The Power Institute with support from The Sydney Medical School and The Synaesthesia Research Group at Macquarie University present The Taste of Purple, an evening designed to shine a light on the mysteries of perception.  In an unprecedented interdisciplinary collaboration, we explore synaesthesia, an intriguing phenomenon often referred to as a ‘mixing of the senses’. Synaesthesia is a topic of active research in the scientific community and compels deep philosophical thought; It remains a source of inspiration and fascination within the arts from antiquity.


The Taste of Purple, part of an initiative sponsored by the Power Institute and held at Cake Wines, proposes to bring the visual arts into dialogue with disciplines across the sciences and humanities. Enjoy talks from experts in the arts, sciences, and philosophy, alongside live performances. Through a live ‘Art-Jam’ we will cast guests into a re-imagining of Duke Ellington’s experience listening to Johnny Hodges play the saxophone.


“When I listened to the music, the tree just painted itself.” -David Hockney


Synaesthetes may literally hear colour, taste shapes and see numbers in colour or 3D. Musicians like Pharrell Williams and Lorde, to Franz Liszt and Jean Sibelius, jazz giant Duke Ellington, and the poet Arthur Rimbaud have all incorporated their synaesthetic illuminations into their work. Do you get confused about appointments because Tuesday and Thursday have the same colour? When you eat cauliflower do you taste purple? Do you see numbers in colour? You are not alone! Synaesthesia isn’t just for artists, the best randomised prevalence study of Synaesthesia, collected at London’s Science Museum, suggests that over 4% of the population may experience it day-to-day.


 ‘Tuesday is acid green… I can say to my wife, “That play opened on Tuesday, May the 8th back in 1982.”I can remember it had a position in my mind where 1982 is and where May is within that.’            -Geoffrey Rush


The event will explore the latest research and thinking on synaesthesia from Mark Ledbury; Power Professor of Art History and Visual Culture at the University of Sydney and Director of the Power Institute; Joshua Berger, a Doctor of Philosophy Candidate from the Sydney Medical School and School of Psychology studying Synaesthesia; and Associate Professor Anina Rich, who heads the Synaesthesia Research group at Macquarie University.
Come join us in the cool ambience of the Cellar Door where you can, hear, see and touch the phenomenon of synaesthesia, test yourself, and take part in hands-on illusions.



March 14, 2018

5.30 – 9pm

Cake Wines Cellar Door

16 Eveleigh St Redfern

Cover: $20 includes beer, wine & canapés

Tickets available at Eventbrite




Professor Mark Ledbury

Mark Ledbury is Power Professor of Art History and Visual Culture at the University of Sydney and Director of the Power Institute.  Mark took his degrees at the University of Cambridge and the University of Sussex in the UK, and taught at the Universities of Portsmouth and Manchester, before moving to the USA in 2003 to join the Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute in Massachusetts. Since 2011, Mark has been the Director of the Power Institute. Currently the Power Institute is involved in research projects and initiatives across Australia and the world, and the Power’s talks and events program is rich with international visiting speakers.   Mark’s personal research interest is French Art, in the 18th and early 19th centuries, specifically in the relationships between theatre and visual art. He is passionate about music and continues to work on art’s relationship with music and sound. He is the author of Sedaine, Greuze and the Boundaries of Genre (Oxford, 2000) James Northcote, History Painting and the Fables (Yale 2014), the editor of five volumes and many articles and chapters. He is currently working on a manuscript entitled “An eccentric history of history painting”.

Mr Joshua Berger

Joshua Berger is a Doctor of Philosophy Candidate from the Sydney Medical School and School of Psychology studying Synaesthesia. Joshua’s strong background in the Physical Sciences, having achieved a B.Sc. (Adv.) with a Major in Chemistry from The University of Sydney, saw him well placed to be accepted into the Sydney Medical School’s first intake of the newly designed Doctor of Medicine program. During the first semester of this program, Joshua suspended his medical studies to undertake this line of research in the hope that an app he designed could have a positive effect on people with synaesthesia. The research project is”Colourful-Calculations: an international app-based trial investigating the potential of therapeutic tools for Synaesthesia.” Subsequently, Joshua has been the recipient of a prestigious research award in Higher Cortical Function from The Australian Brain Foundation and has presented his work at both national and international conferences.

Associate Professor Anina Rich

Associate Professor Anina Rich is fascinated by the human brain and the way in which it creates human experience. Synaesthesia provides a unique window into how the brain works. Anina’s Honours work at Monash University was the first group study of synaesthetes (published in the prestigious journal Nature in 2001). She then completed her M.Psych/PhD at the University of Melbourne, exploring the cognitive and neural mechanisms underpinning synaesthesia before receiving a highly competitive National Health & Medical Research Council postdoctoral fellowship to work at the Visual Attention Lab at Harvard Medical School in Boston USA. She returned to Australia in 2007 to take up a continuing position at Macquarie University, where she heads the Synaesthesia@MQ research group and a larger Perception in Action Research Centre (PARC). Anina’s work on synaesthesia continues exploring the way the brain represents synaesthesia experience, how this relates to non-synaesthetic experience, and the relationship of synaesthesia to other phenomena including learning, memory, and multisensory integration. She has received numerous awards for her research, including the NSW Tall Poppy award for Science Communication, reflecting her commitment to sharing science beyond academia.