[Yasmin_discussions] from Hervé-Pierre Lambert

sergio basbaum sbasbaum at gmail.com
Tue Feb 10 18:26:09 EET 2009

Dear Herve,

Thank for your interest in my work,

(Please forgive me for writing such a long reply, but the questions demand

As an artist, my own work gravitates around sound (I have musical background
and play and compose what is more or less understood as "Brazilian jazz"),
technology and images (I have a bachelor degree in cinema). This double
background was probably what has lead me into synesthesia, although when I
was younger and used some forbidden substances I had some synesthetic
experiences, and I still fell a light "vowel-to-color" synesthesia, and some
synesthetic feelings about music also.

However, the works I've done in the last years -- they're not many, since we
have to work a lot at the university and there's not enough time to develop
certain projects -- are related to the impact of technological mediation in
our societies. So I prepared a performance which I have presented several
times, with 90 phrases of 10 seconds projected on a screen, in order to make
a presentation of exactly 15 minutes discussing what I name the
"omnicalculability"of our times; and I did also an interactive video -- with
the colaboration of Giuliano Obici, who has written some Pure Data code --
called "Meus passos nunca foram dados", what is very hard to translate to
English, since in Portuguese "Data" and "given" can be related to the word
"dados", but in French could maybe work: "Mes passes ne seront pas jamais
donées"; it is also a discussion of art in technological societies during a
walk in a park in Amsterdam. This has also been presented sometimes in
Brazil and indeed there are some images, abstract textures, mixed with
Luciano Berio's sounds which can be thought of as synesthetic.

I wouldn't say there's something in Brazil similar to what Symbolists or
Huysmans have done. However, I do think that the works created by Lygia
Clark and Helio Oiticica in the 1960s, 70s and 80s do open the paths to
supersede the domination of the eye in modern art, and to bring back not
only the body as a whole, but the many senses. I usually use these works to
discuss how modernity has severed the senses (Jonathan Crary has written
beautifully about it), but that separation was so artificial that it could
not last long, so along the 1950-60s mixed-media and multimediatic works
start to emerge, and and it is possible to connect all this already to the
emergenge of a digital culture (Oiticica called his works, for example, with
names which ressembled a data base: "P1", "P2"). British author Guy Brett
mentions the very syncretic sensoriality and the presence of the body in
Brazilian culture as relevant for both Helio and Lygia have done what they
did. So, the paths opened by HO and LC, if not synesthetic in the terms of
the Symbolists, or maybe those of the American film-makers of the 1950s
(John and James Whitney, for example), are synesthetic in terms of bringing
the senses together in a body experience in which they cannot be separated
at all ("The senses translate each other without the need of an
interpreter", as Merleau-Ponty once said).

A very interesting case is the composer Jorge Antunes, who has written an
amazing little book  called "A correspondência entre os sons e as cores"
("The correspondence between sounds and colors"), issued in 1982, and which
presents his own theory of such correspondences, in terms of ressonances of
optical and visual nerves. I loved this book when I read it, and my work
certainly is indebted to it, although I took different directions later. And
composer Flo Menezes has dedicated some works to the colors, very recently.

In the contemporary Brazilian digital culture, something seems to be
happening, related probably to the way by which digital apparatuses make it
very easy to translate sounds in colors and vice-versa. It is interesting
that every month I receive emails from students that are looking for my
short book, which is not available anymore, unfortunately.

About ethnological studies, the best works I've found so far come from
Classen and Howes. They have been developing a very beautiful series of
books, written or edited by them, dealing with the senses. Howes has a
beautifull article called "Hyperesthesia, or, The sensual Logic of Late
Capitalism", but this has nothing to do with Amazon tribes. Classen's
chapter about the Desana are the most explicit reference to synesthesia I
came through up to now. She quotes works by G. Reichel-Dolmatoff about
Amazon groups as her main reference on these topics.

As for Ayhuasca and other chemicals indeed we have many people doing
research about this here. Large works including the contribuitions of
different authors are now being issued bringing together the efforts of many
researchers. All content is probably in Portuguese, but I can find out more
about these books if you may be interested. I have a personal friend,
Marcelo Mercante, who is an anthropologist who has been working for years
with a sect called "Barquinha", in the South-Amazon, who are ayhuasca users.

Last year, we've staged a symposium about the sincretism of the senses. Dave
McConville, who is in this list has been with us, along with the people from
the Plannetary Collegium, directed by British artist and theorist Roy
Ascott, and some Brazilian authors. Some interesting discussions happened,
on many topics around the sensorium.

best vibes from Brazil


On Mon, Feb 9, 2009 at 9:39 PM, herve pierre lambert
<hplambert at hotmail.com>wrote:

> Dear Sergio
> As an artist, does your work have anything to do with synesthesia, or art
> cognition?
> Does it exist in Brazil as in Europe a tradition of metaphorical
> synesthesia, like in the so-called symbolist poetry (Baudelaire, Rimbaud) or
> in the novel (Huysmans) or later in the Dutch poetry?
> Do you have any recommendations of ethnologic studies, I mean ethnologists
> who really studied synesthesia as metaphor or as neurological phenomenon in
> Amazonian tribes.
> I used to work a little bit on Narby hypothesis and Narby effect. Do exist
> special reports written by ethnologists on relations between ayahuasca and
> synesthetic impressions, apart from Classen?
> hplambert at hotmail.com
> Mein GlückSeit ich des Suchens müde ward,Erlernte ich das Finden.Seit mir
> ein Wind hielt Widerpart,Segl' ich mit allen Winden.Ashita wa ashita no kazé
> ga fuku> Date: Mon, 9 Feb 2009 14:38:17 -0200> From: sbasbaum at gmail.com>
> To: yasmin_discussions at estia.media.uoa.gr> Subject: Re:
> [Yasmin_discussions] from Hervé-Pierre Lambert> > Dear Hervé-Pierre,> >
> Thank you very much for quoting my article. When we write, we never know
> who> will read, so we always get surprised when we realize people do read
> what we> write. Indeed, I have been working on some ideas on synesthesia and
> culture,> and in the last meeting in Hamilton a definetely felt that some
> kind of> approach which takes into account the question of culture is
> needed.> > How could somebody talk experiment grapheme-colour synesthesia in
> a> pre-literate society, for example? These and other questions have led me
> to> draft sometings on this topic on the last months.> > The overstressing
> of vision, the "imperialism" of the eye, on our culture> could be suggested
> to be in a certain way "colonizing" the other senses, as> to the point of,
> for some people, emerge as an experience. But this are just> intuitions by
> now.> > On the other hand, I like very much Van Campen's notion of
> synesthesia being> something "in between". This dialogues very well with the
> notion that> synesthesia is deeply related to contemporary technological
> culture, in> which all strictly disciplinary thinking seems to be unable to
> deal with a> lerger understanding of life and meaning.> > all the best from
> Brazil,> > s.> > On Mon, Feb 9, 2009 at 10:24 AM, herve pierre lambert <
> hplambert at hotmail.com> > wrote:> > >> >> > On the internet, there is an
> interesting article easy to encounter, written> > by Sergio Roclaw Basbaum,
> "Consciousness and Perception: The Point of> > Experience and the Meaning of
> the World We Inhabit". He claims that "> > consciousness is aculturally
> shaped phenomena, and that any conception that> > may emerge about it from a
> traditional Western scientific approach cannot go> > further than suggest a
> model of consciousness that, at best, can correspond> > to the experience of
> consciousness in the culture in which this very> > specific way of dealing
> with reality is embedded."> >> > The anthropological dimension of
> synesthesia - as a metaphor or as> > neurological phenomenon- is usually
> avoided or forgotten. Van Campen> > alluded to this reality in "Synthetic
> Indians" with a commentary on the book> > World of sense by Constance
> Classen. Basbaum developed this idea of a> > synesthesia phenomenon
> conditioned by culture in a philosophical reflexion> > using references to
> Classen and Flusser. The last year I had told that we> > needed informations
> on synesthesia in the different cultures of the> > multicultural
> Mediterranean world. The emergency of an anthropology focused> > in the
> sensory worlds of different cultures enabled to put into perspective> > the
> western association between seeing and meaning. Quotation from the same> >
> article by Basbaum:> >> > "Different cultures emphasis in other senses gives
> birth to cosmologies> > based, for example:> > - in thermal sensations, like
> the Tzotzil's of Chiapas, Mexico;> > - in olfactory sensations, like the
> Ongee's of Little Andaman Island, in> > Bengal Bay;> > - in a highly
> synesthetic cosmology, like the Desana's of Amazon, which> > make meaning of
> their world based on multisensory correspondences> > experimented under
> hallucinogenic plants trance; (Classen, 1993: Chapter 6)> > - in such an
> emphasis on aural experience, like the Kaluli people of> > Bosavi, as to
> "reckon time and space by reference to auditory cues and> > entertain a
> fundamentally acoustic view of the structure of their physical> > and social
> universe." (Howes, 2003:xvii)> > These radically different sensorial
> arrangements (and there are many> > more), the meanings they ascribe to the
> world and the ways of dealing with> > life that emerge from them, make
> reasonable for us to talk not anymore about> > a "point of view", typical of
> Western culture, but of a "point of> > experience", the kind of hierarchy of
> the sensorium that structures> > experiences and cosmologies in different
> cultures."> >> > Hervé-Pierre Lambert> >> >> > Mein GlückSeit ich des
> Suchens müde ward,Erlernte ich das Finden.Seit mir> > ein Wind hielt
> Widerpart,Segl' ich mit allen Winden.Ashita wa ashita no kazé> > ga fuku> >
> _________________________________________________________________> > Inédit
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> http://estia.media.uoa.gr/mailman/listinfo/yasmin_discussions> >> > > > --
> > -- Prof. Dr. Sérgio Roclaw Basbaum> -- Coord. Tecnologia e Mídias
> Digitais> -- Pós-Graduação Tec.da Inteligência e Design Digital - TIDD
> (PUC-SP)> _______________________________________________>
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-- Prof. Dr. Sérgio Roclaw Basbaum
-- Coord. Tecnologia e Mídias Digitais
-- Pós-Graduação Tec.da Inteligência e Design Digital - TIDD (PUC-SP)

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