Synesthesia and pushing perspectives

Imagine the creative possibility in hearing colour or seeing sound - a world where angry skies and tasteless art become literal. This is Synesthesia.

By: Amie Knights,   3 minutes


The creative world talks a lot about thinking differently. Whether it’s conjuring innovative ways of creating content, concocting typefaces that set other designers agog or taking a joltingly original stance on productivity; being creative has its roots in difference.

I’ve been pondering this for a while and as my Feed day rolled around I decided to take a two-way approach to the curiosity of difference. One very literal. The other decidedly more metaphorical.

Firstly I literally leaped into a different perspective as a took to the ocean with a scuba instructor, a GoPro and very little photographic talent.  Wading in, fully prepped on the dos and don’ts, I lowered my mask to take my first dip…and broke the mouth piece. So much for deep water snaps of low lying, colour-blazoned fish.  So ultimately I spent a lot of time flailing around holding my breath, dunking my head and inevitably being pulled back up to the surface by the buoyancy of my wetsuit. But all was not lost.


Something about the water blocked ears and the echo of waves and voices and wind had me feeling at odds with the world. Holding my breath and lying face down on the surface with my ears half way out/ half way in the water, I could have been anywhere and nowhere. There was something beautiful in that. I felt inspired. And though I can’t claim to have entirely captured this feeling in my photographs – all sorts of buttons were pressed, most of them wrong – I certainly felt a displacement, a difference. And my mind lapped like the ocean on the shore around what it must be like to live in this space of difference. To be always half way between one world and another, like the bubbles on the underside of the surface.

With that I fell back to a memory of a friend discussing his dissertation. He was creating his final piece around a condition which to me was down right dumbfounding. In essence it is a mis-configured wiring of the senses, where people quite literally experience things differently.  It’s called Synesthesia.

I read that Synesthetics experience the world in metaphor: hearing colour or seeing sound, they’re in a world where tasting the rainbow, angry skies and tasteless art become literal. Whilst attempting to stretch my mind around this idea, it occurred to me that this was a creative minefield. Just imagine the possibilities it possesses for artists, designers, writers. It’s so wildly unfathomable. And if there’s something creative people love it’s the unbelievable.

At the next full stop, I took a tangent towards creative works being produced around other conditions like Synesthesia. It was a pretty fruitful forage. One of the things that caught my eye was Band of Artists: translating Tourette’s into artistry.

Creating interdisciplinary art pieces, The Band of Artists talks about the struggle of carving out an identity from within the confines of predisposed ideas cast upon people with Tourettes. They’re using art to express themselves and project awareness about the condition.

I also loved the work produced by Unlimited – a group of disabled performers and artists:

But what I found really interesting is when the artist is outside of the condition. When the creative work is an exploration into what it might be like. It’s putting on your neighbour’s shoes and trying to capture an ounce of understanding in a wholly indulged way. It was around this time that I discovered Digital Synesthesia: a kaleidoscope of pieces aimed at letting the public in on the metaphorical world Synesthesia shapes. And the art was produced by non-Synesthetics.

This Feed instilled in me an assurance that within difference exists possibility.  In something which can so easily be hushed up or hyped up out of all proportion, art and creativity finds opportunity. Nice eh?


Some related reading:

Find out more about Unlimited

Discover what The Telegraph had to say about the man who heard his paintbox hiss

Follow Pitchfork as it poses the question: What the hell is Synesthesia and why does every musician seem to have it?

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