RGB Colorspace Atlas and Mantis Shrimp

RGB Colorspace Atlas, Volume 2 (2011)
As part of Ecstatic Alphabets, MoMA has a set Tauba Auerbach’s colorful books on view. These three thick objects display every color the human eye can see in a three-dimensional, ordered way. The museum plaque probably describes the project best:

“Human eyes typically have three types of color receptors on their retinas, each sensitive to a different range of wavelengths of light. The colors associated with these wavelengths are approximately red, green, and blue. Because there are three types of color receptors, it is possible to map the visible spectrum in a three-dimensional spatial model by assigning red, green, and blue each to a dimension. It is then possible to outline a cube in this space, where the values of red, green, and blue are visible on a gradient scale of 0 – 100% in their respective dimensions. These gradients combine to create the RGB color space cube, a volume in which any color can be located by a set of three coordinates. RGB Colorspace Atlas, both a sculptural object and spatialization of color, consists of three books. Each volume contains the entire visible spectrum mapped out over 3,632 pages, representing the RGB cube sliced in a different direction: vertically, horizontally, and from front to back.”

Of course, the volumes at MoMA were behind glass cases, so no one can flip through them. This video helps you imagine it though: 

Radiolab recently did a fascinating episode on color (bringing in Victoria Finlay, whose book I wrote about, as a guest). As the Auerbach blurb notes, human eyes typically have three types of color receptors (although a few women may have four through a quirk of genetics). However, some animals have many more–and thus see many more wavelengths, and colors, than we can imagine. The technicolor mantis shrimp has 16 kinds of color receptors. Can you imagine what the world looks like to it? Or, for that matter, what an attempt at spatial representation of its color spectrum would look like?

For more about woman with four kinds of color receptors, the discovery of color, whether color existed in the same way to Homer and the ancient Greeks, and much more, I highly recommend the Radiolab episode.

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  1. Pingback: Mantis shirmp | Beyondnauvoo

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