Strategy is the
Art of Embracing
the Unknown

25A0 is unicode for black square and a holistic brand strategy shop at the intersection of research, art and business.

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25A0 is Unicode for Black Square

The black square is an iconic motif of artistic modernism.

early modernity

In 1617, the physician, natural philosopher, Kabbalist and astrologer Robert Fludd used a black square in his treatises on the macrocosm and the microcosm to illustrate the original, primordial blackness of the universe at the moment just prior to creation. He approached the impossibility of representation pragmatically by adding the words ‚Et sic in infinitum’ to each of the four sides of the intricately hatched square. He assumed that darkness precedes light, and that light would not be possible without darkness. His ideas were quickly overthrown, as the guiding principles of the enlightenment didn’t resonate with his Aristotelian philosophies.

Robert Fludd, Utriusque cosmi maioris scilicet et minoris meta- physica, physica atqve technica historia, in duo volumina secundum cosmi differentiam diuisa. Published by Johann Theodor de Bry. Frankfurt am Main: Oppenhemii, 1617, p. 25. Source: Wellcome Collection, https://wellcomecollection.org/works/dc6rthkv
Robert Fludd’s Cosmology, from: De Macrocosmi Principiis, pp. 29, 37 and 43 / De Macrocosmi Fabrici, pp. 46, 49, 55, 58, 63, 66, 69, 75 / De Creationis Coeli Aetheri, pp. 131, 136, 138, 141, 145.
Robert Fludd, Medicina Catholica, 1629, p. 5.

chiaroscuro

While Fludd’s writings were soon indexed, the idea of the preliminary darkness infiltrated the arts. The Pittura Tenebrosa (shadow paintings) or Chiaroscuro, elaborated through Caravaggio and other painters of the period, became the dominant style in late baroque and renaissance. These paintings rely on darkness to accentuate the light and navigate the viewers attention. But it took almost 300 years before full blackness took the center stage of modern art.

Caravaggio: “The Calling of Saint Matthew”, 1599 or 1600. Source: Contarelli Chapel, Church of San Luigi dei Francesi, Roma, https://www.wga.hu/frames-e.html?/html/c/caravagg/04/23conta.html
Joseph Wright of Derby: “An Experiment on a Bird in the Air Pump”, 1768. Source: The National Gallery, London, Accession number: NG725
Gerard Dou: “The Dropsical Woman”, 1663. Source: Louvre Museum, Accession number: INV. 1213, https://rkd.nl/en/explore/images/228993

suprematism

Kazimir Malevich painted the most iconic black square, not only once, but several times. Initially, in 1913, it was part of a futurist theatre performance. And in 1915, he produced the painting for the inaugural suprematist exhibition, called 0,10. The black square is again placed in a religious context: The hanging references the traditional place reserved for Russian icons, in the corner under the ceiling, tilted slightly downwards, overlooking the room. While the exhibition received mostly negative reviews, it is today considered as the breakthrough of abstract art.

Kazimir Malevich: “Black Square” (Black Suprematic Square), 1915. Source: State Tretyakov Gallery
“0,10 Exhibition” – A section of Suprematist works at Marsovo Pole, Petrograd, 19 December 1915 to 17 January 1916
Kazimir Malevich: “Backdrop for ‘Victory over the Sun’, 2nd act, 1st scene”, 1913. Source: State Museum of Theatre and Music, St. Petersburg, Accession number: KP-5199/166

monochromatism

During the 20th century, in film as well as in painting the black or empty canvas is lent almost metaphysical substance as a paradoxical representation of the unrepresentable, as passivity, denial, negativity, transcendence. In an artistic context, the black square seems to represent mystic elements that hand down the sacred structures of a state of not knowing, of the unnameable.

An unknown exhibition of black squares, undated
Filmstill from “Blue” by Derek Jarman, 1993, 35mm film (color, sound)
Allan McCollum: “Collection of Forty Plaster Surrogates”, 1982 (cast and painted in 1984). Source: exhibition view, photographed by Andree Kröger, https://www.flickr.com/photos/57976434@N02/8474521944/ at the Museum of Modern Art, New York, 2012

narratives

In the trilogy Last Look by Charles Burns (first published as X’ed out in 2010, The Hive in 2012 and Sugar Skull in 2014), the black square plays a central narrative role. The blackness and emptiness of the panels provide the readers with a negative space into which they have to place their own image in order to join the story. The whole story evolves around the abyss at the center of the narrative, which is represented by the absence of information in each black panel.

Charles Burns: “X’ed Out”, Jonathan Cape, 2010, p. 7, with the kind permission of Charles Burns
Charles Burns: “The Hive”, Jonathan Cape, 2012, with the kind permission of Charles Burns
Charles Burns: “X’ed Out”, Jonathan Cape, 2010, with the kind permission of Charles Burns

The black square is a condition of and a call for creation and imagination. It captivates, sounds out, provokes and demands our power of imagination and creativity.

We understand the black square as an infinite resource. The black square is an artistic take on the productive absence of all the things that are yet to come.

Of all the things for which we have no name yet: that which is unknown.

 

 

And strategy is the art of embracing the unknown.