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?
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