Innovation and Visualization: Trajectories, Strategies, and Myths

By Amy Ione | Go to book overview

Chapter 4
Polyphonic Chords, Chromatic Painting
and Synesthesia

In the cinema, feedback is possible almost exclusively in what I
call the synesthetic mode … Because it is entirely personal it
rests on no identifiable plot and is not probable. The viewer is
forced to create along with the film, to interpret for himself what
he is experiencing. If the information (either concept or design)
reveals some previously unrecognized aspect of the viewer’s
relation to the circumambient universe — or provides language
with which to conceptualize old realities more effectively — the
viewer re-creates that discovery along with the artist, thus feeding
back into the environment the existence of more creative
potential, which may in turn be used by the artist for messages of
still greater eloquence and perception.

Gene Youngblood, Expanded Cinema


1. Cross-modal studies of the brain

In the last chapter I suggested that one area where science has significantly updated long-standing philosophical ideas is synesthesia research. In this chapter I would like to expand further on this area. It is generally agreed that synesthesia occurs when an individual receives a stimulus in one sense modality and experiences a sensation in another. Historical difficulties of subjecting cross-modality to rigid scientific analysis led earlier commentators to cast the phenomenon in terms of abnormality, philosophy and metaphor. Clearly discernable patterns of correspondence were not obvious and attempts to study connections were stifled by the contradictory historical data, which was comprised of lists of stimuli and synesthetic responses. For example, accounts such as those attributed to Scriabin and RimskyKorsakov equated colors with given musical notes and keys. (e.g. see Cytowic 1983; Harrison 2001). Yet, reportedly, Scriabin claimed the key of C-Minor was red, while Rimsky-Korsakov perceived it as white (Harrison 2001).

The confusing and haphazard historical records are now being revisited as researchers design studies capable of examining cross

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