Selected for Digital Synesthesia

February 18, 2015

We are really pleased to have been selected for the group exhibition Digital Synesthesia. This transdisciplinary group has been developed  in Vienna by Katharina Gsöllpointner (media theoretician), Ruth Schnell (artist), Romana Schuler (art historian) and artists Jeffrey Shaw and Peter Weibel.

For this research project we have developed transmission+interference into a gallery based installation exploring ideas around sound, light, text, transmission and interference. Below is a copy of the initial proposal for the exhibition and there will be more updates as the project and research develops through group workshops with the other participating artists.

Project Proposal

[…] we can scarcely imagine a time when there did not exist a necessity, or at least a desire, of transmitting information from one individual to another, in such a manner as to elude general comprehension […]

[Poe, E. A, ‘A Few Words on Secret Writing’, 1841]

This project proposal is developed from the transmission+interference project by David Strang and Vincent Van Uffelen. The project explores the music / sound potential of using light as both creator and transmitter of sound and actively moves away from creating visualisations of sound towards an audio visual experience based on resonance and feedback loops between light and sound.

We propose for the Digital Synesthesia exhibition to create an interactive physical installation that explores the potential for using digital devices to create a synesthetic communication system. The installation draws on the different experiences of synesthetes and uses this to explore a messy and playful way of communication that could occur. Using digital protocols of ASCII, MIDI and frequency conversion we aim to encode letters into a combination of a light colour and a sound frequency (e.g. “A” would be transmitted as yellow light and a 60 Hz sine wave) allowing a simulated synesthete to decode the text that has been transmitted through space. However, to reach closer to a synesthetic communication process the classic Transmitter -> Receiver pattern needs to be expanded by a multi-modal crossover mimicking a synaesthetes’ unique experience of light and sound.


The transmitter stage plays with notions of secrecy and paranoia in the digital age by ‘hiding’ the text as sound within light waves and transmits this through space via amplitude modulation. This practice of steganography playfully interacts with the synesthetic experience – one (steganography) has a sound signal radiating within its light waves only to be discovered and decoded by other technology and the other (synesthesia) has a sound signal embedded in the neuronal crossover of an individual synesthete viewing the coloured light. The multi-modal module then allows us to unpack the sound that is hidden in the transmitted light. Only after this stage will the visitor be able to experience light and sound and therefore relate to the expanded sensations of a synesthete. In accordance to the fact that every synesthete has an individual experience, the multi-modal module can be tweaked by the visitors to change the pitch of the unpacked audio frequency to match their own experience of colour to sound synesthesia.

The installation will consist of a mixture of both analog and digital technologies to communicate the text and will, therefore, explore aspects of noise, interference and glitch that is a natural occurrence within such a communication system. Ambient light and sound and the movement of people throughout the installation space will impact on the accuracy of the communication – can the intended message ever be correctly received? This relates to Shannon and Weaver’s ‘Mathematical Theory of Communication’ [1948] and thoughts about communicating in a post-digital era where error and glitch are common artefacts when working with digital technology. [Cascone, K. 2004]