Neil Harbisson was born with achromatopsia – a particularly unusual visual illness that results in complete color blindness. The world is an always boring plane of black, white and grays. But since 2003, the strange artist has had an antenna poking from his distinguishing bowl cut hairdo, allowing him to “hear” colours.
His head-mounted antenna has the capacity to find the wavelengths of light whatever is in front of the detector and convert them with distinct wavelengths corresponding to various sound frequencies. The Belfast-born, Catalan- delivers the sound waves to his inner ear and raised artist’s antenna is attached to his skull.
Indigos and purples are perceived as a high pitched bleep, using the colours becoming lower pitched from blues to greens as the spectrum shifts, then yellows to oranges, etc.
After years of training, Harbisson can totally understand shades just on the basis of tone and the pitch of sound they create.
He said: “It is really, very appealing to walk along a supermarket. It is like going into a club. With cleaning products, it is packed with distinct tunes, particularly the aisle. It is simply wonderful!”
Plymouth University cybernetics pro Adam Montandon designed the initial embodiment of Harbisson’s antenna. Since then, the antenna has moved with the times and is currently Wifi linked, enabling him and other apparatus to connect.
Many pieces of his work focus on “interpreting” well-known pieces of music or addresses into visualizations. Among his favourite displays will be to show his visualizations of the Martin Luther King “I ‘ve a dream” address and an Adolf Hitler address. When he hangs them in his exhibit, they are never labeled by him and leaves the guests to determine their favorite. He says, all the time, their setting rapidly changes when they find out which one’s which.