NOT TO BE SENSELESS at iii in The Hague

Synaesthesia is a neurological condition which is believed to be caused by an unusual cross-wiring in the brain. It is not considered a disorder per se but rather an idiosyncratic variation in sensory perception. For example, synaesthetes might see specific colours when they hear music or perceive tastes when they touch certain textures. As a result, many synaesthetes spend more time engaged in creative activities to make sense of their perception of the world.  At iii the Hague, Not to be Senseless which was carefully curated by Dutch artist Maria Oosterveen, provided a platform for several neurodivergent artists to share the way in which they experience their everyday lives.

To begin the evening, Olfactory artist, Lauren Jetty displayed her interactive installation that captured the sensory blending of sound and smell. The installation was comprised of three parts whereby a block of ice was placed perfectly on top of a turntable; three turntables, three blocks of ice but then what?? Well, as the tonearm glided across the turntable, haunting vocals emerged out of the crackling ice which then released several scents into the atmosphere as the ice melted. The external observer needed to inch as close as possible to the artistic product in order to hear and smell what it produced, leading to a personal insight into Lauren Jetty’s secretive sensory perceptions.

Then English multi-sensory artist, James Wannerton took the dimly lit stage. He spoke of his intrusive condition which makes him taste sound without halt. Throughout the talk, James took several short breaks to regain control after continuous bursts of taste overwhelmed his speech. It was an entirely engaging twenty minute introduction into his flavourful life which was followed by a panel which included Maria Oosterveen, Lauren Jetty and Jonathan Chaim Reus who discussed the differing neurodivergence’s each of them experienced. The panel delved into their discrepancies, providing an insightful look into the minds of those with synaesthesia.

Last but not least, Jonathan Chaim Reus, a transmedia artist and musician, performed a live digital installation that liquidised the human voice through his computational software. The result was an artificially reproduced chanting that bore slight relation to the sounds that come out of a human. It was an entrancing nudge toward a new narrative within the field of technology and culture. By way of sound, taste and smell, Not to be Senseless added yet another fascinating layer to the human experience in art and everyday life by shedding bright light on this mysterious multi-sensory phenomenon.   Eva Lakeman  21st October 2023