Sloterdijk’s new book: When Gray Suddenly Gets Exciting – Culture

With gray, that is, everything between black and white, depending on the proportion of mixing, one usually associates this color with something, if not mainly negative, then in any case with a little effort for it. Who wants to be a “gray mouse” in the figurative sense – among friends, at work, in the Bundesliga, wherever he is?

Who wants to have a gray-brown face, be described as gray or constantly asked about the gray in their hair as they get older? Who wants to constantly look up at the gray Berlin sky or be struck by gray thoughts?

It is a consolation that gray presents a great challenge to the arts, especially painting, and it has its own function.

As Gerhard Richter wrote in 1975, after he painted his ‘gray portraits’ and found that gray ‘makes no statement’, neither visible nor invisible: ‘its blurring makes it suitable for expression and illustration albeit in an almost deceptive way, like a picture. It is more suitable than any other color to indicate “nothing.”

Peter Sloterdijk explains in his new book, Color Theory, Who I haven’t thought of gray yet. (Suhrkamp Berlin 2022. 286 p.m., 28 €.)

trusted present color

In it, Sloterdijk works to identify the diversity and versatility of this color, based on the statement of another painter, Paul Cézanne, who once said in a conversation with Joachim Gasquet at the end of the nineteenth century: “Until you paint gray, you are not a painter.”

According to this, Peter Sloterdijk only wants to see himself as a complete philosopher when he “thinks” of gray and analyzes it “as the decisive color value of the present.” This can be understood as a slight exaggeration, as Sloterdijk was hailed by his friend Hans-Ulrich Gombrecht as “Europe’s most important philosopher” long before Grau’s explorations. The playfulness and contemplation of everything should in no way be underestimated.

So Sloterdijk goes into the gray areas not only in philosophy, but also in politics, photography, literature and Christianity, and thinks and publishes his subject figuratively.

The film begins with Plato’s allegory of the cave and the gray walls of the cave, with the shadows cast by Plato’s “two and a half years of ancient European thinking,” as Sloterdijk jokes.

It follows gray as the main color of Hegel’s philosophy, Heidegger as the most important interpreter of shades of gray and later Nietzsche, who felt the gray of rocks and stones as spiritual liberation and made him speak philosophically.

However, Sloterdijk soon left his department in order to enter into other areas, first of all politics, brilliantly and visually fun, rich in words and invention.

This means thinking of gray from red: the revolutionary red of Jacobin, the experiences of Stalinism and the experiences of the real socialist state, the experiences of democratic socialism.

It’s the color red that has grown to gray as the story progresses: “The overall gray became the internally generated creed of an institution that began with deep red.”

The sources for this are, for example, the journalist from Erfurt Sergei Lochthofen, who gave his story of his life in East Germany as “gray” and wrote: “Gray cars. Gray shop shelves. The gray of circulars and decisions of the caucus (…) is gray in all its shades. …as if every other color was covered in mould. Gray people in a gray land.”

Or the Berlin poet and Georg Büchner Prize-winning Durs Grünbein, who from his earlier collection of poetry “Grey Zone in the Morning” Sloterdijk quotes an entire poem with “colored reactions in East Germany” on two pages.

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But gray was not a unique feature of the GDR: London in the seventies was a nightmare, as the British writer John Lancaster recalls in his book Capital, and even in the Federal Republic not everything was at all colored by capitalism: from the black days, Moreover, which was still brown, in Adenauer’s era to the gray of the Merkel Republic.

In this, the chancellor succeeded in “the trick”, according to Sloterdijk, “by being lukewarm and power-obsessed at the same time.” In this context, he ventures a small insight regarding the coalition of traffic lights, in particular the renewed governmental responsibility of greens: “The fact that gray-green or gray-green is on the horizon is foreseen without the aid of prophetic drugs. The future belongs (…) to an environmental bureaucratic regulatory policy It sets the path to post-democratic menopause for the state, which is incompetent as much as it is burdened.”

This is the path to power, which does not tolerate any color, but for Sloterdijk this is a sign of functioning democracies: those who seek a majority and have to make concessions cannot defend themselves against graying and preserve the purity of their political party. the color.

Extended areas of indifference

Digression is a feature of this amusing color theory, as is Peter Sloterdijk’s writing and thinking anyway. The turns always increase the color knowledge here.

“Divation” is part of the organizing principle of this book. Between each of the main chapters there is a small chapter, beginning with Kafka, his heroes, and their paths “in the dim gray light of the authorities through long corridors” to interpret Cézanne’s saying.

But even “gray ecstasy”, wandering through gray mysticism and gray morality, gray aesthetics and gray theology is punctuated by investigations that are not always rigorous. There is talk of the tendency of liberal social universes to “turn into Chinese menus”, as well as the more than a hundred shades of gray that Mercedes offers for its cars, about the relationship between opium and capital, as well as about the relationship between opium and capital. “Ugly aesthetics” using the example of the Eiffel Tower.

But lack of strictness is to some extent inherent in the material. This color theory now clearly revolves around considering “extended indifference zones,” around gray as a symbol of indifference. It’s nice that Sloterdijk is always funny on one hand, and while he claims to be present, he doesn’t take many trips at the same time.

He briefly mentions the “passive-aggressive types of feminism” or the “juvenile Woke ideology” to show that despite all the grey, Jacobin red hasn’t gone too far yet (and of course to show he doesn’t think much of it).

God and literature

Or he punishes, far from gray, social media and its mechanics: “After a half-century of Warhol, after two thousand years of ruling by thumb on the Roman arena, admiration proves to be a universally understandable gesture of indifferent approval of somehow not very good.”

The philosopher talks a lot about God, about God’s omnipotence, and about His omnipotence. He tries to give five answers as to why the Last Judgment did not happen and probably never will.

But even more than the existence of God and Christianity, he found what he was looking for in literature: in Philip Claudel’s novel “The Gray Souls”, for him, the beginning of Cormac McCarthy’s Apocalypse novel “The Way”, in blizzards with Pushkin, Vladimir Sorokin or Thomas Mann, in Adalbert Stifter’s biographical report on depression ‘From the Bavarian Forest’.

Sloterdijk shows how beautiful gray can be, and how gentle one can be to it, with Theodor Storm’s “Die Stadt”, an ode to the gray town of Husum.

Not least because of things found like this, the impression prevails that for Peter Sloterdijk, the indifferent, the mean, the moderate, the mean, yes, the occasional frosty gray has a lot to do with it. Gray area studies are assumed to be an art form of living.

At the end of reading you feel rich and happy sometimes. How glamorous gray color can be imagined, and how much silver is in it! Only then can you see gray everywhere in the world, and you do not want to.

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