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space "Art and Synesthesia:in search of the synesthetic experience" - 01.14.09 Reflection

The concept of synesthesia is very interesting. If Dr. Hugo Heyrman’s claim that the goal of all art work is to induce synesthetic experiences to its viewers and if people’s experiences of synesthesia are unique, this would mean that no two persons may experience the same art work in the same way. The thought that while a sculpture would make one person feel the sensation of cold, it would give another person the sensation of hearing a specific sound is original and crazy.

In a sense, this concept is understandable if thought of from a scientific perspective. The genetic and environmental components of an individual’s life, meaning the physiological development of his or her five senses, along with the degree of stimulation these senses have experienced throughout the individual’s lifetime can only be central to his or her synesthetic experience. It is thus possible to assume that family members, or individuals who have lived in similar environments would have somewhat resembling synesthetic experiences in response to a same stimulus.

Dr. Hugo Heyrman’s article is fascinating in that it reviews some of the greatest artists of the 20th century and discusses their opinion on synesthesia. Because each of them has created novelty and originality in their fields, whether it be sculpture, painting, photography, music or writing, it was their works of art that induced the strongest stimulatory response in their respective audiences. Through their creativity, they therefore provoked synesthetic experiences never experienced before then.

Amongst the works and artists described by Dr. Hugo Heyrman, the ones, which most fascinated me were Man Ray and Edvard Munch:

More specifically, Man Ray’s ‘Le Violon d’Ingres’ in which he chose to use two classic techniques of photography and drawing, once united turns into a surprising effect. By using Kiki’s body and transforming it into a musical instrument simply by adding two sound-box signs, Ray brings up a multitude of feelings of love, warmth, music, and life in general. These feelings are soothing, original and yet the nudity of Kiki, which may at first seem provoking, is no longer shocking in Ray’s new musical context.

Munch’s work ‘’The Scream’’ is a very powerful synesthetic piece as well, as it really plays with shapes and colors. Personally, this painting induces a feeling of warmth due to its red color scheme; the curviligne shapes along with the hot colors provoke a sensation of melting, as well as that of an endless very high pitched and high volume sound of horror and emptiness. Being able to convey so many sensations in a single painting is quite spectacular. I however agree with Munch’s statement that ‘At different moments you see with different eyes,’ and consequently that a synesthetic experience may greatly vary for a single person depending on his or her current mood.

The modern challenge of contemporary artists is to endlessly come up with the creation of new and unexpected sensations that are as unique as Magritte’s, Picasso’s, Ray’s, Munch’s or Russolo’s once were.


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