Synaesthetics: Sound, Image, and Materialism: part of Syncing... Subject, Media, Society Conference

Lecture | February 24 | 4-5:30 p.m. | Faculty Club, Heyns Room

 Christoph Cox, Hampshire College

 Department of German

The “sonic turn” in the arts, humanities, and social sciences has prompted a reconsideration of the relationship between sound and image in media today. Semiotic issues of representation and signification have given way to materialist considerations of affect, force, and intensity. Along these materialist lines, the neurological condition of synaesthesia has become a prominent figure for thinking the conjunction of the visual and the auditory. While affirming materialist analysis, I argue that the aesthetic discourse of synaesthesia is predominantly conservative and recuperative, ultimately supporting the dominance of the visual and resisting the incursion of sound into the space of the gallery and museum. Exploring the tendencies toward audio-visual synthesis and separation in the history of the artist film, I show how contemporary filmmakers and video artists such as Julian Rosefeldt, Mathias Poledna, and the Sensory Ethnography Lab propose counter strategies that reject the fantasy of sensual fusion and, instead, affirm a productive difference and tension between the visual and the auditory.

Christoph Cox is Professor of Philosophy at Hampshire College. He is the author of Sonic Flux: Sound, Art, and Metaphysics (forthcoming) and Nietzsche: Naturalism and Interpretation (California, 1999) and co-editor of Realism Materialism Art (Sternberg, 2015) and Audio Culture: Readings in Modern Music (Continuum, 2004). The recipient of an Arts Writers Grant from Creative Capital/Warhol Foundation, Cox is editor-at-large at Cabinet magazine. His writing has appeared in October, Artforum, Journal of the History of Philosophy, The Wire, Journal of Visual Culture, Organised Sound, The Review of Metaphysics, and elsewhere. He has curated exhibitions at the Contemporary Arts Museum Houston, The Kitchen, CONTEXT Art Miami, New Langton Arts, G Fine Art Gallery and other venues.