Vantablack. Or as the scientists say, this is super black. Nothingness. I read about the Vantablack nanotubes only recently and know that these are to be launched in July 2014 at the Farnborough International Airshow. ‘Vantablack’s nanotubes are so small and tightly packed that the material not only prevents nearly all light from penetrating it, but also fully absorbs any light that does manage to get through by “bouncing” it from tube to tube,’ writes Mikael Angelo Francisco in his article titled ‘Dark matter, literally: Scientists create ‘super-black’ material’.

VantaBlack blinkers to help me FOCUS

VantaBlack blinkers to help me FOCUS

Therefore, the first black object that I desire to have are blinkers or horse tacks for me coated with vantablack nanotubes. This is the blackest black ever and blinkers as black as vantablack will have the sort of effect that I yearn for. Wearing these vantablack blinkers, I would be able to focus on what is in front of me… that is, my laptop screen and the keyboard. And I will write. Just write. Undisturbed. No, not even the undulations, bumps, hills, creases, or nuts on the inside of the blinkers will be noticeable… vantablack hides every crumple, every fold and my focus shall zip through nothingness and remain uninfluenced by anything claiming attention. I shall write, just write the thoughts that my mind churns out. This will be the ideal ‘tranquillity’ that Keats once mentioned in a sentence that everyone eventually uses without even understanding what it asks for. For those who haven’t heard of or read about vantablack, this ‘material is seven and a half times more effective than copper as a heat conductor, and has about ten times the tensile strength of steel’! Impressive, isn’t it? Now you will appreciate why I need blinkers coated with vantablack to help me remain focused on my creative writing.

When I mentioned this to an artist friend, she asked, ‘can I too use some such thing in my sort of creative pursuit?’ Well, if all you’re doing is going inwards and seeking out the colours or hues from your stored imagination, yes, this vantablack innovation of mine will be extremely handy. And if you want to look up and around every now and then to let your eyes seek the constantly changing impressions, this will still help you have a controlled view. ‘Aha!’ said my artist friend, ‘I think I am going to love this one.’ Now imagine an extended use of this vantablack harness in our offices… wouldn’t our clerks be made to focus on their file-work?

Specky read the last sentence where clerks were mentioned and she smiled. ‘So you’re working on changing the office ecology here? Well, I’m sure the office designers will stop having partitions made for office cubicles and instead have such harnesses issued for employees.’ I grimaced but couldn’t help agreeing with the eco-logic that she had pointed out with her suggestion.

Well, let me now go on to the next or the second black object that I want is a black period. Now, I will represent this as a huge full-stop or a period on a white canvas sheet that I shall hang on a wall in my Study, use on my visiting card, or maybe even put on my laptop as a screensaver. However, it will, in reality, be a time-span or a phase in my life that is liberally sprayed with tragic or disastrous event… and I know that a black period isn’t really the object on my wall but for me, it will be an objective. I’d love this black period to be as intense as it can possibly be so that I begin earnestly yearning for better times. Now I have two theories of my own that are connected to my wanting to come face-to-face with an intense bout of black period.

A black period as a screen saver or a painting or on my visiting card

A black period as a screen saver or a painting or on my visiting card

I saw the look of horror on Specky’s face and hurried to point out that my theory was a rather uplifting one. ‘I believe that we all are born with a specified quota of tragic moments that lead to despair and pessimism,’ I told Specky, ‘and so if the black period destined for me is packed and intense, it will probably exhaust my quota in one spell leaving the rest of my life in a hypnotising pool of tranquillity which I can then spend quietly pursuing creativity.’

Specky was impressed by this metaphysical conjecture of mine and almost applauded when she remembered that I had talked of two theories backing my inclination to have an intense bout of black period. ‘What’s your other theory?’ she asked. I waited for a moment and then told her that I deliberately did not want to wish away a black period as most of us would be interested in. I went on, ‘Only a period of gloom makes the human mind push a person into coming up with the most creative solutions to every problem faced. Look the way the Jews now occupy the top positions in the developed world after they have been through their worst holocaust. Look at the way the economists have flooded us with innovative answers after every damning recession in our history. Look at the way fields become fertile once they have gone through their phase of intense burning. They turn cleaner and greener.’

It isn’t for nothing or for some fancy reason that I yearn for a black period. I know this is what turns a life into a ‘cleaner and greener’ phase that is so conducive to leading a productive and participative life. The painting of a black period on my wall will also tell me how the phase was, how I dealt with it, and how I feel now that it is over.

Specky looked at me with slight traces of apprehension as she asked me her next question, ‘Don’t tell me the next black object is again some kind of an objective.’ I laughed and said, ‘Well, black humour is the third on my list and because I also need to transform it into an object, it will need to come to me as a set of artworks that weave in and out through me.’ So the third black object for me is an artwork that connects black humour to me.

Black humour as an artwork

Black humour as an artwork

Life, as you know, is forever presenting tragic or harrowing situations in comic terms… and it is almost like the time Specky fell off her Boris Bike right where the London Tower Bridge starts. Not one person jumped over the pedestrian railings to help her in her traumatic moment. Not one car stopped. But I’m sure they all did notice a 55 year old woman landing heavily on her knees as the bike balance went off track… and I’m sure they must have given an involuntary smile that would immediately have been ordered to invert into a serious look that said, ‘I haven’t even noticed anything happening.’ This is so human. This is black humour. And life isn’t life without a pinch of black humour… it always makes you feel lighter in retrospect when you realise that everyone else who seem so different are actually the same as you are.

Someone did say that black humour is like telling the owner of House No. 667 that they are neighbours of the devil! Or shouting ‘I totally agree with myself’ when you’ve actually given all unconventional answers in a survey that expects conventional responses! The ‘Urban Dictionary’ goes on and regales us with this definition of black humour: Black humour is when, for example, a man takes off his belt to hang himself, and his trousers fall down. Another example of black humour, “Suicide just isn’t funny, no matter which way you slice it,” is an effective satire at the way that suicide is treated in mainstream western culture, insinuating that attitudes towards suicide are even more morose or morbid than the act or mental condition leading to it.

The truth about my wanting black humour to be a part of me is that it has the power to bring me closer to the truth without the sordidness of it making me puke and forget that it is truth that I am searching for. Got it? If you haven’t, don’t worry because black humour is like a pair of legs… not everyone has it. Right?

I’m sure you’ve read this joke at some point in your life… or at least some version of it…

Teacher: Where’s your book?
Student: At home.
Teacher: And what’s it doing there?
Student: Having more fun than me.

Well, this should be enough to tell you that the presence of black humour is actually an act that breathes life into life when it is about to buckle under the stress of living! And all I want to do is own an objective presence of black humour that reminds me of its importance to me and my life. This, I believe, is what is also going to help me pull myself into a creative vortex that can only unnerve and numb anyone who hasn’t taught himself to laugh in completely un-laughable situations. But just remember that too many pigeons are bad for your health! Ha! Ha!!

Well, if black humour has made it to my list of ‘object’ that I wish to have, can black thoughts be far behind? No, not at all. So the fourth black object that I will list in this article is a black thought frozen in a photograph… or maybe an artwork that tells me something about a black thought.

Sketches_black thoughts

Sketches_black thoughts

Here look at me
I’m a black thought
That you thought
Just fought
That’s what you see. 

But hey! Look at me
I don’t fight
I just make the light
Seem more bright
This is what you must see. 

And the way I see
Myself is just black
From front to back
Colours are what I lack
But I leave you free 

To choose me
If you think I have might
Because even the night
Has a lot that is right
And lets me be me.

With this poem I am simply trying to make a case for black thoughts. Black thoughts are black and there is no doubt about that… however, it is also correct to say that a white thought exists so long as it is surrounded by black ones. I mean, what is being correct if being incorrect is non-existent? You get it? So I just love this thing called a black thought… it is a black thought that makes me see white in the right light, so to say.

Specky had been reading all that I had been writing and couldn’t help asking me why I was not opting for simpler black objects that most people would go for. ‘I mean, you haven’t mentioned a black smartphone or a black hat or a black typewriter or even a black apple,’ she said, with a faint flavour of confused apprehension. I told her that a black artwork or a black blinker or a black placard or a black painting were as much objects as any of the other objects that she had listed. Specky nodded but added, ‘Let the last one be nearer some mundane thing that people like me will understand and appreciate.’

I assured her that my fifth black object will be something as dream-like as she wanted it to be… and went on to tell her, ‘A black light is what I will go for… in a black frame, if that will please you.’ Specky smiled and asked, ‘I don’t know what a black light is. I thought lights could be of all hues… but black seems so improbable for a light. Aren’t lights supposed to help you see by cutting through black?’

Blacklight... the UV device

Blacklight… the UV device

‘You’re right,’ I said, ‘and this black light of mine cuts through all sorts of confusions and obfuscations to make your life safer, better, and more transparent.’ For those who are confused about what a black light actually is, let me just say that it is a UV-A light or Wood’s lamp, or simply ultraviolet light, that emits long wave (UV-A) ultraviolet light and not much visible light. So it isn’t difficult to understand why an UV-device is also called a black light. And I have added a black frame for this UV device to make it a thoroughly decent black object.

Now the interesting part is that this black light helps us transform our world into a much safer and more transparent world. This isn’t a mere toy or an object one buys to pamper one’s ego… the world uses a black light as a ‘bug zapper’… and I’m sure you all know what this is. That device with a blue light where insects and bugs come to meet their end and make an evening so much more without insect bites makes my black object such a useful product, doesn’t it?

What just might be news to you is that a black light is also used to authenticate oil paintings, antiques and banknotes… I’m sure a lot of you have seen the teller using it to separate a fake note from the genuine ones in a bank. What really made me fall in love with a black light is when I read that this Wood’s lamp is ‘a diagnostic tool used in dermatology by which ultraviolet light is shone (at a wavelength of approximately 365 nanometers) onto the skin of the patient’ to diagnose fungal infections like Microsporum audouini, some forms of tinea, such as Trichophyton tonsurans… bacterial infections like Corynebacterium minutissimum, Pseudomonas and other infections that can be treated with Metronidazole 500mg tablets … and also Propionibacterium acnes, a bacterium implicated in acne causation, which exhibits an orange glow under a Wood’s lamp. I think it will be enough to say that a black light has created multiple inroads into our lives… it is used for ‘decorative and artistic lighting effects, diagnostic and therapeutic uses in medicine, the detection of substances tagged with fluorescent dyes, rock-hunting, the detection of counterfeit money, the curing of plastic resins and also for attracting insects’.

Now do I have reason not to add a black light to my short list of black objects… and there is black in my entire list, in a real or a surreal way.


What the black_blogadda
This post is a part of #WhatTheBlack activity at
Arvind Passey
27 July 2014