tesh – LookingOutwards06

Neil Harbisson – Sound Portraits and Color Scores

For this looking outwards I took the prompt in a more physiological way and looked at the artist Neil Harbisson and his Sound Portraits as an unconventional use of senses and body modifications. Harbisson experiences achromatopsia, or total color blindness, and effectively sees in grayscale. In 2004 he had a cyborg antenna osseointegrated into his skull, which takes in colors as an input and outputs sound frequencies into his head. The antenna’s sounds directly correspond to certain colors, and some even run past the visible color spectrum itself.

Harbisson considers the antenna to be a part of his body, and has used it to create a series of works of art called Sound Portraits and Color Scores.

Harbisson creating a Sound Portrait of Steve Wozniak

In his Sound Portraits, Harbisson analyzes different parts of peoples faces and notes down the tones he hears from his antenna, eventually compiling them into short “sound profiles” of the person.

A Color Score for “Rehab” by Amy Winehouse

Conversely, Harbisson’s Color Scores are artistic representations of various songs drawn as a series of colored boxes and rectangles. These art pieces sound like famous songs when Harbisson looks at them through his antenna.

I think it is really interesting to see how he is able to experience the world differently through the use of this invention as well as how it has become such an integrated part of his body and his lifestyle. Since it is permanently attached to him it has changed his daily life experiences to such a degree that he often describes it as a “new sense” rather than a piece of technology, and has encouraged him to try to share this experience with others through his art as well as his advocacy for cyborgs and transhumanism.

You can listen to him give a TED Talk about the Antenna and his experiences with it here.