Tuesday, 2 June 2009


Can we hear and taste the colour green? Are our landscapes maps of smell and sound?

These are questions that Raewyn Turner and Diana Burgoyne have been asking as part of their synaesthesia based collaboration Re/Sense, which was recently exhibited at the International Sinestesia Conference in Grenada

Synaesthesia is defined as an experience where one sense provokes another sense - for example seeing the colour blue and immediately associating this with a particular sound. Synaesthesia subverts sensorial categories and enriches our perception of reality in ways that are difficult to describe without resorting to flowery language and cliches. Although this phenomena has been explored by artists, perfumers and culinary practitioners throughout the ages, in recent years there has been a growth of interest within the scientific professions. This has resulted in a number of well funded trandisciplinary conferences and collaborations.

Raewyn is one of NZ's foremost interdisciplinary artists and has exhibited multi-sensory installations internationally for many years. But is was in the small city of New Plymouth that she originally conceptualised this work.

While walking around the streets and parks she photographed many different 'greens' - plants, objects etc. This digital photo collection was used to create a computerized colour palette, which was then made into a video. She then invited Diana (a Canadian electronics specialist) to collaborate with her to put sound to the pictures. Diana did this by using a sensor that is sensitive to variations in the tone and intensity within the colour palette to create a "responsive frequency generator" [not sure what this is either but sounds tricky!]. She attached her circuit sensor to the computer screen while it displayed the video and this created sounds corresponding to the differing greens. The result is an audio/visual sketch of the colour green.

Later Raewyn made a second video of Canadian greens with the idea of projecting both videos on opposite walls. The animated pallets were shown to the commercial perfumer, Louise Crouch, who offered commercial fragrances which synaesthetically match the visual green sequences. All of this work was assisted by Banff New Media Institute who provided funding for a residency and expert input from interdisciplinary group of art, media and science professionals.

For more information about Raewyn's background and work see: http://raewynturner.co.nz/

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