What Sound Does a Color Make?

  • Steina Vasulka, Trevor, 1999. Courtesy Electronic Arts Intermix (EAI), New York.

  • Atau Tanaka, Bondage, 2004. Courtesy the artist; co-produced by Le Fresnoy and La Villette Numérique.

  • What Sound Does a Color Make? installation view, Center for Art and Visual Culture, University of Maryland, 2006.

  • What Sound Does a Color Make? installation view, University of Hawaii Art Gallery, 2007.

  • What Sound Does a Color Make? installation view, Eyebeam Center for Art and Technology, 2005.

Curated by Kathleen Forde

For some people, a stimulus to one of the five senses evokes the sensation of another sense, as when hearing a sound produces the visualization of a color. For contemporary audiovisual artists, the possibilities inspired by this phenomenon, known as synesthesia, have expanded with the advent of recent digital technologies that translate all electronic media, whether sounds or moving images, into the zeros and ones of computer bits. The exhibition features several sensuous new media environments that fascinate both technophiles and general audiences alike, heightening awareness of human perception and cognition. Exploring the fusion of vision and sound in electronic media, What Sound Does a Color Make? connects the recent boom of digital audiovisual art to its pre-digital roots by presenting ten contemporary works by an internationally diverse group of artists with a selection of single-channel videos from the 1970s.

United by similar and overlapping premises, the works in the exhibition are widely divergent in their results. They range from large-scale immersive installations with moving forms that morph to corresponding tonal compositions, to discrete DVD stations inviting viewers to access electronic music pieces in different combinations with videos. One of the recent works by Jim Campbell presents a portrait of a colleague who uses sound in his own art. Here, an LED grid is activated by playing a recording of that man’s voice, and the gridded lights resemble pixels that gradually build up an image of the man, with his voice’s high tones representing white and the low tones representing black. Another contemporary work is an interactive installation by D-Fuse, a London-based collective of artists and musicians, which layers different music soundtracks onto dynamic video clips, creating a distinctive audiovisual experience. The earlier works from the 1970s, by such pioneers of video art as Nam June Paik, Steina Vasulka, and Gary Hill, place the current interest in synesthetic media art in a broader historical context, offering a unique perspective on this phenomenon. The exhibition will encourage a high degree of individual engagement and self-reflection, as well as further thought about the ways that visual and aural stimuli are electronically, digitally and perceptually connected.



Kathleen Forde

Kathleen Forde is the Artistic Director-at-Large for Borusan Contemporary, a collection-based space for media arts exhibitions, commissions and public programming in Istanbul. During her tenure at BC Forde has curated and toured numerous solo exhibitions by artists such as Rafael Lozano-Hemmer, Daniel Canogar, Brigitte Kowanz and John Gerrard, and collaborated with curators and institutions include the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, Espacio Telefonica Madrid, La Boral Gijon and the Kunsthalle Darmstadt. Concurrently she is working as an independent curator with various institutions both nationally and abroad.


touring schedule

University of Hawaii Art Gallery
Honolulu, HI, United States
March 4, 2007 - April 13, 2007

Center for Visual Arts, Metropolitan State College of Denver
Denver, CO, United States
September 14, 2006 - November 9, 2006

Govett-Brewster Art Gallery
New Plymouth, New Zealand
May 20, 2006 - July 23, 2006

Center for Art and Visual Culture, University of Maryland
Baltimore, MD, United States
February 2, 2006 - March 18, 2006

Wood Street Galleries, Pittsburgh Cultural Trust
Pittsburgh, PA, United States
November 1, 2005 - December 31, 2005

Eyebeam Center for Art and Technology
New York, NY, United States
May 25, 2005 - July 16, 2005

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