Art and Synaesthesia

Art in Conversation seminars on synaesthesia in art

In collaboration with The International Association of Synaesthetes, Artists, and Scientists, ArC is organizing a special issue on synaesthesia in art. We will be hosting art practitioners with synaesthetic experience in conversation with academics.

Co-organizers: Anton-Sidoroff-Dorso (IASAS, HDR Macquarie University), Marina Iosifian (University of St Andrews)

Seminar 1: Cinema

20th of September 2023, from 3:30 pm to 5:00 pm UK time

The seminar delves into the impact of synesthesia on the world of cinema. We will examine how the fusion of visual elements with other sensory dimensions molds our cinematic encounters. Furthermore, we will delve into how synesthesia serves to shape creativity within the realm of filmmaking.

Introductory word by Sean A. Day, Ph.D., Department of Behavioral and Social Sciences, Trident Technical College President, International Association of Synaesthetes, Artists, and Scientists (IASAS)


John Brown – documentary cameraman, director, and stills photographer, Oxfordshire, UK

Georgina Evans – PhD, College Lecturer, Faculty of Modern & Medieval Languages and Linguistics, University of Cambridge, UK

Seminar 2: Perfumery

18th of October 2023, from 9pm to 10:30pm UK time

The seminar delves into the influence of synesthetic experiences on the art of perfumery. Can a fragrance authentically recreate the sensation of a crossroads between various senses? Could synesthesia serve as a valuable tool for perfumers in the creation of innovative fragrances?


Dawn Goldworm – Scent Designer, Cofounder of 12.29 & Scent for Good

Anina Rich – Professor, School of Psychological Sciences, Macquarie University

Avery Gilbert – PhD, author, founder of Headspace Sensory LLC

Odor-linked perceptions of color and sound are common and evocative.Perfumers use them to memorize ingredients and create finishedfragrances. The public’s equally synaesthetic perception of a perfumemay differ from the creator’s, creating an apparent paradox. However,odor-color linkages are related sensory dimensions, not haphazardassociations, and can be used to reinforce consumer communications.Olfactory synaesthesia appears to be a holistic, RH-based mode ofperception, and does not lend itself well to analytic, reductioniststyle of the LH. When designing and marketing perfumes, olfactory-basedsensory correlations are most effective when anchored to concreteconcepts and objects.”

Dr Avery Gilbert

Seminar 3: Design

25th of October 2023, from 3:30pm to 5pm UK time

The seminar delves into the realm of synesthetic design, a field that systematically incorporates all five senses into product development. How can the principles of multisensory perception be effectively integrated into the process of product design?


Michael Haverkamp – PhD, consultant, lecturer and author on cross-sensory design and acoustics

Ladan Shams –  Professor of Psychology, BioEngineering, and Neuroscience, UCLA

Nicolas Rothen – professor of psychology at UniDistance Suisse, Brig, Switzerland

When I started to evaluate the potential of synaesthetic perception for design purposes, I became aware that this can only be possible if both individual and common cross-sensory connections are considered. Therefore, I summarized the main perceptual strategies connecting the senses into a clear schema, including intentional construction as used for multimedia arts. This schema has proven over 20 years to be essential for multis-sensory analysis of sound as well as for all kind of product design and multimedia arts. I first presented it in 2002 with conference papers. First English presentation at the 1st International Conference on Synaesthesia, Hannover, 2003; first journal publication for multisensory analysis of soundscapes in 2010 (Noise Control Eng. J.58(5)). My handbook Synesthetic Design was published in German in 2009, a reworked English version was issued in 2013. In this year, I started to lead a work group for method development for multisensory design at Ford development centre in Cologne. We developed numerous methods for optimization of functional sound, perception of surfaces and control elements, and material selection. It is essential to use methods for perceptual evaluation with all senses applied and for selected senses. Within the human perceptual system, various cross-sensory connections act in parallel. Genuine synaesthesia is seen as an additional pathway. Accordingly, design needs to facilitate various connection strategies in parallel. In case that genuine synaesthesia provides essential elements for design (e. g. shape of a button according to it’s click sound), plausibility for common perception needs verification. Vice versa, genuine synaesthesia can add exciting features to a given configuration based on common cross-sensory connections.”

Michael Haverkamp

Seminar 4: Literature

8th of November 2023, from 3:30pm to 5pm UK time

The seminar delves into the role of synesthesia in the creation and perception of literary fiction. How do the author’s personal synesthetic experiences influence their writing? Additionally, how does literary fiction effectively engage with various sensory modalities?


Jane Yardley – writer, PhD, author of Painting Ruby Tuesday, Rainy Day Women, A Saucerful of Secrets, Dancing with Dr Kildare.

Bodo Winter – Associate Professor in Cognitive Linguistics, University of Birmingham

Patricia Lynne Duffy – researcher in synaesthesia, author of Blue Cats and Chartreuse Kittens: How Synesthetes Color Their Worlds; contributor of chapter, “Synesthesia and Literature”, Oxford Handbook of Synesthesia; regular contributor to JTTS online mag; instructor, United Nations Language and Communications section.

Within linguistics and the cognitive sciences, language has traditionally been studied as an abstract symbol system, devoid of anything sensory and bodily. This view has radically changed over the last few decades, with more and more researchers discovering that language is deeply connected to the sensory worlds we live in. In this talk, I will discuss new research on sensory adjectives and how they are used in expressions commonly called, “linguistic synesthesia”. Examples of this phenomenon are the expressions “smooth melody”, “rough sound” or “loud color”, which blend words associated with different modalities. Such expressions are used to overcome the ineffability of the senses: if it is hard to talk about sensory impressions using words from a specific sensory modality, words belonging to other senses can step in. I will also highlight the critical role iconicity and onomatopoeia — the resemblance between form and meaning – play in communicating sensory concepts, especially those pertaining to touch and sound. A theoretical question that I will touch on is whether any of these linguistic phenomena are actually related to synesthesia proper, or whether the concept of “crossmodal correspondence”, in contrast to synesthesia shared by the wider population, may be the more appropriate reference construct.”

Bodo Winter

Seminar 5: Music

22nd of November 2023, from 3:30pm to 5pm UK time

The seminar delves into the role of synesthesia in both creating and perceiving music. Can music captivate not only auditory perception but also the senses of taste, touch, vision, and smell? How do the author’s personal synesthetic experiences influence the creation of music?


Jenny Chai – pianist in contemporary piano music, Doctor of Musical Arts

Solange Glasser – PhD, Senior Lecturer in Music (Music Psychology), University of Melbourne

Seminar 6: Visual arts

29th of November 2023, from 3:30pm to 5pm UK time

Can visual art translate non-visual sensations onto the canvas? We will discuss how artists experiment with and explore the integration of senses, using synesthetic experiences to visualize how we perceive time, numbers, and letters.

Concluding remarks by Carolyn ‘CC’ Hart, founding member and Secretary of the International Association of Synaesthetes, Artists, and Scientists; synesthete artist, author and neurodiversity advocate


Daniel Mullen – Scottish Artist, painter based in Amsterdam

Lucy Engelman  – artist, filmmaker, and synesthete

Dasha Pears – visual artist, photographer based in Helsinki, Finland

Michael Banissy – Professor, Head of School of Psychological Science, University of Bristol

Seminar 7: Cuisine

17th of January 2024, from 3:30pm to 5pm UK time

The seminar will delve into the concept of taste as a multisensory experience. How does the interplay of multiple senses impact our experience of eating and drinking? Furthermore, how do modern chefs engage in experimental approaches with synesthetic flavors?


Gabriela Ruiz Lugo – chef and restaurant owner, named the best chef in Mexico by the Mexican Gastronomic Council.

James Wannerton – artist and writer, President of the UK Synaesthesia Association

Qian Janice Wang – Associate Professor of Consumer Psychology at the University of Copenhagen

Concluding word by Carolyn CC Hart, IASAS Secretary