Olga Zikrata

Dissertation Title:  Synesthetic Thinking: Sound, Experiment, and the Russian Avant-Garde



My doctoral project examines a series of artistic experiments within the expanded field of sound, inquiring into the workings of sensorium and fostering a thinking with the senses. Specifically, it develops the idea of synesthetic thinking to flesh out a more complex understanding of the sonic encounter and explore the aesthetics of sonic force. Taking the Russian avant-garde culture as a point of departure, the dissertation discusses experimental strategies deployed by artists to exceed the boundaries of hearing and move beyond a vocabulary of audible sound toward other real dimensions of the inaudible, which are induced or synesthetically felt.

The problematic begins with the premise that the senses are imagined being fluid, spilling into one another rather than acting independently. Such fluidity entails a dynamic interaction of the senses, their continuous interplay, a kind of plasticity within the sensorium. It is this plasticity that is addressed to lay out a compelling approach that acknowledges a closer intersensory relationship with sonic matter in a variety of its aesthetic forms.

Drawing from epistemology based on the senses, embodied knowledge and synesthesia, the dissertation rethinks the Russian avant-garde and contemporary sonic arts practice from the standpoint of the senses.  It proposes several scenarios in which attention is centered on an avant-garde desire to mediate synesthetic sensibility and render new perceptual encounters.  The study therefore makes a synesthetic turn to bear on the production of novelty through sound, live bodies, and multimedia. Using interdisciplinary methodology, it analyses a variety of sonic milieux, which, it claims, become sites for the experiments with new modes of sensation, perception, and feeling.

From the attempts to manipulate the senses by working with noise and creating a ‘gesamtkunstwerk’ of cacophonies to the techniques of staging cyber sonic events, Synesthetic Thinking gives the way to creativity and artistic experimentation to bring the practice of sensory awareness and raise broader questions of sense knowledge and synesthetic mediation, avant-garde and aesthetic continuity, and creative potential of performative, sonic and digital arts.