Is white paint racist? Norway’s University of Bergen is exploring that question, asking how the aesthetic of white paint helped the nation contribute to white supremacy and helped “[make] the world whiter.”
“Whiteness is not only a cultural and societal condition tied to skin color, privileges, and systematic exclusion, but materialize everywhere around us,” a rundown of the study read.
“Although Norway is not a conventional colonial power, this project will show how the country has played a globally leading role in establishing white as a superior color,” it said. “Until now, however, this story has been lesser known to scholars and the public.”
The government of Norway is reportedly spending 12 million Norwegian Krone, or about $1.2 million U.S. dollars, on the study.
“The primary research question is: What are the cultural and aesthetic changes instigated by titanium white and TiO2 surfaces – and how can both the material in itself and these changes be conceptualized and made visible?” the study reads.
A description of the study includes the following:
Whiteness is one of today’s key societal and political concerns. Within and beyond academia worldwide, actions of revolt and regret seek to cope with our racial past. In the pivotal works in whiteness studies within art and architecture history, whiteness is understood as cultural and visual structures of privilege. The new research project ‘How Norway Made the World Whiter’ (NorWhite) funded by the Research Council of Norway (12 million NOK), addresses, however, a distinctively different battleground for politics of whiteness in art and architecture. Two core premises underpin the project: Whiteness is not only a cultural and societal condition tied to skin color, privileges, and systematic exclusion, but materialize everywhere around us. Second, one cannot understand this materialization without understanding the societal, technological and aesthetic conditions of the color itself.
Although Norway is not a conventional colonial power, this project will show how the country has played a globally leading role in establishing white as a superior color. Until now, however, this story has been lesser known to scholars and the public. NorWhite will connect the challenging topics: whiteness, technological innovation, and mass-exploitation of natural resources in a single case study. The research project will study the Norwegian innovations the chemical compound titanium dioxide (TiO2) and the white pigment titanium white in a historical, aesthetic, and critical lens—focusing on how the innovations transformed surfaces in art, architecture, and design—in order to show how aesthetic—and thereby societal—transformation is driven by technological development.
This is not a joke.
They are spending 1.2 million on this project
— Wall Street Silver (@WallStreetSilv) January 15, 2023
Norwegian government funds research to find out if white paint is racist https://t.co/iTsFwlpZ72
— Fox News (@FoxNews) January 19, 2023
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