• Son Luu

A Sensory Experience through Light

Updated: Sep 18, 2019

Class: Light as a Medium of Art - Way of Seeing Now

Instructor: James Clar

Photo by National Geographic | Fire smolders in an area of the Amazon rainforest near Porto Velho, Rondonia State, on August 21, 2019.

This week, we discussed the concept of Synesthesia and exploring light sensory experiences in the spirit of it.

According the definition from Psychology Today, Synesthesia is "a neurological condition in which the stimulation of one sensory or cognitive pathway (for example, hearing) leads to automatic, involuntary experiences in a second sensory or cognitive pathway (such as vision). Simply put, when one sense is activated, another unrelated sense is activated at the same time. This may, for instance, take the form of hearing music and simultaneously sensing the sound as swirls or patterns of color."

Assignment: Take a sensory experience and translate or express it through light. It could be an aspect of sound, emotional response, etc. Find something that creates an interesting translation. You can use light to express what it feels like, or use light to create that response in the viewer.

Inspirations: The recent Amazon fire exploded on international media, catching the attention of world citizens across the globe. I recalled hearing about it while I was home in Vietnam. There was something about hearing about, and watching the tragedy on TV that I was missing a sense of sympathy on many levels for some reasons. Physical distance, lack of personal experience, lack of personal empathy, ... I didn't know for sure. It felt like it was another forest fire. It felt like it was another big piece of news commercialized by the media. But recently, I saw a 2-minute video by National Geographic, accompanied by an article that changed how I felt.

Photo by National Geographic | Brazil's Amazon rainforest burns near Humaita, Amazonas State, on August 17, 2019.


The story of real people that were affected by the fire in many negative ways told me that people's lives are endangered, and thus created a stronger sense of sympathy in me to hear about the experience they had to live through. The affect on Mother Earth and the environment were undeniable, but the tragedy was further emphasized and elevated by the telling of real human lives suffering as we speak.

As I watched the video, the uneasy music notes of the original soundtrack, the sound of burning branches, the narration in local Portuguese, the vision of white, ashy smoke in the air, all allowed me to almost feel the heat, and experience an emptiness, while having a deep empathy for a devastating tragedy of humans and nature.

Caption: In Porto Velho, capital of a Brazilian state ravaged by recent fires, residents are on edge and falling ill from the pervasive smoke.


I'd like to create a colored light experience, to reflect the emotions of a story of tragedy. In the background, I'd like an option to have the audio of the video played without showing the visuals. The audio has no narration in English but only some interview answers in Portuguese. In the background is a the sound of burning branches, and some original music.

The light experience would including flickering lighting effect shining through blocks of colored see-through materials. The flickering effect suggests the movement and vision of flame/fire. Color scheme includes: red, ash white, orange/yellow (fire, flame, smoke), dark green, brown (trees, branches, burnt remnants), which are reminiscent of the story of what happened.

Through this light experience, I'd like to create an emotional response for the audience as a . result of this story. By hearing the sound of the burning forest, and seeing the colored light effects, the audience has an opportunity to imagine the story, and what it might feel like to experience it and develop an empathy for the human and nature victims.

Some potential ideas for shape/color choices include: