colour!
AMK: Ah yes? Not say, red? Or does it depend on who’s being seduced?
Laura G: That’s part of the problem: seduction is universal, but objects of seduction are not. So yes, it depends on who is being seduced. Red is a good seductive colour, but I think its attraction is biological and cultural, and sometimes not all that politically correct. Red is linked to passion and danger; it and other colours may be scary, sexual, or repulsive, and these things may seduce some people but not others. Some may be seduced by sickly pink because it reminds them of flesh, or bright blue because it is linked, for them, to happy summers in the countryside.
Seduction is linked to a promise that the object of seduction makes; that promise is different for each of us, as it relates to something we lack and we want. Colour is essential in relation to this promise.
AMK: So, returning to being seduced by colourful “objects”, let’s talk about seductive art – isn’t that your area of study? [Editor’s note: her dissertation title is “Make me yours: the psychodynamics of seduction through works of art”] Does art seduce us in essentially the same way as a designer dress?
Laura G: Yes. Like the designer dress, art seduces because of the promises it makes; and because our encounter with it is mostly about these promises, it is seductive in itself. It promises answers, yet never satisfies – a little bit like psychoanalysis!
For example, let’s look together at the last work of Marcel Duchamp, Étant Donnés (Given). Duchamp said he had abandoned art making in order to play chess but he worked secretly on this piece for 20 years just before his death. When one encounters it (in a darkened room in the Philadelphia Museum of Art), one sees a door, in a museum. And you know what happens with closed doors… one always wants to know what’s on the other side! But wait, look more at the door, what do you see? Anything strange? [See attached photo of a door.]
AMK: I see the image of Christ – the darkened markings look just like the shroud of Turin (and equally vague). Otherwise though, I see… a door.
Laura G: Would it call you? Would it make you look closer? You can even touch this work…
AMK: In an Italian museum I’d probably just think it was a door. In the States or England, I guess I’d realize it was art. But here we’re kind of losing track of colour… right? Or are we?
Laura G: Actually, no: It is a piece all about colour and light! You were attracted to something – a pattern of marks on the door – because it has a darker colour, because it is set apart from the rest. That’s a spot that encircles two small holes; an area of darkened wood that is so because of the breath of visitors (over the years since its 1969 installation). Now, like everyone else, I bet you want to know what is on the other side, right?
AMK: Actually, I just assumed that there was nothing on the other side.
Laura G: Ha! It’s Duchamp! The trick, of course, does not stop there! Look at this other photo I sent you – you look through the holes in the door and you encounter this scene. Is it real? The body is a cast, the background is a photograph, the waterfall moves and the gas lamp quivers; the twigs are real too. This is what I call seductive art. [Editor’s note: in this blog post, see Laura’s photo. This is the official photo of Duchamp’s work.]
Laura G: The strange not-quite-pink flesh colour of the body plays a big role here.
AMK: Yes, it’s quite revolting
Laura G: Revolting is a good description. This is proof that all colours can seduce if in the right shape.
AMK: Or that seduction, and colour, is all relative (or contextual)!
Further reading suggestions from Laura:
I wrote a blog post about the full experience of viewing Duchamp’s piece; this is also an earlier version of the introduction to my (hopefully) soon-to-be-published dissertation.
On seduction, other than Casanova and Baudrillard (mentioned in the text) see “Les Liaisons Dangereuses” by Choderlos de Laclos (an eighteenth-century epistolary novel) and Søren Kierkegaard’s “Diary of a Seducer”, a very dark philosophical account on ethics. Although they are both, let’s say, quite gloomy and pessimistic, highlighting the dangers, rather than the joy of it!
Laura González is an artist and writer. Her practice encompasses drawing, photography and sculpture, and her work has been exhibited in the UK, Spain and Portugal. She is currently immersed in an interdisciplinary project, which investigates psychoanalytic approaches to making and understanding objects of seduction within the fields of fine art, consumption studies and material culture.