When I was 12 my friend Matt and I had an extended intermittent debate on the plausibility of the following scenario:
You come across an object that is a color you’ve never seen before. Not just some nuanced color between our familiar red, green and blue. But a radically new color. Like a fourth primary. What happens?
My thought was that you would be so confounded – your once relatively stable image of the universe so fundamentally shaken – that you would die from a cerebral aneurysm or shock.
Matt argued that such a scenario would not be possible in the first place, as we’re only capable of perceiving a select range of colors. Specifically the range of the electromagnetic spectrum between approximately 390 nanometers and 700 nanometers that we call visible light. There are no additional colors, because we do not possess the hardware to perceive them.
Matt’s approach to the scenario corresponds with a correlationist worldview wherein the human experience is tied to reality in such a way that neither could exist without the other. My naive and speculative approach could not stand against this argument, so I conceded.
Revisiting this question now, I have a couple additional challenges.
Who was the subject of the scenario? At the time, we assumed it was human. The outcome of the scenario was then necessarily tied to the capacity of human perception. But today, as our bodies become more transparent – as technology probes deeper – new possibilities become imaginable wherein techno-bio interfaces extend our perceptual capacity.
But even in this supposed solution the existence of something is subordinate to our ability to perceive it. Thus the more important question becomes: what is disqualified from existence as a result of our casting of humanity in the lead role?
[There is information in this exhibition that does not register in the colorspace of humans but does in that of Mantis Shrimp]