Mitchell Whitelaw, Synesthesia and Cross-Modality in Contemporary Audiovisuals, Senses and Society, 3(3) (2008)

This paper considers contemporary practice in "fused" or transcoded audiovisual art, focusing on the work of Australian artists Robin Fox and Andrew Gadow. In this practice sound and image are tightly linked by a cross-wiring of media signals. Synesthesia is often invoked around such work, proposing a parallel between perceptual and technical cross-wiring. This synesthetic analogy provides a historical context as well as an analytic frame; it is tested here through a reading of relevant neuro- and perceptual science that illustrates some striking parallels. Ultimately, however, an alternative model is proposed based on cross-modal binding, where stimuli in different modalities are "bound" into correlated wholes. Understood as cross-modal objects, transcoded audiovisuals direct us to the signal that underpins both sound and image, as well as to the map, or domain of correlation, between modalities. The wider significance of this practice, it is argued, lies in its ability to provide an aesthetic and affective manifestation of these abstract structures—structures that are central to new media culture, but largely imperceptible.