Synesthesia and the Arts
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This study explores the relationship between synesthesia--the experience of a sensation in one perceptual domain triggering a sensation in another perceptual domain--and the arts (including painting, photography, music and literature). Its aim is twofold: to introduce readers as yet unfamiliar with synesthesia to this intriguing phenomenon by focusing on its impact on the creation and reception of art; and to alert readers already conversant with synesthesia in its many manifestations to its potential to encourage fresh ways of approaching art, of understanding the part played by our bodies in its production and receipt and, by extension, of reassessing our position in nature as humans.
can in itself be interpreted as an indicator that such a person is inherently a synesthete. “People who write about synesthesia,” states the artist, “in my experience are uniformly undeclared synesthetes (or declared).” When synesthesia does not manifest itself in its full-ﬂedged form in these individuals, yet strives to surface, its emergence is “a slow coming out process,” and its occurrence is typically “proved by their doubt”: namely, their tendency to “worry about being authentic,” and
keen yellow looks sour, because it recalls the taste of a lemon.” Kandinsky anticipates recent research into the bafﬂing diversity of forms which synesthesia is capable of assuming by emphasizing that no “deﬁnitions” of the emotive effects of color are “universally possible” insofar as “there are many examples of colour working which refuse to be classiﬁed.” He then cites the case related by “a Dresden doctor”: that of a patient, “whom he designates as an ‘exceptionally sensitive person,’” who
beﬁts the elegance of a balcony was replaced by a darker, less romantic, blue” (p. 273). In ordinal-linguistic personiﬁcation (OLP), a relatively rare kind of synesthesia, a person associates ordered sequences, such as series of numbers or letters, with speciﬁc character traits. Thus, as psychologist Julia Simner explains, what letters or numbers trigger is not color, as in the more common case of grapheme-color synesthesia, but rather “the impression of a personality or gender. So, you don’t
impressions in terms of the basic color energies.” Thus, “smells” are regarded as a blend of “color energies and temperature,” and artifacts themselves are evaluated in accordance with the same overarching criteria. Hence, “their aesthetic appreciation of good craftsmanship — say, of a braided basket — depends on the impression of its color energy, of an interplay of a sensory amalgam of qualities: weaving, texture, smell, taste, and so forth” (Campen, p. 101). In addition, it could be argued
contrary, texts exist to the extent that they can be read. It is for this reason, according to Derrida, that a text remains inﬁnitely “readable even if the moment of its production is irrevocably lost and even if I don’t know what its alleged author consciously intended to say at the moment of writing it, i.e. abandoned the text to its essential drift” (Derrida, p. 37). ✳ ✳ ✳ The various perspectives outlined in the foregoing pages provide glimpses into both the human sensorium at large and, more