Colour Dubai Symphony: World’s first ‘cyborg artist’

Artist ‘hears’ colours using skull implant

Neil Harbisson, the world’s first ‘cyborg artist’, is set to enchant the audience at the Dubai Canvas Festival 2016 with his musical interpretations of Dubai’s colours.

Harbisson, who has officially been recognised as a cyborg, ‘hears’ the tonal equivalent of colours through an antenna implanted in his skull. Based on the colours of Dubai, the British-born, Catalan-raised artist will be composing a piece of music called ‘Colour Dubai Symphony’ in collaboration with local singers and musicians. This will be the first musical composition Harbisson will be creating based on the colours of a city.

Organised by Brand Dubai, the creative arm of the Government of Dubai Media Office (GDMO), in cooperation with Jumeirah Beach Residence (JBR), a renowned destination developed and managed by Dubai Properties (DP), the second annual Dubai Canvas Festival will feature over 60 works of well-known international, regional and local artists. The Festival will be held from 1 to 14 March, 2016 at the Jumeirah Beach Residence.

Born with a rare form of colour blindness called achromatopsia, Harbisson developed an antenna to counter his disability. The antenna embedded in his skull enables him to interpret colours as different musical frequencies. The device allows him to perceive both visible and invisible colours such as infrareds and explore the use of artistic expression via sensory extensions.

Harbisson says that Dubai provides the perfect setting for him to share his unique tonal perspectives on colour. “Dubai’s unique cityscape and cultural diversity will create a unique palette that strongly identifies its character. I’m looking forward to exploring and experiencing it through my antenna.”

The artist, who is also a cyborg activist, sees his participation in Dubai Canvas as a “great opportunity to share an emerging art movement with the Middle East for the first time. I hope I can share the benefits of merging technology with the body; and how becoming a cyborg can open our minds and awaken our senses.”

Harbisson will be touring the city to capture his impressions of Dubai  - the colours of the buildings and people he encounters - to build a series of sounds that will be used to create the Colour Dubai Symphony.

Ayesha bin Kalli, Member of the Organising Committee of Dubai Canvas Festival said: “We are delighted to feature unique artists such as Neil Harbisson at the Festival. Through the event, we are seeking to bring together artists who can inspire people to think in new creative ways. Across the world, technology is redefining art and Neil’s unique art is an excellent example of this. Dubai Canvas Festival seeks to provide a platform for innovative artists from around the world to share their creations in a public space. The art festival is part of Brand Dubai’s objective of organising events that contribute to promoting a vibrant artistic and cultural ambience in Dubai.”

Looking forward to the creation of Colour Dubai Symphony, Harbisson said: “Dubai offers a range of microtonalities that other cities don’t offer. The variations of beiges, light maroons, ochres and desert sand colours create microtonal sounds between F# and G that offers us the opportunity to explore specific colour and sound ranges in depth.”

“I’ve taught the sound of colour to singers and musicians in different projects, but I’ve never created a musical piece from the colours of a specific city. Dubai will be the first. I hope musicians and singers from Dubai will experience a new way of creating and expressing themselves with music through colour and I hope the audience will also experience the relation between colour and sound and the artistic possibilities that cyborg art can open,” he added.

Neil Harbisson will capture his experiences of Dubai in a daily video diary called ‘Dubai Canvas Diary’ that will be posted on the Festival’s Instagram page. In addition, he will be making guest appearances at the site of select artworks at Dubai Canvas to interpret the colours of the pieces using his antenna.

Dubai Canvas Festival 2016 will feature the works of over 30 artists from 14 countries. The artworks will be exhibited in an area stretching over two kilometres within Jumeirah Beach Residence. In addition to the artworks, the Festival will also feature many events on the sidelines including custom-designed workshops and activities for different ages.

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