Author(s): Natalia Zagorska-Thomas; Jack Robinson
I do not blush, I cannot make myself blush nor put myself in a situation where I would blush, but a blusher cannot help but blush. A blush, according to Darwin, is "the most peculiar and the most human of all expressions," and the expression over which blushers have the least control. It is a signal that subverts all systems of signalling, one that exists below the reach of the intentional and intellectual strata of signalling systems and one that therefore cannot be hidden or misrepresented by them. In this a blush is in a sense unique. A blush can only be authentic, because involuntary, which not only makes a blusher especially awkward, exposed and vulnerable but also, precisely because of these qualities, gives blushing a special attractive power, an authenticity that is imitated by cosmetics but so unconvincingly as to border on irony. “A blush is a quick-motion bruise. A blush is a passing wound, subcutaneous, the blood seeking release but the skin holding tight,” writes Robinson in this thoughtful exploration of the phenomenon of blushing. Blood rushes towards the the locus of action, in the case of a blush towards the interface between the private and the public worlds, towards the tissue where the body ends, where otherness begins. There is “a chink, a gap, a little slippage between me and the other me, the one I’m performing - where the blush gets in.” A blush is a transgression of the customary border between the personal and the public, the border upon which both the world outside us and we ourselves heap so many expectations, personae and intentions, expectations; personae and intentions that are rendered null by a blush. A blush is regarded as embarrassing in the context of these expectations, personae and intentions, both from society and ourselves, but therein lies also the beauty and liberating power of the blush in a world in the grip of a crisis of authenticity, where “we live on the cusp between ignorance and oblivion.” The intimate/over-intimate presentation of a blush is “an index of confusion,” and has the same utility as other indices, where the blood rises to the surface of a book and shows us a way through all that prose. In Blush, Jack Robinson (one of the pseudonyms of Charles Boyle, publisher of the ever-wonderful CB Editions), provides a subtle and insightful phenomenology and social history of blushing alongside witty and equally subtle and insightful images by Natalia Zagórska-Thomas (some more of her work can be seen here), each and both displaying the virtue of lightness that lends their work a polyvalent concision that enables it to keep generating meaning for a considerable time after the reading/viewing has been ostensibly completed.
A chink, a gap, a little slippage between me and the other me, the one I’m performing – where the blush gets in.
A blush is a gulp, a glitch, a stammer, a flutter, a flinch. A blush is hot. A blush is an index of confusion. A blush, acording to Darwin, is ‘the most peculiar and the most human of all expressions’. A blush says something and it speaks true. And as with many common species of songbird and butterfly, its numbers are in decline.
Texts by Jack Robinson – with citations from a range of fiction and non-fiction – and colour photographs by Natalia Zagórska-Thomas – including many of her own artwork – investigate the cultural and social history of the blush from the late 18th century to the present day.