A sculpture that brings to mind personification synaesthesia – Level Best by Amy Podmore

Link to someone else’s photo of the sculpture Level Best by Amy Podmore at Flickr, which was displayed at Sculpture by the Sea at Cottesloe in 2011

2011 wasn’t my fave year for the Sculpture by the Sea (I’ve never missed a year), but this piece bought a smile to my face. Would you call it Surrealist? Whimsical? I don’t know much about art, but I do know what I like. The half-object, half-person Level Best felt as though it was pushing an unconscious perception to the point of absurdity. Almost believable and slightly alarming.

Ordinal-linguistic personification (OLP) is a harmless psychological phenomenon in which some people associate personal characteristics with numbers and letters of the alphabet. Like some other types of synaesthesisia it dates back to early childhood, it involves illogical but fixed associations between individual concepts from different sets of two different types of concept, it is involuntary and it is not intentional. I think it is generally agreed among synesthesia researchers that OLP is a type of synaesthesia. I have OLP and many other types of synaesthesia. The letter Y is male, yellow and cheerful, in my mind. The idiosyncratic and involuntary personification of things that aren’t people appears to not be limited to concepts such as numbers and letters. Some synaesthetes report a sensation of personal characteristics in everyday inanimate objects such as pot plants, vegetables and cutlery. I’m sure these people aren’t mad. I’m pretty sure that they don’t actually believe that their household bric-a-brac have lives and feelings and gender identities. I fully understand that letters aren’t alive, and I’m sure that other personifying synaesthetes also have a sure grasp on reality, but all the same the idea does sound more than a little bit flakey, like an old lady holding a tea party for her pets. I privately scoffed at my quaint fellow synaesthetes gifted with the ability to discern the gender of a Bromeliad or a Hoya. Then one day I chanced upon a discussion between synaesthetes about the sexes and ages of different types of cutlery. A crazy idea for sure, but the suggestion that a fork could be male just didn’t feel right. A fork has such an elegantly rounded shape. No way could a fork be male, when it is self-evidently female! Forks always have been women (?) and knives men (!) for as long as I remember. It’s a self-evident truth, but also utterly irrational and nonsensical. Sounds like synaesthesia.

Sculpture by the Sea 2012 at Cottesloe Beach starts today. I can’t wait!

Sculpture by the Sea http://www.sculpturebythesea.com/Home.aspx

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