It is not necessary to have begun to see Fleishman Is in Trouble (Hulu) to understand the simile. It is also not necessary to know Toby, protagonist of this TV miniseries, to measure his helplessness. It is enough to know that (in chapter five), using resources to combat her loneliness, she decides to go to the American Museum of Natural History to see an exhibition dedicated to a color as deep as his inner emptiness: black. Better, said, the “Vantablack”. The blackest black that exists, the most absolute darkness, the most immense nothingness. An enigmatic, surreal tone and even considered so dangerous that in real life it cannot be bought. What is this?
“Vantablack” is a pigment developed by British scientists from Surrey NanoSystems, a company specialized in nanotechnology and research. They sought to create the blackest black, the purest, the darkest substance ever created by man, for use for aerospace purposes in calibration systems on satellites. And they achieved it in 2014, with this pigment capable of swallowing 99.96% of the light it receives: a miniature light hole.
When an object is covered with “Vantablack” it loses all light reflections so that in the eyes of the human being it becomes something two-dimensional: wrinkles, volumes, bumps, shapes disappear. It is as if we were looking at a screen and an object had been cut out, leaving only its absence. Observing something in “Vantablack” gives the sensation of looking into space. It’s a bit like an oxymoron: a color so intense that you stop seeing it.
However, the “Vantablack” (whose name is the acronym ‘Vertically Aligned Nano Tube Array’ followed by “black”, black in English) is not a paint itself, but a pigment made up of millions of carbon nanotubes: each of these is approximately 5,000 times finer than a human hair and in a single square centimeter there are 1,000 million nanotubes. What then happens is that any light that falls on its surface is almost completely absorbed, rather than reflected, and becomes heat. It disappears. Where the “Vantablack” passes there is no life. Hence its perfect fit with the vital crisis that the series paints.
In recent years, the creators of “Vantablack” have evolved this technology to achieve an even blacker black, capable of absorbing 99.965% of the light it receives, and they have even created a spray called Vantablack S-VIS with which it is possible to apply this coating of carbon nanotubes to objects. In addition to eliminating the sensation of the third dimension, it has other peculiarities such as hydrophobicity, its resistance to vibration from a launch or withstanding temperatures between -196ºC and 300ºC. However, the pigment has so many implications that it is not allowed for commercial use, mainly for safety reasons.
In 2019 the German car manufacturer bmw presented a model in collaboration with Surrey Nanosystems covered in this invisibility cloak, the BMW X6 Vantablack, which looks like a flat silhouette when viewed from the front or from the side. The design will never be commercialized because its very dark color could cause serious problems on the road.
The “Vantablack” was born with space in mind, but nevertheless the universe in which it has been a real revulsion belongs to our world, that of art. The same 2014 the British sculptor of Indian origin anish kapoor He bought the exclusive rights to “Vantablack”, with which his and only his is the use of the spray pigment for artistic or creative uses. This sparked the fight for the blackest black: the art world immediately rejected what it considered a monopoly and many artists criticized Kapoor for it. Christian Furrythe youngest British artist to be commissioned to paint Queen Elizabeth II, declared that other artists should “be able to use it, it’s not fair that it belongs to one man”, and recalled that “the best artists were fixated on pure black, Turner, Manet, Goya… this black is like dynamite for the art world”.
Another British artist, stuart semple, waged open war against Kapoor and decided to create his own version of that blackest black in 2019, securing full development funding through a Kickstarter campaign in just 38 hours. He managed to create the Black 3.0, but this one only came very close: it only absorbs 98-99% of the light. Furthermore, he wanted to give his nemesis his own medicine and bought the rights to another unique color, the “pinkest pink” (or the pinkest pink), which can be purchased on its website unless you are Anish Kapoor. At the time of purchase, a clause must be accepted that states that the buyer cannot work, collaborate or have an artistic relationship with Kapoor. He responded via Instagram with a photo showing his middle finger smeared in pink; “Up yours pink” (an abbreviation for “stick it up your ass”), he wrote. Semple has also invented the purest white in the world, called White 2.0which claims to be 50% brighter than any other white in the world and reflects 75% of the sun’s rays, so you almost need to wear sunglasses to see it.
But let’s go back to black. The truth is that the world of fashion, beauty and art has always looked at black with fascination. «Black is discreet and insolent, at the same time. Black is easy and comfortable, but also mysterious. But, above all things, the black says: ‘I don’t bother you, so you don’t bother me.’ The best possible definition of the color black was pronounced by Yohji Yamamoto, the most complex of Japanese designers and a beacon of modernity since the late 1980s. Many designers have made it clear that black is whatever you want it to be, it can be classic, it can be provocative, it can be arranged and it can be a disaster. “You can wear it at any time, at any age, on any occasion” (words from Christian Dior). synonym of chic thanks to Gabrielle Chanel, who freed women from looking like a vase and dressed them in black. Black is at the same time a symbol of elegance (audrey hepburn like Holly Golightly in Givenchy in Breakfast with diamondsCarolyn Bessette Kennedy with her perfect minimalism in the late 80s), of daring (Mireille Darc in The Big Blonde with a Black Shoe dressed as Guy Laroche) and post-punk bands (bauhaus, Echo & the Bunnymen), of the conceptual designers (Rei Kawakuwothe “queen of darkness”, whose fans back in the 80s called themselves “The Crows” -the crows- who dressed in rigorous mourning because blackness is what they felt and carried inside; rick owenswho spent his adolescence in the 70s hiding behind black clothes and since then has not worn anything else) and electronic music (Depeche Mode). If poetry were a color, it would probably be black. Although perhaps it would let in a little more light than the “Vantablack”.
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