Morag Myerscough X Neil Harbisson: Cross Border Conversations

Colour Files: Science and Sentience
STIR X LOCO Design pair artists Morag Myerscough and Neil Harbisson who unpack mysteries around colour consciousness that transcend dominant perceptions.

by Zohra Khan Published on : Aug 28, 2020

Would the experience of seeing a rainbow be as magical if it is visualised in shades of grey? Would the joy of being engulfed by nature be any less if one can't see but listen to its many colours? Ask the world’s first human cyborg, Neil Harbisson.

Is colour a mere tool to decorate spaces or is it an energy in itself? Can colours talk in a space? Ask artist Morag Myerscough, whose installations and immersive spatial artworks combine a riot of bold hues, patterns, shapes and typography.

  • World’s first human cyborg, Neil Harbisson has an antenna implanted in his skull that allows him to hear colours | Cross Border Conversations | Morag Myerscough X Neil Harbisson | STIR X LOCO Design
    World’s first human cyborg, Neil Harbisson has an antenna implanted in his skull that allows him to hear colours Image: Courtesy of Neil Harbisson
  • Artist Morag Myerscough’s eclectic breadth of works is characterised by engaging boldness of colours and graphics | Cross Border Conversations | Morag Myerscough X Neil Harbisson | STIR X LOCO Design
    Artist Morag Myerscough’s eclectic breadth of works is characterised by engaging boldness of colours and graphics Image: Courtesy of Morag Myerscough

In the eighth episode of Cross Border Conversations, Harbisson and Myerscough unpack mysteries around colour consciousness that transcend dominant perceptions and natural human abilities. The 50-minute dialogue moderated by Pramiti Madhavji (Consulting Content Adviser, STIR) delves into the role colour plays in the lives of the two, as it journeys through their current creative practices, early careers and childhood.

I don’t think I associate colour with joy and happiness. I associate it with an interest in the cultural aspects of society that I have never been able to ignore. – Neil Harbisson

For the past many years, Harbisson has an antenna implanted in his skull that allows him to hear colours. The eyeborg, as the prosthetic device is referred to, translates hues of the surroundings into a sea of vibrations for the Barcelona-based cyborg artist and musician who was born with achromatopsia – a rare vision disorder marked by the inability to perceive colours. Since he started hearing colours, supermarkets became night clubs to him, and art galleries like concert halls.

  • Neil Harbisson working on a painting while hearing frequencies of colours around him | Cross Border Conversations | Morag Myerscough X Neil Harbisson | STIR X LOCO Design
    Neil Harbisson working on a painting while hearing frequencies of colours around him Image: Christopher Jones, Courtesy of Neil Harbisson
  • Due to his condition of achromatopsia, Neil Harbisson recognised the world in greyscale | Cross Border Conversations | Morag Myerscough X Neil Harbisson | STIR X LOCO Design
    Due to his condition of achromatopsia, Neil Harbisson recognised the world in greyscale Image: Courtesy of Neil Harbisson
  • Harbisson’s first Eyeborg | Cross Border Conversations | Morag Myerscough X Neil Harbisson | STIR X LOCO Design
    Harbisson’s first Eyeborg Image: Dan Wilton, Courtesy of Neil Harbisson
  • Amy Winehouse – Rehab, a colour score by Neil Harbisson | Cross Border Conversations | Morag Myerscough X Neil Harbisson | STIR X LOCO Design
    Amy Winehouse – Rehab, a colour score by Neil Harbisson Image: Courtesy of Neil Harbisson
  • Sonochromatic Records exhibited at Pioneer Works, New York (2014) | Cross Border Conversations | Morag Myerscough X Neil Harbisson | STIR X LOCO Design
    Sonochromatic Records exhibited at Pioneer Works, New York (2014) Image: Courtesy of Neil Harbisson

“I had a greyscale childhood and it was not sad,” he tells Myerscough and adds that he still fancies his childhood dream of living in a colourless world. The two discuss how the word happiness is commonly associated with things bright and colourful, and that greys get cornered for being gloomy. It’s 'joyfulness' rather, they agree, which encapsulates the experience of perceiving colours, and this led to an interesting thought: 'Why can’t children enjoy greys?'

I do have massive stimulation. I am not looking at something else to stimulate me. – Morag Myerscough

London-based Myerscough's intuitive interpretations of colours employed across cafés, children's hospital and temporary and permanent installations enliven not only the spaces but also the experiences of people who inhabit these. "People put their own relationship to colours and shapes. I don’t agree if these perceptions should be unified,” she says.

  • Morag Myerscough’s mantra is ‘make happy those who are near and those who are far will come’ | Cross Border Conversations | Morag Myerscough X Neil Harbisson | STIR X LOCO Design
    Morag Myerscough’s mantra is ‘make happy those who are near and those who are far will come’Image: Courtesy of Morag Myerscough
  • A concept drawing by Morag Myerscough | Cross Border Conversations | Morag Myerscough X Neil Harbisson | STIR X LOCO Design
    A concept drawing by Morag Myerscough Image: Courtesy of Morag Myerscough
  • Part pavilion, part-stage, ‘Love at First Sight’ from Aberdeen, Scotland  | Cross Border Conversations | Morag Myerscough X Neil Harbisson | STIR X LOCO Design
    Part pavilion, part-stage, ‘Love at First Sight’ from Aberdeen, Scotland Image: Courtesy of Morag Myerscough
  • Temple of Agape by Morag Myerscough and Luke Morgan designed for a cultural festival in London (2014) | Cross Border Conversations | Morag Myerscough X Neil Harbisson | STIR X LOCO Design
    'Temple of Agape' by Morag Myerscough and Luke Morgan designed for a cultural festival in London (2014)Image: Courtesy of Morag Myerscough
  • Bright colours and geometric prints in the rooms of Sheffield Children’s Hospital | Cross Border Conversations | Morag Myerscough X Neil Harbisson | STIR X LOCO Design
    Bright colours and geometric prints in the rooms of Sheffield Children’s Hospital Image: Courtesy of Morag Myerscough

Looking at the world through the lens of music is an abiding passion for both, and this interest developed much early in their lives. Myerscough was born in a family of musicians; her father played with the Beatles. For Harbisson, it was his time at the Dartington College of Arts in southwest England, where he was learning music composition, that an encounter with cybernetics expert Adam Montandon led him to becoming a cyborg. As someone who never used colours in his childhood to draw paintings, today he paints using the sounds around him and composes music based on everyday encounters.

The two also share their views on technology and how it affects their lives. While Myerscough says that technology is only a tool in her practice and that her work involves prioritising hand painting skills and materiality, Harbisson emphasises on the need for technology today to augment human senses rather than just giving more information. For him, Artificial Senses (AS) are much more important than Artificial Intelligence (AI).

Curious and fascinated with the mysteries of the chrome complex, the two share many fond projects, memories and inspirations, and also exchange ideas on how a space would look like if they were to conceptualise it for each other using colour as the medium.

All this and a lot more in the video above!

Cross Border Conversations
Curated by Pramiti Madhavji and Amit Gupta, STIR X LOCO Design present candid video conversations among creative professionals across geographical borders and creative disciplines of architecture, design, art and beyond.

LOCO Design: Shape of things to come
Steered by values of leadership and integrity, LOCO Design strives to create aesthetic innovation with a creative essence enriched by design values, master artisans and technical expertise, contributing to a responsible future.
Know more at www.locodesign.in

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