darkens the rays of light
cast upon the earth
in shreds of nothing.”
In our Western culture few things receive as little attention as the shadow – probably due to the fact that it is immaterial. It is the only existing form that is both immaterial and visible, a miracle of beauty and spirit. If you assume that a few lines will be enough to say all about it you will notice your error as soon as you start studying it seriously. Looking into the dark heart of the shadow you will notice its infinite variety and variability.
The multifaceted phenomenon of shadow is caused by three basic characteristics of light:
for one thing, light can scarcely or not at all penetrate matter, for another thing, light is capable of adjusting to each and every structure, and in the third place, light creates different kinds of shadows depending on its nature which may vary from the smallest spark of fire to the vast array of light sources that light up our brightly illuminated present time.
These characteristics are inextricably linked and thus form the basic preconditions of shadow. With its dark, lacklustre form each shadow possesses an intrinsic aesthetic dignity, independent of the object by which it is cast. Its natural beauty is beyond judgement.
There are two theories concerning the origin of shadow:
1. Shadow may be conceived as a gap in the flow of light. It can be shown that where an object creates a shadow fewer photons are present than in the surrounding flow of light. Thus, spaces and areas without measurable light flow are formed. However, light remains the determining factor for this point of view, because it is required for shadows to appear. A shadow appears, and once the light source has been moved or turned off, it disappears again. In this view, shadow is a phenomenon that depends on light, and is a sort of “gap” that is created by the absence of light.
2. But shadow can also be conceived as a residue of the cosmic dark on earth. In our universe darkness is only dispelled where light encounters matter. On the cosmic calendar these are only short moments before the original state of darkness returns. In this view, the cosmic darkness has not been fully dispelled on earth and reappears the moment light is kept from a place. Thus, darkness is the basic condition of the universe which can only be dispelled by light in certain places and for a certain time.
So the nature of shadow is a question that depends on our point of view and refers back to the beginning of existence – whether we give precedence to the light or to cosmic darkness.
Old High German: scato,
Greek: skótos (darkness)