Iris Of The Rainbow
Most people experience the sensory world as a place of orderly segregation. Sight, sound, smell, taste and touch are distinct and separate: A Beethoven symphony is not pink and azure; the name Angela does not taste like creamed spinach. Yet there are those for whom these basic rules of the senses do not seem to apply. They have a rare condition called Synesthesia, in which the customary boundaries between the senses appear to break down, sight mingling with sound, or taste with touch.
— Erica Goode, “When People See a Sound and Hear a Color”, The New York Times
I am a woman of color. And I have many colors.
I am a synesthete, a person who experiences an automatic association of one sense when another sense is stimulated. I see the greens of trees and reds of apples, but I also see colors that many others don’t. Strong emotions evoke hues in my mind’s eye, and I associate every person with a different palette. Synesthesia comes in many forms—some experience colors from hearing sounds, some can taste motion, others associate numbers with colors and shapes. I experience colors associated with emotions and people. I have a color for passion and melancholy. My happy days are yellow. My reserved days are blue.
Sam, my blogger-in-crime, sees colorful patterns when he listens to music. Another friend associates colors with smells. Yet another assigns hues to letters. These, however, barely begin to cover the wide range of synesthetic experiences. Over 60 types of synesthesia have been catalogued by researcher and synesthete Sean Day, and many more are still being discovered. A new form, motion-hearing, was found in 2008, when someone reported that he could hear patterns of moving dots. Just last year, researchers uncovered another type of synesthesia where performing or imagining a swim stroke evokes colors.
Years ago, when Sam first introduced me to synesthesia, I was fascinated. I had lived my life thinking that it was perfectly reasonable that serenity was red and I was an orange. How many others are synesthetes? How would I meet them? The numbers were easy to find. In 2005, Julia Simner observed that 1 in 23 people have synesthesia. The search for a synesthetic community, however, was less successful. Sean Day monitors The Synesthesia List, a mailing list for synesthetes and those interested in synesthesia, but public forums, such as Mixed Signals, have come and gone.
This is where Iris comes in.
We will start as a blog about the experience of synesthesia, the science causing it, and the art inspired from it. Then we will be a gallery with works by and interviews with synesthetic artists. Finally, we aim to be a social network for synesthetes to share with others our multisensory experiences.
For now, however, we are just a blog by two synesthetes, Amber and Sam. We encourage everyone to ask questions, submit news and art, share your experiences, and come along for this wonderful ride.