Picture of page 206
On page 206 of Tom Phillips' A Humument, Phillips creates two different interpretations of life through images contrasting both in palette of color and complexity. The uppermost image portrays pessimism, with a dark and cynical viewpoint of life. Ironic to its lower position, with up being optimistic and down being pessimistic, the bottommost counterpart depicts optimism, with a hopeful, upbeat, and positive outlook on life. With both contrasting perceptions of life, Phillips offers advice with scenarios involving objects and organisms.
The first noticeable detail viewers will observe is the top image, with its blurred swirl of dark purple as it approaches and transitions into utter black darkness. The darkness at the center of the image seems to draw and suck in the surrounding purple, almost as if it is a living organism that is swallowing color. Peering into the darkness provides viewers with viewers with a sense of depression, as well as an abundance and variety of negative and pessimistic feelings. The image also contains very little text. It is intricate and indistinguishable; it immediately draws attention to itself. Phillips perhaps suggests that humans may tend to find a negative viewpoint of life, as with the above image’s complexity compared to the bottommost picture’s simplicity, more attractive and appealing than the positive viewpoint of life.
The text within the uppermost image is very cynical when providing context to its surroundings. When answering the command written at the top of the image, “explain its history”, the image, by being indistinguishable visually, also denotes its nothingness and lack of the past when describing itself as a “queur photograph”, as queur is not an existing or known word. Without a history or origin, the uppermost image produces a negative aura and outlook on life.
The bottommost image is the second thing viewers will see. It is extremely simplistic, containing a dull brown background clashing with its display a plethora of colorful, lively boxes, with colors ranging from: bright red-orange, grassy green, dark green, velvet red, sunflower yellow, and black. It differs completely from the image atop of it, as the palette of colors not only increases dramatically, but the simplicity and realness of it is opposite from the abstract and intricate design of its counterpart. It offers a positive and uplifting viewpoint of life, with its lively boxes and text. It starts off with the exclaimed word “Ah!”, while the uppermost image begins with a strict-like command. Contrary to the uppermost image, the bottommost image signifies two or more people, with the notation of “our boxes”. While the uppermost image also displays solemnity and loneliness, the bottommost image embraces togetherness with its bevy of boxes, “laughing bricks”. To sum up all of the feelings shown in the bottommost image, the text ends with the word “assembled and hoping”.
Phillips offers both interpretations without the usage of human beings, but with objects, to indirectly warn viewers of the paths available in life. While the bottommost image proposes an interpretation of life embedded with hope, togetherness, laughter, and overall optimism, the uppermost image depicts life cynically with an outlook of despair, loneliness, darkness, depression, and overall pessimism. Viewers can follow the uppermost scenario, with lives similar to a dark hole, solemn and alone, or perhaps follow the latter, living as a happy, colorful box amongst box friends.