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CIRCA:
Your work has connected sound and visual expression through the work of people connected by daily experiences to music and instruments. What role does synesthesia play in this? Why is this concept important to you?

SOJUNG JUN:
My interest started with the question of whether the individual and unique experience of synesthesia can be shared with others. I took this question as one about art that surrounds my own creation and contemplation.

Afterwards, the synesthetic experiments in my work turned into a roundabout attempt to translate one sense into another. It is just as the process of translating a language involves a repeated cycle of laborious deviations, accompanied by metaphors, examples, and treads between understanding and misunderstanding. For my project at the Villa-Vassilieff, an Artistic Research Program in 2017, I went on a journey with my French friends, who are Korean adoptees, to put together fragments of memories that exist only through non-visual senses, wondering about the senses that ooze out through the lost cracks. Recollecting on such experiences, I’m reminded that the “synesthetic experiment, which separates and combines the senses, can sonify the invisible, visualise the inaudible, and also make it tangible.”

Synesthesia or synaesthesia is a perceptual phenomenon in which stimulation of one sensory or cognitive pathway leads to involuntary experiences in a second sensory or cognitive pathway. People who report a lifelong history of such experiences are known as synesthetes. Awareness of synesthetic perceptions varies from person to person. In one common form of synesthesia, known as grapheme–color synesthesia or color–graphemic synesthesia, letters or numbers are perceived as inherently colored. In spatial-sequence, or number form synesthesia, numbers, months of the year, or days of the week elicit precise locations in space (for example, 1980 may be "farther away" than 1990), or may appear as a three-dimensional map (clockwise or counterclockwise). Synesthetic associations can occur in any combination and any number of senses or cognitive pathways.

Sojung Jun / Pernod Ricard Fellow 2016 at Villa-Vassilieff

"In 2014, I col­lab­o­rated with a piano tuner for my work The Twelve Rooms. I used his repeated tuning sounds to create a music piece, and added a par­tic­ular color tone to the sounds. Inspired by let­ters exchanged between Wassily Kandinsky and Arnold Schoenberg, I wanted to explore more diverse phe­nomena linked to synes­thesia, beyond the color-sound rela­tions. My con­cern lied in the fun­da­mental point of how to share this spe­cial and indi­vidual expe­ri­ence deemed as a patho­log­ical or abnormal phe­nomenon, which led to curiosity in how each of the indi­vidual expe­ri­ences could be chan­neled into art­works.

The Twelve Rooms trig­gered a new cor­re­spon­dence between curator Sohyun Ahn and myself, through which we tried to unveil the secrets of synes­thesia. We notably dis­cussed graphemic synes­thesia (sensing images from alphabet shapes) in Voyelles, by poet Arthur Rimbaud; color audi­tions in Alexander Scriabin’s music piece, Promethée, Le Poème du feu; and trans­po­si­tions of forms and senses in Thomas Bernhard’s novel Alte Meister. We explored such notions as Roman Jakobson’s “metonymy”, which con­nects objects with no seeming causality by the force of dif­fer­ences; and Gilles Deleuze’s “dif­fer­ences” and “in­ten­sity”. We were inter­ested in synes­thesia as a prin­ciple for cre­ating art­works, and as a method­ology to create and appre­ciate art­works. Our set of artistic ref­er­ences trig­gered the desire for a deeper inves­ti­ga­tion into the way synes­thesia has been explored in Europe, espe­cially in France.

During an ear­lier, short stay in France in 2012, I was charmed by Louis Aragon’s novel Le Paysan de Paris. The book attempts to col­lect and give form to a changing city through indi­vidual, non-causal ele­ments. As I am cur­rently preparing a new work to pro­pose an alter­na­tive view of Seoul as phys­i­cally torn apart by neo-lib­eral devel­op­ment pro­jects nation­wide, I would like to tap onto Le Paysan de Paris and synes­thesia as cre­ative prin­ci­ples." - Sojung Jun