The new Hot Chip album, In Our Heads, is out today, and it’s delightful (stream it now while it’s still available on NPR’s “First Listen”), with a beautiful cover designed by artist Nick Relph. With its Escher-esque stained-glass motif, it’s what you might expect from a Hot Chip cover (the band has always had a strong design sensibility; see also 2006’s The Warning, designed by Owen Clarke). Discovering that Relph is behind it, though, made me wonder, why not something edgier and less predictable? I only knew of his video-based artwork with Oliver Payne and hadn’t been aware of his perspectives on color. In a 2011 article I found called “Color Management” for online magazine Triple Canopy, Relph said:
I think color is something we more or less take for granted. The terrific amount of work that went into color becoming standardized and widely available seems to have been forgotten, which isn’t all that surprising. It tends not to be thought about critically all that much—people seem increasingly aware of the various devices used to sell or communicate—marketing, logos—but color is still often thought of as “just there.” But it’s taken incredibly seriously from a corporate perspective. A particular shade will be chosen, after much discussion, because it’s felt to accurately convey the appropriate message in relation to a given product. In this sense color is a language. Two things in particular interest me about that: First, to use this language means, sooner or later, having to engage with the corporatized and nationalized bodies that facilitate the production and distribution of color. By these I mean color management systems: the various national standards and color spaces, such as Pantone, RAL, and the Munsell color system. Second, this attempt to claim, reify, and attribute meaning to color is kind of doomed from the start. Color is a neurobiological phenomenon, a human response to the world but not of the world as such. It doesn’t really exist outside of ourselves. So color, like meaning, is a human construct, and vulnerable to the same fallacies.
It’s too bad he wasn’t chosen to direct the first video, instead of this mess that Peter Serafinowicz came up with. I wonder what was in their heads…