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‘Cognition is beautiful’: Touching the Rock and Notes on Blindness, from Synaesthetic Reconfigurations to Aesthetic Impropriety

Abstract : At first sight synaesthesia appears as a rather counter-intuitive concept through which to apprehend John Hull’s Touching the Rock, and Spinney and Middleton’s adaptation of it into a documentary film and VR experiment entitled Notes on Blindness. Synaesthesia and visual impairment seem hardly compatible: while any operative definition of the former suggests that it proceeds from an excess of qualia, the latter is defined by the lack of – in this case, the loss of – sensory data. To make things worse, sight is the sense most commonly associated with synaesthesia. Beyond the intellectual conundrum that they produce, these inconsistencies clearly point to the ethical and political stakes of our undertaking. Taking blindness to question synaesthesia, or vice versa, might it be appropriating a singular, absolutely non-visual experience of being in the world, and forcing it into patterns of cross-modality that usually involve sight? Yet what emerges from the multimodal analysis of Touching the Rock and Notes on Blindness is that blindness and synaesthesia do speak to each other. Confronting us with non-standard and cross-modal patterns of perception, cognition and expression, they challenge the order of a disciplined sensorium. By questioning our ocularcentrism and sighted normativity, blindness shows that synaesthesia isn’t mainly a matter of singularity, but runs through collective structures of intersensoriality – and that as such it is meant to be a disruptive tool within the distribution of the sensible. Conversely, by integrating ways of knowing and perceiving, synaesthesia shows that blindness cannot be defined by the lack that sighted culture presupposes – that it embodies overlooked ways of sensing and making sense of the world.
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https://hal.univ-lorraine.fr/hal-02952454
Contributor : Diane Leblond <>
Submitted on : Tuesday, September 29, 2020 - 1:17:10 PM
Last modification on : Wednesday, October 14, 2020 - 4:13:50 AM

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Diane Leblond. ‘Cognition is beautiful’: Touching the Rock and Notes on Blindness, from Synaesthetic Reconfigurations to Aesthetic Impropriety. ‘The eye of man hath not heard, the ear of man hath not seen’: Synaesthetic Border Crossings, Catherine Lanone, Alexandra Poulain. PRISMES, Université Sorbonne Nouvelle - Paris 3., Jan 2018, Paris, France. ⟨hal-02952454⟩

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