(SPAM Cuts) ‘18-3838 ~ Ultra Violet’ by Katy Lewis Hood
In this SPAM Cut, Colin Lee Marshall writes on the chromatic vivacity and textual play within Katy Lewis Hood’s 18-3838 ~ Ultra Violet, which you can read for free in Gilded Dirt #3 here.
> Katy Lewis Hood’s 18-3838 ~ Ultra Violet presents itself as a strikingly dissonant object. On the one hand, it willfully transgresses the boundary between recto and verso, overriding the skeuomorphic ‘pages’ of the landscape PDF format in which it has been reproduced; on the other, it balks at this same transgression, retreating into the familiar analogue technology. This means that despite its pointed extrication from imposed constraint, it cannot be read with the same rectoversal freedom as can, say, Mallarmé’s Un coup de dés. Even so, Hood’s textual arrangement is impressively adroit, opening up sites of reading that are potentially even richer than the optional horizontalisms and verticalisms facilitated by soft textual boundaries.
> Hood leaves no illusions as to what this piece is ostensibly about—a colour (Ultra Violet) so tangible as to have been specifically delineated via a set of digits. And yet, such specificity is most likely, pace Pantone, illusory. If we can extrapolate from one of the poem’s quotations—“interpretations of avian coloration based on human visual capabilities are almost invariably erroneous” (Eaton, 2005)—we might say that any confident declaration about a particular wavelength is liable to error. Ultra Violet is no exception. Indeed, the signifier almost seems to disavow the sign’s purportedly inviolate specificity and beg for an epenthetic ‘n’ by which to be transmuted into ‘ultraviolent’.
> Certainly, the work might be said to bear the marks of violence, particularly in its foregrounded source material, tissues of which are retained as somewhat garish parerga. However much they vie for attention, these tissues seem, from one perspective, to be denied full sublation in the artwork. Not only are they greyed out, they are also undergirded in places with the famous MS Word error serrations. While such serrations typically denote provisionality, here they function more like baked-in obeli, marking the words as spurious, wrong. At the same time, these errors, crystallised beyond correction, seem also to instantiate something of the chromatic vacillation on which Ultra Violet is in truth partially predicated.
> Contra the title, Hood appears in places to be concerned with the qualia of colour, rather than with its empirical fixity. Offsetting the scientific sources and the precision of the number 18-3838 are the
variously rendered violets and purples of, amongst others, Sappho, Chaucer, Anne Carson, and Joseph Namy. Instead of repeating an authoritative number, the text disburses the colour through different spellings, scripts, or morphological configurations, thus moving from certitude to the more equivocal and mercurial territory of poetic optics. The nested black-font ‘quotations’ of the ‘main’ block of text seem to comprise a semi-faithful sampling of the source material, locking the black and grey texts into a symbiotic relationship. But it is a fraught symbiosis—a mutually chromatophagic one. In the end, the colour that we are left with is something less (or more) than Ultra Violet.
Text: Colin Lee Marshall