Amsterdam, January 2024

Yellow Void

Yellow Void is centred around the color yellow, using it as a mirror to critically examine capitalism. Yellow Void now consists of thousands of images, objects, texts, and photos, from 2010 onwards. Yellow Void is the English translation of the project with the Dutch title geeL Leeg, carrying the same meaning.Yellow Void is an app van, developed by Johannes Bongers / Boolean Works (since 1991)

Yellow Void is built on a minimal concept: the color value Y = 100. The Y is part of CMYK, the printing color system made up of Cyan, Magenta, Yellow, and Key/Black. When Yellow = 100 and C, M, and B = 0, the most intense yellow, also known as lemon yellow, is created.Y=100 is used in consumer communication to activate. Think of attracting attention and promoting benefits or discounts with black letters on a Y=100 background.

Y=100, as a consumer activation color, symbolizes capitalism. It's characteristic of this pervasive system - akin to a religious concept - that it occupies and exploits all domains. A feature of capitalism, often unspoken but dominant, is its production of excessive communication, leading to decreased diversity in all systems. Yellow challenges this homogenization.Capitalism is a closed system where resistance seems futile. Both submission and resistance to this system are absorbed and utilized within it. Y=100 is a signal of capitalism, but could yellow also symbolize resistance? Can we appropriate the color yellow, using it against itself? We aim to create a sign that makes the dominant ideology visible, raising awareness about it and highlighting the culture of homogenization and standardization it fosters.Can we create a yellow world, with yellow as a symbol of resistance and a call for diversity and richness, which, like all distinct phenomena in capitalism, gets absorbed? This is building a Trojan Horse to foster awareness and resistance against capitalism. The color yellow in Yellow Void itself aids the global spread of this concept.

The color yellow in 'Yellow Void' is incognito. Through Yellow Void's mission to spread as much yellow as possible, aiming for maximum homogenization and standardization, yellow can become a symbol of the richness and variety it itself suppresses. This completes the circle, potentially undermining what seems resistant to opposition.

The color yellow is perceived as 'empty', meaning it neither contains nor represents anything, thereby offering a space to imbue it with ideals and objectives. This attribute has been adopted by diverse entities such as Amnesty International and the advertising magazine Adformation to convey urgency. However, the urgencies they represent conflict: one advocates for human rights, and the other for commerce and accelerated communication, processes that can jeopardise human rights. Over the years, many political and activist movements have associated themselves with yellow.

"It is a paradox that diversity, being a creation of communication, can also be destroyed due to excessive communication. Indeed, communication makes Umwelten more similar to each other. Or, in other words, too much communication can be described as a general reason for many ecological problems that lead to homogenization of the world and loss of diversity. This is the case both in biological communities and in cultures" (Kull, 2005, Kull/Maran, 2014).
Following the above quote, in 2022, we posed the following question to Kalevi Kull, Professor of Biosemiotics at Tartu University. "Why does too much communication lead to a decrease in diversity?"A simple example is from linguistic diversity. Until the 19th century, the number of different languages as well as dialects in any country was seemingly in the maximum in the all history of humankind. After that, long-distance communication and tourism (another form of communication) grew enormously. A result was at least ten-fold decrease in number of languages and dialects.
No language, no any semiotic system is closed. This means – for their life, for the diversity, communication with neighbours, with other, is necessary – in some extent. New views, other languages, other ways to express are the source of creativity and innovation to any culture. Until certain limit, it increases diversity. But the increase in diversity is a slow process and requires peace; it is a tendency in case of peaceful life and development.
The decrease in diversity as a result of excessive communication includes not only spoken languages. The spatial diversity decreases due to mixing, and due to the attempts to adjust one’s behaviour with the one with whom it communicates. (It also decreases, of course, in case of violence and wars.) Once tourism grew, the hotels that initially were designed as following the local traditions of design, became more and more similar over the world as a result of pressure from tourists to fulfil their needs everywhere in the way as they have accustomed. Stepwise, the many types of meals were turned more and more into the same soup in all corners of the big pot. That is globalisation, and the reason for globalisation is precisely too much communication. Communication is semiotic process.Social media, truly a communicative system, is a good example of how too much communication contributes to the loss of diversity and devastating homogenisation.

Worldwide, yellow has become the color of resistance and solidarity.

Yellow is an empty color yet still demands attention and is associated with consumption, a phenomenon driven by 'desire' and 'need'. Can yellow be appropriated with the goal of isolating the desire itself, without the content?

The project Yellow Void incorporates existing yellow phenomena and rearranges them. The stranger, the better. Also, the more popular Y=100 becomes, and the more it's used by people to express themselves, the larger Yellow Void can grow. The larger Yellow Void becomes, the sooner it can be absorbed and serve as resistance from within.

In the West, the color yellow becomes a trend every few years, particularly in spring, symbolizing newness and future.

Slavoj Žižek, the Slovenian philosopher and cultural critic, often references John Carpenter's 1988 film "They Live" as a metaphor for "ideological glasses." In this film, the main character discovers special sunglasses that reveal the true nature of the world around him. When worn, he sees many people are actually aliens and that public messages, advertisements, and media contain hidden authoritarian messages like "Obey", "Consume", and "Conform".
Žižek uses this as an analogy for ideology: how our perception of reality is formed by unconscious beliefs and social structures. Just as the glasses in "They Live" allow the protagonist to see hidden truths behind superficial appearances, Žižek suggests that critical analysis and understanding ideology enable us to comprehend deeper truths about our society and our interactions within it.Yellow Void is conceived as such an ideological lens, offering a view of reality that illuminates the hidden nature of capitalism.

The idea emerged to grow Yellow Void (geeL Leeg) so large that it could serve as a mirror of capitalism. A yellow world striving to be absorbed, becoming even larger and emptier through this absorption. We began to claim all the yellow we encountered, using it to counter the dominant ideology.

Yellow Void is a practice of freedom, in the sense Michel Foucault attributed to it. This is how we have always experienced the work. Often, the color itself seduces us, and in such moments, you realise the vast distance between artistic political concept and the harsh reality of culture and subconsciousness.

Yellow Void is both megalomaniacal, extending across the globe, and deeply personal to us as artists. It impacts and contributes to our daily lives. The countless instances when the color yellow intrudes unannounced, even in the most exceptional places, absorbing those moments into its void, are significant. These experiences underscore the incomprehensibility of life.
This reflects the dual nature of the project as both a grand, global statement and an intimate, personal experience that profoundly influences the artists' perception and interaction with the world around them.

Because Y = 100 is an activation and signal color, few objects are assigned this color. The activation would then transfer to the object, creating a tautology. For example, a store with offers, discounts, and advantages on a yellow background for yellow products wouldn't work effectively. This is where the ideology derails.

ellow is an intensified form of color, manic, inevitably having an underside of darkness and depression. The emptiness of yellow is connected with death and the sublime.

The work Yellow Void (geeL Leeg) emerged around 2010, a year before the Occupy movement exploded. Nearly a decade into the third millennium, two years after the financial crisis, a conscious generation emerged, but their resistance was not marked by revolutionary urgency; rather, it was accompanied by a certain comfort and positive attitude. Following this, the collaborative society emerged, bolstered by social technology 'on steroids', where individual expression is sacrificed for group safety, leading to conformity. Perhaps there was still room for art, but the autonomous artist became enclosed, making way for the designer-artist.
A new concept of communal living emerged, characterized as a desert of collectivity from which radical individual expression was exiled. The idea of circle time in elementary education, introduced twenty years earlier, bore its fruits – consensus and standardization – augmented by a collective sense of happiness through party drugs. In the teenage years of the new millennium, significant uniformity and alignment began. Cultural and business initiatives focused on the 'common' and social ecstasy became the driving life force. Platforms, both online and offline, built their business models on the social and collective, exploiting them as though they were oil or gas.The idea that the current era has gone too far in individualism, and that we should seek more community, is a fantasy. In reality, considerable efforts have been made to diminish both collective and individual agency. We are now left with no way out.Since that time, 'being' has dominated over 'becoming': the era of identity and stasis had begun.

From 2010, we explored the color yellow and collected yellow objects and phenomena. We became acquainted with yellow's versatile yet impatient nature. One of the 'works' was an advertisement, a page from a TV guide, advertising the newspaper nrc-next at the time. With this newspaper, editor-in-chief Rob Wijnberg, also a philosopher, tried to establish a different news concept. NRC was already part of an investment group then, and nrc-next was a business experiment.
This advertisement, rich in information, perfectly illustrates the cultural loop we have become trapped in. No matter how hard you try, it's impossible to escape the dominant ideology. The form of the advertisement – yellow – converges with its content, or rather, it shows that the two are inseparable. Only by representing all things yellow, as art, does yellow acquire an interesting position.

Yellow Void gained momentum in 2013 when we started defining yellow as a political material. Our aim was to subtly introduce yellow into the world of design and the creative industry. These sectors suffer from the same issue as nrc-next and other concepts – they have cannibalized art and criticism, transferring them to the impoverishment of the economic domain.

The color Y = 100 directly impacts the human mind, appealing to desire. However, there are multiple theories about the nature of this desire. Does desire fill a void, a lack, seeking satisfaction as Freud suggests, or is it, according to Jacques Lacan, a deficiency that perpetually generates another lack? This continuous desire arises because humans inherently lack 'being'. What is it about the color yellow Y = 100 that so strongly ties it to desire, need, deficiency, and emptiness?

Yellow Void is a psycho-political project. Over the past 15 years, numerous political and activist movements have distinguished and connected themselves through Y = 100. But yellow is an empty sign. In semiotics, such an empty sign is called an 'empty signifier'. This sign can be continuously occupied and appropriated by new meanings.
The movements adopting yellow are mostly resistance movements, which are often temporary in nature. There are few political movements (except the German liberal FDP) that dare to permanently associate themselves with yellow. Yellow Void leads these yellow movements, and by not defining its own objectives, it can operate at a meta-political level.

Y=100 is a favourite among cultural organisations due to its ability to stand out with minimal resources. However, using yellow requires skilful handling. The emptiness of Y=100 inevitably accompanies the attention it garners. Only strong identities can withstand this, while others shrink and are drawn into the yellow void.

Red is the color of love, green symbolizes nature, and blue represents the sky and water. Yellow, the color of the sun, which doesn't have a domain of its own, is the source of life.

Yellow represents abundance (Geel is veel). This 'abundance' serves as an answer in the struggle between the particular and the general. Emphasis on the overly specific, often manifested as the uniquely singular, competes with the general, which transcends categories. 'Abundance' points towards the general while carrying the hue of the very specific.

Yellow Void is not positioned as an activist project against the dominant ideology, but instead aims to be engulfed by it through the color yellow. Instead of overt resistance, it seeks the weakest spot – yellow as a doorway – and disguises itself in yellow. This weak spot forms a Möbius strip, making both the inside and outside simultaneously accessible. Yellow thus develops a form of immunity.

The minimalistic approach of the Yellow Void project, which focuses exclusively on the color value Y = 100, is linked to its vast ambition: to bring newness to the world with just one color.

The universe and everything in it is governed by the second law of thermodynamics. Essentially, this law states that in a closed system, the total entropy (a measure of disorder or chaos) increases over time or at least remains constant. Therefore, the end of the universe will not conclude with a sigh but with utter nothingness, ultimately reaching a state of maximum disorder.
The color yellow in geeL Leeg does not represent the second law of thermodynamics but is an expression of the first law of chromodynamics, of color dynamics. This law says that eventually, everything turns yellow. However, this yellow is not homogeneous; it consists of two chromatic affects that are indistinguishable in color. One is the activation color of capitalism, the sign of physical and mental property imposed by capital on humans. The other is the color yellow as the color of the sun and life, of the resistance against homogenization, opposed to the loss of variation needed for future diversity and wealth. This yellow is also the color of solidarity with the victims of this system. geeL Leeg supports this sameness within maximum difference, this loop, this Möbius band, by exploring and renewing it.

Yellow Void is publicly visible at KNSM-laan 708 in Amsterdam. Additionally, it can be explored through a link to the 'Yellow Cosmology' on Pinterest. Yellow Void is part of, which also houses other freedom practices by Bongers / Boolean Works.

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