A weekday morning on the downtown A train and everyone is quiet. A few of the people around me are reading or playing with one small electronic device or another, but most are just sitting there: glazed and silent. I get the sense that there should be sound here. That this many people in a space should mean communication, interaction, or at least some sonic artifacts of movement. But human sound is conspicuously lacking. The noise of the subway even seems subdued—still abrasive and mechanical, but lessened somehow, or far away. I am drowning in color and visual sensation; the florescent lights and the shuddering train make all the hues appear hyper-saturated, brilliant. I feel disoriented, like my senses are out of alignment. Somehow my ears are submerged in water and all is muted, but my eyes are overcoming the sense of loss with too much definition. I am aware of every leftover breakfast crumb on every tie; every detail of the grimaces of frustration, stress, or sleep deprivation around me; every frayed hem or stained shirt peaking out from beneath maladjusted over-clothes. The sensation is fantastic and devastating. It’s overwhelming. I panic for a moment, that I might be going deaf and therefore doomed to see this undiluted and stark world forever. The unforgiving sights keep assaulting me and I try to close my eyes, I try to focus on the sound that’s fading more and more and wrench myself away from the magnetic sight of apathy. But I can’t.
There is something amazing about malfunctioning senses. Something intoxicating about the dream-like sensation of being aurally or visually divorced from an experience one is otherwise completely aware of. Struggling to make one’s body receive the stimuli that must exist. When I was much younger and obsessed with the idea of synesthesia I tried to collaborate with a visual artist to build an environment of blue circles. The sound would be “blue” (or many octaves above the frequency of blue…) and moving in slow oscillations, the space would be a metal cylinder with elliptical cutouts letting blue light in, and the audience would be submerged in our lovely, insulated sensation chamber. But I wonder if that alignment is still what I’m looking for, or if a more exaggerated experience of the possible (and terrifying) disconnect of self from reality is needed to make me taste the art. There’s already so much lovely music out there, I think what I want is sensation...
Perhaps it means more to have an experience that doesn't immediately make sense in the learned vocabulary of the world, because then it is more real.