Frans Evers – The Academy of The Senses: Synesthetics in Science, Art and Education

Frans Evers

ArtScience Interfaculty Press – [book] ISBN: 978-94-6190-819-3, 300 pages, 2012, English
The study of cross-modal perception or synesthesia is a subject of research that has found a renewed interest also due to the growth of audiovisual experimentation and the convergence of traditional media in the digital era. While there have been several recent publications on the subject, this book offers a well structured analysis, yet very personal account, of a voyage of discovery that brought Frans Evers to accumulate over thirty years of experience while pushing forward unconventional methodologies for interdisciplinary research between the boundaries of traditional institutions. The book is the product of an ambitious project that was only partly completed and has been published posthumously thanks to the efforts of an editorial team comprised of Vincent W. J. van Gerven Oei, Eric Parren and Joost Rekveld. The first section of the book strings together fragments from the scientific literature on synesthesia, starting with the “Auditio Colorata” described by Sachs in the early 19th century and reviewing the work of Hornbostel, Marks and Cytowic. The second section offers an extensive catalogue of synesthetic experiments within the arts organized in chronological order, covering visual music (from Louis-Bertrand Castel’s Ocular Harpsichord to the films of Oskar Fischinger), as well as the integration of the arts in theater, performance and multimedia environments (from Wagner’s Gesamtkunstwerk to the Happenings of Allan Kaprow). The third section discusses art education. Taking as an example the seminal experiences conducted at the Bauhaus and at Black Mountain College, Frans Evers provides a detailed report on the circumstances leading up to the foundation of the Interfaculty ArtScience (formally Image and Sound) in The Hague and on its first years of activity, during which an educational method based on self-designed curricula and large-scale collective productions was first put into practice. Overall what emerges is a deep fascination with radical approaches to artistic research that place objectives far beyond the current horizon. A set of visionary, if often only partially successful experiments, become the basis for a mythology of the frontier inspiring and enabling future researchers to continue the work initiated. Whether interested in the boundaries between music and the visual arts, the sciences and the humanities or art theory and practice, artists, researchers and educators will find in this book a valuable resource pointing towards many territories that are waiting for further exploration.

Matteo Marangoni