“She showed us her love bites – they went from her knees to the top of her thighs and from her stomach to her neck, a trail of purple and blue puffy bruises with faint yellow rings.” 

Tracey Emin, Strangeland

“Death is a type of space, which we intend to map, enter, colonise, and, eventually, inhabit.”

International Necronautical Society, INS Manifesto

I cannot say exactly when my obsession with blue began, but I can recall my first distinct encounter with its allure: Dougal and The Blue Cat. The aphorism of the ethereal and mysterious Madam Blue, “Blue is beautiful, blue is best. I am blue, I am beautiful, I am best,” I still hear ringing clearly in my ears today, and one which I have taken to heart. I wear only blue. I have seven identical dark blue linen shirts, three identical blue jeans and an indigo coat, which I wear perennially. I would state that my undergarments are blue, though a relative few can confirm or deny such a statement.

Lovers of all things blue will be aware of Carol Mavor’s exploration and homage to the colour, Blue Mythologies. It is a book that I return to when I’m feeling blue. Mavor’s most salient observation and driving force is that blue is paradoxical, “blue is the purity of the Virgin Mary, yet blue names a movie as obscene…blue is the colour of eternity, yet blue lips are a sign of approaching death.” Perhaps it is this self-contradictory nature of blue that makes it so enticing. This blue duplicity can also be found in film and it is certainly formed the basis of my relationship with it. Film shows truth that cannot be denied, yet it is merely a succession of still frames that produce an illusion, just as the sky appears blue, but it is in fact an illusion of shattered light. Film brings to life what once was, but in the very act of filming solidifies the death of its subject, blue is the colour of death and celluloid the medium.

Blue film or blue movie was one of many names used to refer to early pornographic film and sadly it is no longer common parlance; although pornography, how it is made and how it is viewed, is a very different industry and experience to one hundred, or even fifty years ago. The term came to larger public awareness with Andy Warhol’s Blue Movie, the first film to explicitly present sex that was given a wide theatrical release in the United States. It will come as no surprise that the film was swiftly banned as obscene, though Warhol stated, “it wasn’t done as pornography…I really do think movies should arouse you, should get you excited about people, should be prurient.” Films should arouse you, because film itself is arousing; it dances and flickers, it groans.

I am slowly amassing my own collection of blue films, whose origins, and destinations, are largely unknown; such is the way of film, particularly if it is blue. Most of these films are around fifty years old, they’re scratched, they slip, they spit, they rip and eat themselves – as all film eventually does. Representational image is hard to decipher among the indigo-blackness: they are a blur of celluloid, light and cock. Discernible figure and shape is disembodied, as is our viewpoint; these are not scenes we ever see, these are angles we never see from. This is not a scene at all: it is the imaginary, it is a purer film, blue has become purity once more: we are full circle. These films, like all film, are both pure and erotic; they are the stuff of dreams: dark and undeniable.

My recent (artistic) explorations into the erotic have led me to cyanotypes: photographic prints of glorious blue. The floor of my balcony is stained blue with photographic blood, there are cyan smears scattered around my flat, and prints hidden under my bed, for that is where they should be stored. The cyanotype process is relatively simple, though not without its dangers. One of the two solutions involved is potassium ferricyanide. Should one, accidentally or otherwise, combine an acid, say vinegar, with potassium ferricyanide, hydrogen cyanide gas may be evolved – death by blue. It is pertinent to note, the French word for blue is bleu, but it is also the word for bruise. Blue is violence, death even. Also of note, the French phrase la petite mort (the little death) is slang for orgasm. As Bataille would suggest, death and the erotic are intimately linked: Eros and Thanatos.

Just two days ago, another reel arrived in the post. It joins my blue film collection and awaits cyanification. But if “to collect photographs is to collect the world,” what is it to create photographs? And to create film? Do we create the world? If so, where does film go when it is not running? I do not refer to the celluloid, but the light-image, the soul of film. What does it dream of? Does film dream of celluloid sheep? They are surely hued blue. To say that I dreamt in blue would be a lie, I do not remember my dreams and so have course to believe I do not dream at all. Perhaps I create photographs to distil my dreams into blue, to create a world in which to dream.


James Sirrell