Skip to content
Licensed Unlicensed Requires Authentication Published by transcript Verlag October 1, 2015

Interpreting An Improper Materialism

On Aesthesis, Synesthesia and the Digital

Ashley Scarlett
From the journal Digital Culture & Society


This paper explores catachrestic synesthesia as a key interpretive strategy that contemporary media artists are drawing upon in an effort to conceptualize and grapple with ‘digital materiality.’ I argue that these synesthetic gestures are not merely poetic flourishes. Instead they test the limits of representation, identifying gaps in language while employing the body in order to triangulate modes of computational materiality that are proving conceptually and phenomenologically evasive. Grounded within a series of materialdriven interviews that I conducted with thirty-five digital media artists, this analysis will be advanced through the following means: (1) a review of media phenomena and scholarly work that inform current debates regarding digital materiality with particular attention paid to the potential contribution of contemporary media art within this field of study; (2) an analysis of occasions where artists conjured the senses synesthetically as a disoriented means of grasping at the material attributes of their digital works; and (3) a theorization of “catachrestic synesthesia” as an interpretive strategy with broader implications for how digital materiality ‘as such’ might be better understood.

Published Online: 2015-10-1
Published in Print: 2015-9-1

© 2015 by transcript Verlag