Clinical synesthesia is commonly defined as the experience of having perceptions in one sensory modality triggered by a stimulus from another. This paper adopts a particular orientation toward synesthesia, exploring it as a cultural phenomenon common to us all, as an ability that can be learnt instead of an accidental neurological condition. If synesthesia is both a capacity that we are not fully aware of and a way to access what is stored in memory even at the unconscious level, can art help us to bring this awareness back? Bearing upon a close reading of selected artworks created by Johannes Deutsch, a multi-media artist who has been experimenting with synesthesia, the paper argues that synesthesia can become a tool in the hands of contemporary artists to revitalize the Wagnerian ideal of a “total work of art”. This is to be understood as a politics of the senses based on communality rather than individualism, not as an ideology of totalitarian tendencies. Ultimately, the transformative potential of certain art resides in its capacity to foster a pedagogy of the image that is based upon multi-sensoriality, memory and history.
- multi-media arts
- total artwork