Futurism and Synethesia

February 10, 2010 at 6:58 pm (Digital Lit)

Since I’ve already put in my two cents worth about the Futurist manifesto, and what I find problematic, I should now add what I find really interesting and helpful from the modern avant-garde movements, including Futurism. These movements are concerned with breaking down boundaries and experiencing the world in new ways, as the old ways were seen to have failed. This is true for the Futurists, for whom the traditional ways of looking and experiencing were hopelessly mired in the past, and that forcibly excluded artists who wanted to be experimental. This will also be true for the Dadaists, although for them the old ways of looking have not only brought disaster, but they have brought the world to the brink of collapse through the conflagration of the first world war. One of the techniques that these artists use to look at the world is synethesia, or the combination of senses. In most cases we aren’t literally synethetes, but thinking of combining senses allows a viewer to make some sense of Marinett’s futurist word poems. It is not purely about the words on the page, it is also about the shapes and colors of those words and the overall impact of the page on the eye. The same thing is true of well-known digital examples. Mark Danielewski’s “House of Leaves” for example, has the word house printed in blue every time it appears. This suggests the most common color of links on the internet, giving the printed page the feel of a hypertext that it is often classified as, but it also literally reproduces the experience of synethesia for the reader, in a way that cannot be resisted, just as the experience of synethesia for a¬†synesthetes. Synethesia or synethetic thinking seems to me to be one way we can classify or at least start to classify largely visual examples of digital poetry as poetry, rather than art or games or any of the other possible categories. Maybe I’m just not reading the right books, but synethesia doesn’t seem to come up very much in anything we’ve read, while it comes up frequently in writings about modernity. If this is truely something that was a fad, and not just an observation that is the product of imcomplete reading, than this maybe something useful that we can resurrect from the moderns.


1 Comment

  1. Ashley Moore said,

    Hi Katie-

    I love it! What a wonderful way to approach the digital works we’ve been studying! It is shocking that none of our critical readings have entertained this concept of synesthesia, because it seems to fit perfectly with the multisensory experiences built into “poems” like “Spawn” or “Birds Singing Other Birds’ Songs”. And although I’m still not sure that the label “poem” is accurate or necessary, maybe the synesthetic perspective does allow us to qualify that label, while still being able to use it as a generic classification?


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