Sunday, July 18, 2010
Sunday, July 11, 2010
One hears a sounds but recollects a hue,
invisible the hands that touch your heartstrings.
Not music the reverberations that ensue within;
they are of light. Sounds that are colored,
that scintillate like an iridescent poem
Besides that, there are colors that have sound.
On limpid, melancholy days
I seem to hear the tremulous and
The beauty fades, transformed to simple tunes
a crystal ringing in dahlia's fiery facets,
I perceive, on dry grass midst the cobwebs' motley weave."
- (a 19 yo) VLADIMIR NOBOKOV
(writing about summers spent at his family's estate near St. Petersburg, Russia)
To the extent that an important part of art - any art, including photography - involves finding ways of communicating one point of view (or "sense experience") - namely, that of the artist - to another (the viewer) - a "mixing of senses", in a sense ;-) it should come as no surprise that, conceptually speaking, all artists implicitly strive to induce synesthesic experiences. To be sure, the resulting experience is usually hardly even noticeable and impure at best, if for no other reason than the fact that the "experience" as such is diluted between two internal worlds, that of the artist and viewer (i.e.,, there is no direct commingling or "joining" of simultaneous senses). Still, I've often wondered just how far the analogy may actually go? Perhaps the fact that the universe so obviously delights in having so many conscious creatures around - that themselves delight in sharing their collective experiences and inner-states via art - is an indication that nature herself is an accomplished synesthete of the highest order (and that we are her senses)?
Might it be possible for an artwork, W, created by a visual artist, X (where W is thought of as a manifest symbol of X's original experience e(X) that motivated X to create the artwork in the first place), to evoke a similar experience / inner-state e(Y) ~ e(X) in Y by synesthetically activating certain of Y's senses other than the purely visual (the latter of which is ostensibly the only sense required to "observe" X's artwork)? One could argue that this is just a complicated way of stating what all (good?) art has always done. Namely, to act as a visual stimulus (catalytic agent?) that activates all (or most) of a viewer's senses to induce a desired experience, or state-of-awareness. I am not suggesting that one must directly (or consciously) "hear" or "taste" a Pollock to fully experience one of his paintings. But it is interesting to speculate whether (and/or to what extent) all "deep experiences" of visual forms of art involve synesthetic intermingling of senses (perhaps on the unconscious level). Perhaps the same MRI studies that are used to discern the physiological basis of synesthetic experiences in synesthetes can be applied to studying the neurological processes underlying a deep immersion in, and experience of, art by ordinary (i.e., non-synesthete) viewers?
I have assembled a small portfolio of what I call Synesthetic Abstracts (a smaller sampling is also available as a portfolio on Facebook). It is an experiment in applying photography of the small and mundane (technically, macros of diffuse reflections of scattered everyday objects from curved metal surfaces, captured using very shallow depth of field) to evoke an experience of mysterious, ethereal grandeur. The portfolio is "synesthetic" in the sense that, just as synesthetes use two or more senses to represent an ostensible "reality," the images in this portfolio collectively evoke an experience of reality as induced by two vastly different representational forms (one literal - reflections off curved metal - the other implied - ineffable landscapes of the imagination). Although this "explanation" may inspire more confusion than insight into synesthesia, at least I'm finally paying attention to my infinitely patient muse ;-)
Postscript #1. Here is an additional link to a thoughtful paper on synesthesia and art: Art and Synesthesia: in Search of the Synesthetic Experience, by Dr. Hugo Heyrman (this last link contains a motherload of references to research on synesthesia), a lecture presented at the First International Conference on Art and Synesthesia (25th - 28th July, 2005 - Universidad de Almería, Spain). Finally, here is a link to Synesthesia List, which is an an international e-mail forum, for connecting synesthetes with each other and with those researching synesthesia. Among the links provided there is a four part video of a lecture Dr. Cytowic recently gave at the Hirshhorn (here is Part 1).
Postscript #2. See Sensory hijack - rewiring brains to see with sound and a Kandinsky-inspired synesthetic game called Rez.
Thursday, July 08, 2010
there are moments in a day,
when we seem to see beyond the usual.
Such are the moments of our greatest happiness.
Such are the moments of our greatest wisdom.
If one could but recall his vision by some sort of sign.
It was in this hope that the arts were invented.
Sign-posts on the way to what may be.
Sign-posts toward greater knowledge."
- Robert Henri (The Art Spirit)
Wednesday, July 07, 2010
"Art is the perception and depiction of the sublime,
the transcendent, the beautiful, the spiritual...
Art is the eye of the spirit,
through which the sublime can reach down to us,
and we up to it, and be transformed,
transfigured in the process.
Art, at its best, is the representation of
your very own soul,
a reminder of who and what you truly are
and therefore can become."
- Ken Wilber (1949 - )