The world loves stories of space exploration. The infinity of space is a challenge for humanity, in how we explore, map and experience it. However, it's nothing compared to the challenges of mind exploration. The rolling expanses of the mind – a perceptual entity based on the physical organ of the brain – is a place that we all like to explore: in dreams, in memories, and in alternate realities.
The mind sometimes plays tricks on us. With some, it can play tricks at every move. The study of synesthesia, neurological responses to environmental stimuli, is not without its difficulties. Both personal and deep, synesthesia is the mechanism by which something in our physical environment occurs, but we understand it to be something else.
As an artist, Marcos Lutyens' work with synesthesia and related "trickery" such as hypnosis, is based on years of work with neuroscientists. His interest is to use the mind as a forum for exploring art, with the culmination of this research and work being the FlavourCollider, a work with Absolut Vodka.
FlavourCollider involves the wearing of a special headset, which transposes the taste of a flavoured vodka into dizzying visuals. While the headset undertakes the computational work in terms of the visualisation, it's fundamentally the mind that is the enabler here. As Lutyens himself observes, in recent years "...I have investigated a number of approaches as to what's going on with the mind, and have come to the realisation that there are so many different, fragmented things going on in our lives: phones, the Internet... all of these other ways of perceiving our reality. They all so fragmented that the only convergence point is in the mind."
Lutyens' research has involved deep and close working with synesthesia – people that have a pre-disposition to associate different sensory modalities (in basic terms, interpreting things differently). synesthetes do not have control over how they interpret the world around them. "It's rather poetic, metaphorical creativity. It happens to them, whether they want it or not." The research featured work with a group of synesthetes in San Francsico, where Lutyens sent them to a McDonalds, and asked them to describe it. One participant understood words as having different colours, so their view was that the golden arches were wrong, because they should have been "red". Another interpreted all of the sounds within McDonalds as sensational body movement. A third, who had been working with pioneering neuroscientist Richard Cytowic, interpreted the numerical factors such as prices and dates in terms of physical factors around her. Although these interpretations and processes are different, Lutyens has yet to meet a synesthesia that turns taste into visuals, the purpose of the FlavourCollider.