Travels in Trans-Sensoriality

Activity: Participating in or organising an event typesParticipation in conference


Interdisciplinary Symposium

Traditionally, concepts such us space, time, balance, proportion, rhythm, design, and composition have meant very different things in different disciplines – architecture, dance, or music. They have also meant different things in the culturally divergent calibrations of the senses. The ancient Indian mode of appreciating visual, literary, and musical works – rasa – referred simultaneously to gustation and to spiritual flavour. During the Song dynasty in China, time was measured with the aid of incense clocks, which lent a distinctly olfactory dimension to temporal perception. To this day, the Aivilik Eskimos view space as a direction in operation. They read words and images from any angle, regardless of their position; all spatial directions are ‘right side up’. Similarly, the African Anlo-Ewes understand the world through a single multimodal sense – seselelame – (literally translated as ‘feel-feel-at-flesh-inside’) which includes kinaesthesia, tactility, the body’s sense of balance, even a person’s character.

Globalisation, whose shortest definition is, perhaps, that it is colonisation by other means (Chakrabarty) is simultaneously a standardising (i.e. reductionist) and an accelerating phenomenon. Among its many noxious effects are the colonisation of the senses (suffice it to take a walk in any global city where the generic smells of Lush or Starbucks function as a shorthand for cultural-imperialist consumerism), and sensorial over-stimulation resulting not in the enrichment of the sensorium but in a trivialisation without bounds. The prefix ‘trans’ – which means ‘across, through, over, to, and beyond’ – does, of course, refer to the passing over of places and things, and could be seen as contributing to acceleration and reductionism. However, it also refers to permanent modification – or hybridisation – of a trans-temporal, trans-cultural, and trans-disciplinary kind.

The aim of this symposium is both archeological and projective. On the one hand, Travels in Trans-Sensoriality seeks to excavate past and/or culturally divergent sensorial knowledges and practices cued by specific art – or life – forms, and their contemporary intermedial transpositions. On the other hand, the symposium seeks to address the more recent actual-virtual, technologically enhanced forms of sensorial knowledge production.
Period31 Oct 20171 Nov 2017
Event typeConference