Synaesthesia: More than meets the eye

Dr Tony Curran

Semester 2, 2020

art theory: Synaesthesia: more than meets the eye

What does a circle sound like?

What number is the colour yellow?

What does an A# smell like?

If you had an answer to any of these questions you may be a synaesthete

Which shape is named Bouba?

and…

Which one is named Kiki?

Wassily Kandinsky

Composition 8 (Komposition 8)

1923

Guggenheim Museum

Optical poems

Stuart Davis

Swing Landscape

1938

The Whitney Museum of American Art

Henri Matisse

The Codomas, from the illustrated book Jazz

1947

Art Gallery of New South Wales

We understand new concepts by comparing them to previous experiences

Neil Harbisson

visualisation of Beethoven’s Für Elise

Neil Harbisson

visualisation of Amy Winehouse’s Rehab

We understand new concepts by comparing them to previous experiences

Metaphor

Explaining one concept by comparing it to another concept

  • ARGUMENT is WAR
  • LOVE is a JOURNEY
  • TIME is MONEY
  • UP is GOOD

George Lakoff and Mark Johnson ‘Conceptual Metaphor in Everyday Language’ The Journal of Philosophy, Vol. 77 No. 8 (August, 1980), pp453-486

Metaphor

Explaining one concept by comparing it to another concept

  • ARGUMENT is DANCE
  • LOVE is MADNESS
  • BEAUTY is MONEY
  • UP is ARROGANCE

Jenny Holzer

Untitled (‘Truisms’ series, spectacolor board, Times Square)

1982

Jenny Holzer

Truisms

1978-87

Metaphor obscures certain features while amplifying others (Lakoff & Johnson, 1980).

We understand new concepts by comparing them to previous experiences

Wayne Thiebaud

24th Street Intersection

1977

Oil on canvas, 90.5 x 121.9

Rembrandt

Christ at Emmaus

1648

Louvre Museum, Paris

Henry Moore

Two Forms

1934

Pynkado wood, 27.9 x 54.6 x 30.8 cm

Museum of Modern Art, NY

Mary Cassatt

Baby John Nursing

circa 1908

pastel on canvas, 81.3 x 65.4 cm

Adolf Menzel

The Iron Rolling Mill (Modern Cyclopes)

1872 - 1875

Oil on canvas

Metaphor is what differentiates art from non-art (Graham Harman, 2019)

Graham Harman’s Art + Objects (2019)

  • Objects (O) have qualities (Q)
  • Real Objects are objects that exist that we can’t mentally represent (RO)
  • Sensual Objects are objects that we can mentally represent (SO)
  • Real Qualities are qualities of objects that we can’t mentally represent (RQ)
  • Sensual Qualities are qualities of objects that we can mentally represent (SQ)

Graham Harman’s Art + Objects (2019)

Metaphors have the same ontological status of art in that they are real (withdrawn) objects with sensuous qualities.

  • A teacher is like a candle
  • Homer’s ‘wine-dark sea’ - (Iliad, 762 BCE)

A teacher is like a candle

  • literally means: a person who teaches other people in a school is like a cylyndrical piece of wax with string inside that can carry a flame. Doesn’t actually provide any value for understanding either the teacher or the candle.

  • metaphorically means: Teachers illuminate the minds of their pupils.

A teacher is like a candle

The metaphor gives the qualities of the candle to the teacher but not the qualities of the teacher to the candle. We learn that teachers illuminate those around us, but we don’t assume that candles teach us anything, because it is assumed that we already know that they illuminate a room.

The wine-dark sea

In Homer’s Iliad (762 BCE) the sea is described as ‘wine-dark’, which has confounded readers in English, resulting in no fixed interpretation.

Harman - the metaphor provides us with sensual qualities for an object we struggle to comprehend.

Photo by Carlos Muza on Unsplash

Anna Madeleine Raupach

Controlled Burn (Canberra, Adelaide, Alice Springs: leap years since 1999)

2020

burnt matches and pencil on paper, 59.5 x 42cm each

Anna Madeleine Raupach

Controlled Burn (Canberra, Adelaide, Alice Springs: leap years since 1999)

2020

burnt matches and pencil on paper, 59.5 x 42cm each

Anna Madeleine Raupach

Controlled Burn (Canberra, Adelaide, Alice Springs: leap years since 1999)

2020

burnt matches and pencil on paper, 59.5 x 42cm each

Baden Pailthorpe

Clanger

2017

Digital video

GoPro Omni 360 video rig

Baden Pailthorpe

Progress from 3D photogrammetry of the SCG, using 360 video and standard DSLR photography.

2017

Baden Pailthorpe

Progress from 3D photogrammetry of the SCG, using 360 video and standard DSLR photography.

2017

Baden Pailthorpe

data spreadsheet for Clanger

2017

Baden Pailthorpe

Clanger (video still)

2017

Digital video

Baden Pailthorpe ANAT interview

further reading/watching

Ricardo Carioba, Digital Art For All The Senses

Baden Pailthorpe’s Synapse Blog

questions