Synesthesia as an exception to the Metaphor — an

Synesthesia as an exception to the
Paul Wagner und Karina Bruckner
Metaphor — an accompanying
Praterstraße Berlin
Praterstraße Berlin
Straßburger Str. 6-8
10405 Berlin
Praterstraße Berlin
idea or towards sympathy
Synesthesia as an exception to the
Metaphor – an accompanying idea or
towards sympathy.
This exhibition is not strictly interested in the psychological research of synesthesia, but rather in its discovery through art. Romantic and Symbolist poetry elevated synesthesia to a principle of style,
in so far that through it, the belief in the unison of soul and earth
found an adequate means of expression.2 One saw in this literary
method the possibility of enhancing poetic expression. “Already in
ancient mythology and religion of the Orient, in medieval literature, in
the Renaissance and Baroque periods, synesthesia played an important role as a stylistic device: in the topos of the songs of the spheres,
in which the order of the cosmos is to be heard, with the description
of mystical ecstasy or the portrayal of paradise as a place of the highest pleasures, synesthesia serves as a visualisation of transcendental
experiences.”3 In contrast to this, literary criticism of the 19th century
condemned the stylistic device of synesthesia on grounds of its steering towards subjectivism.
Vladimir Nabokov describes in his autobiography Erinnerung,
sprich the discovery as a child of the sensation of audition coloreé.
1 J. Millet: Audition colorée, Paris 1892
2 A. von der Lühe: Historisches Wörterbuch der Philosophie, Basel 1998
3 A. Wellek: Das Farbenhören im Lichte der vergleich. Musikwiss. Urgeschichte des Doppel­
empfindens im Geistesleben der Orientalen. Z. Musikwiss. in: A. von der Lühe:
Historisches Wörterbuch der Philosophie, Basel 1998
In 19th century psychological research the term ‘synesthesia’
described a pathological syndrome, in which a sensory impression
occurred coupled with one or more sensations, the so-called ‘sensations associées’. The most commonly observed case was that of the
connection between hearing and sight, the ‘audition colorée’1. This
phenomenon was empirically researched, defined and presented in
an aesthetically scientific form. From this it was possible to see to
what extent; colour visualisation of numbers is congruent, it is true
more often in women than in men, or that artists are, supposedly, in
statistical terms thirty times more likely to be affected.
Between the evasion of the understanding of sensory perception as a cognitive instrument, and the contrasting idea of a greater
whole, lies a fascination with the subjective links, which both opposite poles attest and subvert. When Nabokov describes: “that the word
for rainbow, a primary, even a resolutely impure rainbow, is in my
private language the barely pronounceable kzspygv.”5, he ends a long
list of colour values in his audition colorée. Even though he assumes
a visual image of the rainbow, this sentence is worthy of note for
its conscious blending, or at least its lack of separation of the word
rainbow and its form. Nabokov speaks of a form of reversed image
production, which deprives language of its basis, but at the same
time gives it back.6
This exhibition creates a situation in which art is an encompassing element of life. The selection of works focus on production processes, which are reflexive, yet not however, descriptive or didactic;
and which consciously pursue ideas, but without the intention of
explaining them. They are works whose readings initially develop in
the form of an analysis of shapes, colours and materials and their
correspondence. With a specific handling of these surfaces, which
become visible through their arbitrary precision of shape sensations,
they emerge from the fascination with perception and their subjective blurring.
Paul Wagner and Karina Bruckner, February 2012
4 Vladimir Nabakov: Erinnerung, sprich, Hamburg 2009
5 ibid. pg. 41
6 Vgl.: Henri Bergson fasst den Begriff der „Intuition“ im Sinne einer „[...] Sympathie, aufgrund derer man
sich in das Cf.: Henri Bergson expresses the term of “Intuition” in the sense of a “[…]sympathy by virtue
of placing oneself at the inner core of an object, in order to be at one with its unique and therefore indescribable character.” Henri Bergson: Die philosophische Intuition (1911) in: Denken und schöpferisches
Werden. Aufsätze und Vorträge, Frankfurt/Main 1985
His interest is in the phenomenon rather than in the expression of
transcendental unison: “Hearing is perhaps not the best word, as the
sensation of colour seems to be evoked, so that as I form the letter
with my mouth, at the same time I imagine its outline. The long ‘a’ in
the English alphabet has for me the colour of weathered wood, whilst
the French ‘a’ reminds me of polished ebony.”4