goto Appendx main menu Black on Black with
Light Gray Interior :
Ila Berman
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What soon becomes apparent, however, upon opening the book and flipping through its pages is that this counteridentity is not proposed as something that critically questions the limiting boundaries or the motivations of this original cultural set, but instead attempts to establish itself as a subset placed neatly within it.  It becomes the representation of a marginalized group that has fought the battle against exclusion from this set, and by whatever efforts and against whatever odds, has finally gained inclusion.  The book discloses its contents as a struggle against difference, translated only as the condition of inequality—a struggle that finds its success and its resolution in a particular brand of sameness, an overtly sympathetic assimilation.  This struggle and its resulting assimilation is metaphorically effectuated as soon as one opens the book and moves to the inside page.  Here the cover is reprinted, relinquishing its black opacity in two ways: first, by its sheer duplication, which represses the cover's material density by surfacing its signifying value and its representational effects; and second, by the shift from monochrome to tonal opposition, which reconfigures the original confrontation of opacity and transparency, materiality and code, highlighting the visibility and assumed value of the latter of each set while diminishing the intensity and complexity of their confrontation.  The factuality and determination of the bold, black, stable text against a stark white ground reveals how black opacity (as it is both lived and embodied) has been given over to its transparent yet thickened  signification. 

This first inside page is all clarity and boldness, the high contrast between black and white tones and the selected typographical form generating an aura of aestheticized factuality.  Just inside this page is another double page that, although achieving a similar result, constructs itself rather differently.  A collage of newsAppendx 1 page break 92 | 93paper clippings and letters that refer to specific incidents in the 1950s and 1960s documenting the black fight against segregation within the architectural educational system across America is intended to testify to, and to ground, this particular reality, while also providing a varied aesthetic field to visually complement the all-black cover.  The newspaper clippings evidence a historical factuality that forms a foundation for the more current personalized stories that follow.  The composition of the collage strategically highlights particular headlines, incidents, dates, and detailed passages, while laboring to disguise its artifice.  This process, which is as common to photojournalism as it is to advertising, desires to aesthetically seduce, yet conceals this seduction by appealing to the transparency of a reality factor needed for its legitimation.  In this particular circumstance, such reality is underlined by promoting the appearance of randomness over textual composition.  The various-sized clippings and letters used to constitute this collage are aesthetically organized to construct an imperceptible depth by their overlap, and an indefinite territory by the way they bleed off the edges of the page.  This archive is thus experienced as infinitely deep and infinitely vast.  We as spectators believe that we are grasping only a portion of its content, a particular layer in space and a particular section of this layer; only a fragment of the memory of this struggle is being represented to us. 
 
At perhaps a deeper level, this collage also serves to signify a value system that supports and reaffirms the officiality of the law.  Reality is presented to us by investing in those institutions (the newspaper and the official letter) that claim to embody the substance of fact and official authority.  The struggle itself is thus represented as entirely contained within this code of respectability, as if the law itself were a neutral body to which one could appeal for civil rights.  To believe in the value of the outcome therefore necessitates subscribing at least partially to the validity of this ideological terrain, as if the devices employed to rationalize its structure of oppression were not somehow intrinsically connected to its image of reality and respectability.  Further emphasis is given to the official tone of this documentation by exhibiting the only piece of writing that stands in contrast to it: a piece of hate mail sent to John Chase after he was finally admitted as the first black graduate student to the University of Texas school of architecture.  This note, which is entirely racist, abusive, and illiterate, serves to complete the inversion of the black-white stereotypical opposition, providing convincing evidence of the inferiority of white bigotry while demonstrating by contrast the superiority of black achievement within the official code of this struggle.  In this equation, however, the value system embedded in the form of the law and the nature of authority itself remains entirely unchallenged, the collage itself serving to promote the (WASP and male) ideological status quo, while sustaining an image of black assimilation.Appendx 1 page break 93 | 94 next page


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