Tag Archives: Art

Sound married to vision is the completely normal and sometimes entertaining way of perceiving the world

I’ve got to laugh on the odd time that I read a description of synaesthesia that makes it sound like some kind of mental disorder or abnormality of sensory perception. Sure enough, synaesthesia concurrents are perceptions of sensory experiences that are not triggered by things happening outside of the mind. They are experiences (not always sensory) triggered by activity happening within the mind (just like the meanderings of your normal constant train of thought). A synaesthete can experience sound as a synaesthesia concurrent triggered by a visual experience (the synaesthesia inducer), and might also experience a visual concurrent triggered by a sound inducer. Coloured music and visual animations that make sound are commonly-reported experiences in people who are, to borrow a phrase from Galton, “sane persons”. It might sound psychedelic to a non-synaesthete, but it is not far at all from normal perception, because life is full of events in which movement or some other visual stimuli is accompanied by a sound sensory stimuli: clapping hands, wind that rustles leaves, lips that speak, impacts that bang, or an explosion that is huge visually, sonically and physically. This pairing of sound and sight is so much a part of normal perception (in humans and other creatures) that it is commonly exploited in live entertainment.

I’ve had the opportunity to work in the past in the live entertainment industry and I also recently enjoyed the rehearsals of the Arcadia musical and special effects spectacular show currently at Elizabeth Quay in Perth. I know that there is a most startling loud roaring sound through the stage speakers that is typically created to coincide with a visual effect of an explosion of flames. It’s like some bloke presses a button somewhere and all hell breaks loose for a second or two. Arcadia uses this flame-roar sound to add sonic spectacle to the flame-thrower, and in the past while working I’ve also heard that sound used in complete isolation from music in a sound check of another spectacular stage show. At the risk of ruining the magic, I’m revealing that the sound that goes with the flames is an artistic artifice. I guess that any real sound that the flame effect makes has been judged to be not sufficiently loud and spectacular enough, and a suitably awesome sound (a recording of what I can only guess) was created to go along with the visual effect of flames from hell. I think this shows just how important crossmodal experiences are to live entertainment shows that are based on spectacular sensory experiences. The sound must equal the visual spectacle.

There are also many other ways in which sound and sight are linked in stage shows and special effects in entertainment. Musicolour lighting effects have been around since my Dad created disco equipment in our lounge using it back in the 1970s, and similar but much more developed lighting effects can be seen in the body of the Arcadia spider. Technology is not always required to artificially marry lighting and sound, as the amazing red and blue man electricity show features electrical discharges that look like tamed lightning that naturally give off a crackling sound along with the white light. But then again, I’m now wondering whether that sound is for real. Anyway, it’s wonderful, mad, sensory fun. I love it!

Postscript January 2017

I think the phenomenon of “quiet fireworks” adds more support to my point that spectacular public entertainment special effects often include the deliberate timing of sound and visual effects to happen at the same time to create a form of artistic synaesthesia, because while fireworks typically have bangs and flashes at the same time, the bang part of the spectacle is not essential or inseparable.

Arcadia Spider

Red man and blue man

Flaming Spider

This bloke is the real thing

I’m amazed by two aspects of this interesting news story about an international competition run by the highly original author Douglas Coupland to find the world’s closest lookalike to the late great epileptic painter Vincent van Gogh. I’m amazed at how closely the British actor Daniel Baker in the photo shown visually resembles van Gogh in his face but also in so many other distinctive visible features. I can’t help wondering how closely the British man is like the legendary artist in his personality, talents and behaviour, if at all, and I’m also left wondering how far back the two might be related (all humans are related if you go back far enough), but all that is of course none of my business. This super-recognizer gives her seal of approval to the idea that Baker looks a heck of a lot like van Gogh. I am truly impressed, because I usually find celebrity lookalikes and lookalike competitions to be laughable due to the glaring differences between the faces of the “lookalike” and the real celebrity.

The other thing that I’m amazed about is the fact that all those other pictured men thought themselves as possible winners of the competition, when so many don’t really have faces or heads that look much like self-portraits of the artist (which we can assume were good likenesses). Being a van Gogh double requires more than having short ginger hair and beard and being a white man of similar age, with an intense look on your face. The face is the thing, and the shape of the head, the shape of the hairline and also the shape of the natural beardline, even the shape of the outline and the inner lines and the size of your ears (which may number one or two). I think it is interesting that it appears that the winner of the competition was not self-selected. It shows how little judgement some people apparently have into how visually close in resemblance one person is to another, which I guess is the result in a spectrum of person visual recognition ability.

I’m going to be really annoyed if in his acting career Baker never gets the chance to play van Gogh. It would be such a waste!

Van Gogh lookalike competition won by Dorset man. BBC News. November 25th 2016.

http://www.bbc.com/news/uk-england-dorset-38101522

 

Sounds like synaesthesia in an arts event

Seeing Sound

Kaleidoscope Festival

Joondalup 

November 2016

http://www.kaleidoscopefestival.com.au/music/seeing-sound

 

Visual art to sound synaesthesia evoked by section of art in video of work of Elliott Numskull and Beastman

It made a rhythmic sound. Do you hear it?

Foundry Brooke Street Pier Campus  https://youtu.be/jpJdPR-0RN4

Interesting

This story about “information artist” Heather Dewey-Hagborg  creating art (face) portraits made based on genetic information from strangers is not new, but it is new to me and I think interesting

http://youtu.be/IIh9X-EZsjI

http://youtu.be/666Kq95xm1o

http://www.newscientist.com/article/dn23677-artworks-highlight-legal-debate-over-abandoned-dna.html#.VP0QMvmUd8E

http://youtu.be/j2SjNSlRbvM

Synaesthesia-related current and upcoming arts events in Australia

MONA in Tasmania will be revisiting the theme of synaesthesia in Synaesthesia+, a musical, visual and gustatory festival of the psychological phenomenon. It is happening this weekend and tickets will set you back quite a lot.

In Perth, Western Australia PICA have been hosting an exhibition of sound art, What I See When I Look at Sound, featuring the works of artists Lyndon Blue, Lauren Brown, Matthew Gingold, Cat Hope and Kynan Tan. This show will be on until the end of this month and it is free, or at least we didn’t get charged when we went to look and listen to it a while ago.

You might think from considering the title of the exhibition that it might have the theme of synaesthesia, and indeed the works are described each as a “synaesthetic offering”, but actually I believe that the theme of the exhibition, “the relationship between looking and hearing” is actually about binding, which is a broader term that can encompass normal or average sensory perception and also some types of synaesthesia that are similar to or more consciously-experienced variants of normal mental sensory perception. I think this exhibition is about binding more than it is about synaesthesia. If a multi-sensory arts event was “about synaesthesia” I’d expect to see lots of colour and hear music and maybe see or feel letters of the alphabet, or see calendars suspended in space, and maybe even experience smells and flavours. I might look at a “synaesthesia art” painting and as a direct result “feel” motion or “hear” rhythms.The painting Upward by synaesthete artist Vassily Kandinskii or the painting Broadway Boogie Woogie by probable synaesthete artist Piet Mondrian are both pretty clear examples of what I mean by synaesthesia art. I have written about both artists previously in posts at this blog.

Binding is a term used in psychology, the philosophy of mind, neuroscience and cognitive science. It is certainly related to synaesthesia and is central to scientific understanding of synaesthesia as a phenomenon in neuroscience, but it isn’t the same thing. As far as I understand binding is about the perception of the many different sensory characteristics of an object or an event as a unified thing or event. A clear example would be the installation Filament Orkestra by Matthew Gingold. It grabs and holds attention and causes reflection even though the idea is no more complicated than (simple) sound and (plain white) light being presented (or not presented) both at the same points in time. I found the effect to be quite reminiscent of flamenco dancing and tap dancing, which I guess shows how the sensory binding of sight and sound is an engaging effect that is used in a diverse range of art forms, high arts and popular arts, modern and traditional, even including firework displays. Have you ever had the experience of viewing from an elevated location a fireworks display that is happening a distance away, and the wind is blowing in such a direction that the sound waves never reach where you are standing, so that the sight has no soundtrack? It’s the strangest thing to see (and not hear).

According to some online festival programs, tomorrow (Saturday August 16th 2014), as a part of the Perth Science Festival which is a part of National Science Week there will be a free event in the Central Galleries at PICA titled Sounds Symbols and Science at 1.00pm, which will be “a special live concert of “Cat Hope’s End of Abe Sade in the What I See When I Look at Sound exhibition”” and this will somehow involve digital graphic notation, which is a concept that very much overlaps with many synaesthetes’ experiences of listening to music, including my own at times, so I’m happy to categorize this planned event as synaesthetic, which is more than enough to provoke my curiosity.

http://www.pica.org.au/view/Sounds%2C+Symbols+and+Science/1891/

https://www.facebook.com/events/686307634740051/

http://www.scienceweek.net.au/perth-science-festival/

http://www.scitech.org.au/events/1583-perth-science-festival

Synaesthesia on Radio National

Synaesthesia festival at MONABooks and Arts Daily. Radio National. August 15th 2014.

Brian Ritchie, Violent Femmes bassist and co-artisitic director of Synaesthesia, the music festival at MONA interviewed by Michael Cathcart this morning.

The Music Show. Radio National. 16 August 2014.

Tomorrow Andrew Ford will be talking with the co-artistic director of the Synaesthesia+ weekend arts festival at MONA Brian Ritchie and composer Matthew Hindson. MONA stands for the Museum of Old and New Art and MONA is in Hobart, Tasmania, Australia.

More strong colours and psychedelic faces – just what I like

Street art mural by Vans the Omega and Beastman at 140 at the Wellington Street end

Mural by Beastman and Vans the Omega at 140 on Wellington Street in Perth

Omega and Beastman

mural by Beastman and Vans the Omega and skyscraper at 140 in Perth

blue and green view from the Wellington Street end of one40william in Perth

Last time I checked this new collaborative artwork by Vans the Omega from Adelaide and Beastman from Sydney was mostly obscured by construction in progress. In keeping with their established style which can be viewed in their earlier mural in a Murray Street carpark, there are plenty of faces and colours and swirly-whirly bits in this new piece. Love it.

 

 

Links:
http://www.form.net.au/2014/07/beastman-vans-the-omega-at-140/
http://visitperthcity.com/news/beastman-vans-omega-140

 

 

 

 

Not just faces

There I was last night watching the Rocky Horror Picture Show with one of our kids who was viewing it for the first time (and was predictably an instant fan), and I was impressed by what I thought were similarities between the “Expert” character played by the late English actor Charles Gray and the European-raised Gilbert Proesch, who is one half of the two-man art phenomenon Gilbert and George. I felt there was such a similarity that I wondered if the artist had done an acting role, and they were the same person, but at the same time I knew that one has a very asymmetric face and the other didn’t. I still felt that there is some similarity, but wasn’t sure exactly what or how. Now that I’ve been able to Google up some images of the faces of both men, it is clear that their faces in still photography look quite different, and it is also obvious that although the artist has lived in England for a long time, he retains an exotic European accent that is quite different to the English actor’s. So why do I still feel that there is some similarity? Clearly it isn’t face or accent matching. Perhaps their voices are similar in pitch or something, but I think what I’ve been doing is recognition of personas or personalities or characters. The characters portrayed by Gray and Proesch (Gilbert and George are an act, though probably close to reality) are similar in many ways. They are English gents wearing suits with gray hair of a similar style, of a similar age (in the films I’ve viewed of each), with personalities that are male, quite handsome, well-spoken, urbane, controlled and focused, culturally English, intellectual, interesting and authoritative in some way, but at the same time both operating within the shock-comedy-art genre (Gilbert and George’s interviews are often very funny and their art could be interpreted as shock-comedy-art). I think it is possible that their body language and/or voices might be quite similar, which might not be captured in still images.

What does this mean? Why does this matter? I think it shows that there’s much more to being a super-recognizer (as I apparently am according to numerous test results) than merely memorizing the shapes and contours of mental images of faces. I think the thing that gives me “the edge” in face recognition is a great memory for personality or character, which means being able to automatically encode in my brain the whole package of what makes a person; face, hair, body, culture, gender, personality, level of intellect, vocabulary, race, etc. I’m certain that this ability in memorization of the whole person is related the the fact that I’m a synaesthete with a hyper-connected brain, which may well mean that I’m better than others at memorizing a concept of one particular person consisting of a large number of traits of that person, including visual, conceptual and auditory information (face, personality, voice etc) and each of those traits things that they might have in common with any number of other people I’ve seen and memorized. As you should be able to see (in your mind’s eye), this type of memorization is like a huge and complex network of associations. I suspect that a hyper-connected brain might be good at handling this type of categorical thinking about disparate characteristics. I also think this type of personality recognition is related to the fact that I’m not only a synesthete but a personifying synaesthete. Ever since childhood I’ve automatically thought of numbers and letters as having human attributes such as ages and genders and personalities. This is called ordinal-linguistic personification, and it is a type of synaesthesia. I guess my brain has always been very keen to memorize personalities, even in things that aren’t actually people. If you want to fully understand superiority in face recognition, you will need to look at synaesthesia and personification. That is my tip to researchers and that is also MY idea.

 

I must look, my fusiform gyrus tells me so

Street art by Beastman and Vans the Omega

a section of a wall mural by Vans the Omega and Beastman in Perth

We had the pleasure of watching street art being created for the Public street art festival in Perth, Western Australia by Form last weekend. The smell of spraycan paint wasn’t so great but it was a feast for the eyes and the ears, with a boom-box blasting away in the carpark on Murray Street. While we weren’t there in time to see the piece of art partly shown in the photo below, which is I believe the creation of the Sydney artist Beastman and Adelaide-based artist Vans the Omega, I found it hard to take my eyes away from the mural. I’m a sucker for colour, I just can’t get enough of it, and nothing commands attention like saturated colours outlined in black. I suspect that the pleasure that I get from colour could be explained by the blessings of normal colour vision in the eye (cone cells in the eye normal and working) and a well-developed and well-connected fusiform gyrus, which is the area of the brain that processes faces and numbers and letters and colours and other wonderful visual experiences. This artwork certainly gave my fusiform gyrus a few things to think about, because in addition to colour perception it triggered a bit of visual recognition, because I am sure I’ve seen an image quite similar to the section photographed in some other artwork, perhaps something from the Fin de siècle? In my time I’ve looked at a lot of Symbolist and decadent art and the other art movements from the late 1800s. Of course, the other brain phenomenon triggered by this art is pareidolia, and I can see that this is an aspect of visual perception that Beastman loves to play around with, eyes and hidden faces and symmetrical designs being recurring themes in his work. On top of that my brain is also prompted to some recognition of facial expressions, because that nearly-hidden face is a grumpy one, if I’ve read it right. There’s a lot to just looking, when the art is designed to appeal to human psychology.