Last Friday night I had the pleasure of attending The Creative Consciousness, an art and science extravaganza showcasing the creative talents of UC Berkeley students from the Art & Science DeCal in collaboration with the Synesthesia Association at Berkeley. For those of you who are unfamiliar with one of Berkeley’s coolest undergraduate programs, “DeCals” are student-run courses at UC Berkeley and the entire event was in fact organized by UC Berkeley undergraduates.
The opening night of The Creative Consciousness was an art gallery, science fair, and party, all rolled into one fun-filled night wrapped in a fantastic space with excellent beats spun by Bay Area performer DJ Schwa (a perfect date-night for my artist husband and I). The event organizers sum up best what their show was about:
“We hope to foster a sense of community and interdisciplinary appreciation through exploring science through art and art through science, witnessing all the ways it applies from everything to medicine, cartography, technology and beyond”
Tucked into the quiet streets of the warehouse district near Jack London Square (on a dark and rainy night, I might add) is the nondescript warehouse that hosted the event. Radiance Community Center was built to foster community and creativity, and seemed the perfect venue. Running in out of the rain, the first thing I see is a table displaying a box, a tablecloth—and a hand. A participant sits opposite a student facilitator, placing one hand on the table and the other one hidden under the cloth; a fake hand sits where one would expect his or her real hand to be. The facilitator brushes the participant’s “hand,” evoking the sense that one’s hand is actually being stroked.
Moving to the back, we enter a room of vibration and sound, the synesthesia core of the event. Synesthesia is the neurological condition in which one sensory pathway is evoked by another, for example, the ability to “see” sounds as specific colors. Ever competitive, my husband and I test our skills at linking color to smell by closing our eyes as the facilitator holds a smell under our noses while repeating the name of a color. We are then given the smells at random, and asked to repeat the color. I mix up garlic and pungent cheese, forgetting their respective colors (black and white) but easily remember green (interesting), orange (pleasant, likely a candle), and purple (I’m pretty sure this one was Vix vapor rub). This display is more than just scientific dissemination—it’s active research! The facilitator has been recording the results of each participant, and shows us the up-to-date data from her laptop.
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