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August 21, 2017 | by  | in Features | [ssba]


I have always thought that red was a sneaky, manipulative colour for Frank Jackson to choose in his Black and White Mary thought experiment. It is the colour of the most evocative emotions, love and hate, and symbolises some of the most intense human experiences, birth, sex, death, and war.

Red symbolises many broad human experiences but I was interested in what it meant to individuals. I wanted to see if the generic symbolism of red affected what people thought of when they thought about the colour. Below are responses from Wellington based artists/creators.


When I think of red, the four most significant things are periods (cause, obvs), the opera Carmen because I went to see it when I was a kid and the costuming was very based on red, Hispanic floral patterns, and anger/passion, the emotions. I think red gets co-opted in dumb ways (lady of the night, etc.) but the more I think about it, it seems to be used as a symbol of femme mystique historically. Red symbolises the dangerous and mysterious, and red might kill you in your sleep after luring you to a group orgy. Red is also pleather devil costumes in LA, and about 30% of Charmed’s set design for the underworld. Mila Jovavic in Zoolander, and lipstick of the woman who will slit your throat in a slow motion fight scene. Red is also political sometimes but it’s much less interesting when it is. I don’t wear a lot of red because I used to be heaps-pimply when I was growing up and it brings out the wrong tone in my skin. Fuck! Wrong tone? Stupid society making me feel like there’s a wrong tone to my skin. Also red is the colour that women with “I want to speak to the manager” haircuts coordinate their kitchen with, I reckon.

— Flo Wilson, Sonic Artist


I’ve got a real good pair of red shorts that my mum gave to me about eight years ago. They’re probably my favorite item of clothing. I like wearing red shorts/hats but don’t like wearing red t-shirts. I don’t know why that is. It feels like a red t-shirt is too much of a statement, like “I’m wearing red, what about it.” Whereas a good red hat or pair of shorts with more neutral coloured shirt is more chill.

— Eamonn Marra, Writer and Comedian


I feel 100 times more comfortable when wearing full red.

Interesting unique things about red:
— When you bleed it is red.
— When you look at the sun with your eyes closed all you see is red.

— Alexa Casino, Musician


I’ve never really worn red, compared to other colours. Might be because it looks too fancy? Or it makes my skin look pink or something. I haven’t been able to wear lipstick either, my lips aren’t full enough to carry it. Maybe I’m a little jealous of people who can do red, it’s pretty confident and fiery, I usually always think it looks good.

The best is seeing the most vivid red in flowers or little inedible berries, sometimes I can’t get over it.

When mixing paint, I have to be the most careful about red. The tiniest bit too much will overpower everything else and I’ll have to start mixing the colour all over again. Lately I have been aiming for kind of dark reds. Someone brought iron oxide into university which I mixed as pigment into cadmium red; I only used a little bit but it went this super dark luxurious rusty red.

— Teresa Collins, Fine Arts Student


Red makes me think of food. All the fast food chains have red on their logos. I think it’s supposed to make you hungry.

— Tyler Carney, Dancer


I remember my science teacher telling me that advertising uses red because of some human primal instinct thing. Red makes us immediately think of blood which raises our heart rate so I guess the idea is that we associate that adrenaline with whatever advertising we’ve just seen.

— Georgia Beechey-Gradwell, Dancer


Why does everyone give such a damn about red? Red’s the colour of blood, ooh, so human. So alive. Life is very long and the blood right in the middle of me is black. The blood I forget about is black. Everything slippery crammed in there out of the sun. My psychotherapist says that when I feel the crushing weight I gotta go inside my body to where I can feel it hurting, and then I gotta make it soft. I get inside there to make the big hard pain go all soft. And I got nothing very special to say about red out in the open. I just like red when it’s in the dark.

— Freya Daly Sadgrove, Writer and Performer


Red makes me think of YouTube Red, which is a dumb name for a premium subscription service because it sounds illicit, like Redtube, which then makes me think of Reddit, as I’d wager there’s a bubble-bellied Venn diagram crossover of Redditors and Redtubers. Reddit is playing on the past tense “read”, which is also fucked, because online reading is often barely reading at all and is killing our generation’s mental health and attention spans, and sending us down spinning association spirals like this one, rambling and invariably pointless, except my point is maybe that the colour red should just chill out and read a book, and then maybe it wouldn’t be so perversely frustrated all the time, so branded and corporate, maybe it would revert to being red for communism and Spanish flamenco, y’know, because that’s the red I wish I’d thought of.

— Holly Hunter, Editor


Red is really intense and not always in a good way, but I like red because it is fleshy.

— Georgia Lockie, Friend



Gussie Larkin, Musician


When I feel nervous my neck and chest go red. Usually this happens when I’m speaking in front of a group of people. Something will suddenly trigger in my brain, telling me I might embarrass myself in the situation and flooding my skin with colour. Tendrils of red creep up like fingers around my neck and I just don’t know how to stop them. I really hate that feeling and the colour that comes with it. It seems to make me quieter and shyer than I actually am.

— Kerrin Burns, Dancer


(First) blood

(Mother’s) blood

Blood (brothers)

Blood (sisters)

(Love) blood

(Hot) blood

(Give) blood

(Take) blood

(Symbolic) blood

(Imagined) blood

(Last) blood

— Anon, Artist


We had visited the rock quarry in Warkworth and then had driven to the beach. We took off our clothes to get into the ocean.

Alexa took us to Piha, near the waterfall. She filmed us all wading in; she wore a wedding dress.

On the drive back from New Plymouth we took photos of buildings and listened to an old CD I had mixed from 2008.

— Lucy B, Musician


I have some shoe glue I used once, it’s the perfect red, it’s on show in my room. I have old spice deodorant that is a muskier red (display deodorant). I have a red coat hanger I just paired with some blue silk. I wore the blue silk with a red top and decided this is a graphic outfit to wear when I’m being graphic. I have an art friend who made some art that was red (it was the wrong red according to another friend). I once was told by a family friend that I deserve another family friend’s red coat because it suited me so much. I don’t wear red too much but I want to own a lot of red. I have red socks that a friend always comments on. I love the red bit of a bic lighter. I have a red backpack, my favourite pen to write with is red. All my red things are sentimental to me as they are red. I stole a red eraser at an art gallery in Europe. My relationship with red is also a relationship I have with friends. Mostly I love red in print, glossy signage, on glass, and paired with other colours of the rainbow. Basically kid red…

— Ellyse Randrup, Cloud



In A Rainbow Reader Tessa Laird talks about how we are “red on the inside” and that our “whole interior is coursing with this opulent substance.” She talks about how red is the first colour we encounter, how it is “perhaps the originary aesthetic awakening of every human being. From the dark womb our first encounter with light must be mediated by these, our eyelids, not to mention the bloody mucus we come wrapped in.” 

Alexa Casino has a song called “Red”, I think that the lyrics sums up the colour and this article.
red my heart beats
red my soul feels
red my eyes see
red my insides


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