Jerusalem Synesthesia

Synesthesia is the cognitive convergence of two different senses – it occurs when a reaction of one sense automatically provokes a reaction of the other. Seeing, for example, might activate the sense of hearing or smell, allowing some people to hear colors or see sounds. Vassily Kandinsky has described this phenomenon in many of his essays: “To let the eye stray over a palette, splashed with many colours, produces a dual result. In the first place, one receives a purely physical impression […] The eye is either warmed or else soothed and cooled. But these physical sensations can only be of short duration. They are merely superficial and leave no lasting impression […] although the effect of the colours is forgotten when the eye is turned away, the superficial impression of varied colour may be the starting point of a whole chain of related sensations.” (On the Spiritual in Art, Wassily Kandinsky, 1911)

The exhibition Jerusalem Synesthesia is a meeting point that brings together Elizabeta Zeidner’s paintings and Max Epstein’s site-specific sound installation. The installation, a series of ceramic jugs, is laid out along the window. The jugs are used to capture sound: the narrow part of each jug faces the street and functions as an amplifier, while the wide, painted side receives and transmits the street bustle into the room. In the same space, Zeidner’s paintings are hung on the walls – bright, colorful impressions of public spaces in Jerusalem, mostly depicting the central bus station, the Old City, and the Machne Yehuda market. Small ceramic bowls are placed in the corners – ‘vinyl records’, or ‘reflectors’ as Epstein calls them – intended to soften the room’s edges, to help capture the street sound and bring it into the gallery. A close look reveals small etchings on the bowls – tiny drawings of everyday scenes.

Zeidner has painted each work in a different color key, and that key may be imagined as a musical key guiding the work’s melody and rhythm. She has made the paintings using acrylic paint and markers; therefore, the quick and immediate technique suits their nature – colorful sketches of Jerusalem’s urban sphere. One work, for example, describes an obscure moment engraved in the artist’s consciousness during her wandering through the narrow, mysterious streets of the Old City. The painting, in dark brown tones, shows three seated figures smoking a Hookah. Attuned listeners are invited to try to imagine the low sounds of a base or a cello emanating from this canvas.

Another work, painted in greenish tones, shows a gathering in which people (and a dog) sit closely, almost on top of each other, as if waiting for salvation that might emerge from the white gate on the left side. One cannot distinguish the details of each painted figure. However, it is possible to sense the crowded atmosphere, and almost hear (and smell) the tense anticipation of the bus at the central bus station. Another colorful, expressive work, in bright shades of orange, pink and green, describes a moment in which an elongated, semi-abstract figure tosses small balls in the air while another figure below it tries to catch them. Here, a fleeting episode from the Machne Yehuda market transforms into a fantasy, taking the viewers back to the fairy-tale regions of childhood. A vendor in the market turns into a mysterious magician, emerging from a thick cloud of vibrant colors and swift movement. Each moment – each painting – has its melody, which the viewer is invited to see and hear. The multi-colored experience blends with the noises emanating from the sound receptors, while the quiet of Epstein’s lonely figures, carved into the bowls, stands in contrast to the noise of human gatherings in Zeidner’s paintings.

The sound installation mounted on the window brings the sounds of the street into the room. The wide part of each jug / receptor is painted a different color. According to Epstein, each jug’s color represents the color of the sound it conducts. The sound that reaches the ear penetrates our consciousness directly, immediately, and we – the spectators and listeners – have no defenses against it, or any control. In fact, sound is the first thing the brain perceives. Seeing, on the other hand, requires awareness – we can choose what we see, and when to look away. With sound, we are helpless. And so, the sounds of Agripas Street penetrate the visitor’s consciousness and turn the gallery into a dynamic musical box. The spectators and listeners are encouraged to come close to the works, observe the unique way in which each jug and bowl were sculpted, listen to the objects, and translate the sounds into the colors bursting out of Zeidner’s paintings. Together, Epstein and Zeidner create a colorful composition, one musical modus that merges the senses and whirls into a total experience of the charged, rich, noisy, and diverse urban environment of Jerusalem.


Dina Yakerson

Exhibition Details
Exhibition Date
15.9.2016 - 09.10.2016

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