On Consciousness and impossible tasks

The abstract concept of consciousness has been puzzling me for the past couple of years ever since I watched the movie Waking Life. In it, a man slips in and out of lucid dreaming and experiences bizarre dreams filled with philosophical elements.

The movie title itself comes from a quote by George Santayana, ‘Sanity is madness put to good uses, waking life is a dream controlled.’

I wanted to be able to show that feeling of experiencing life as a dream. Upon further assessment, however, I realised that there was not much to that for me other than being able to express that. I wanted to go deeper.


While reading up on Consciousness, I chanced upon the word ‘Qualia‘. In Quining Qualia by Daniel Dennett, Qualia is defined as “the way things seems to us”. As an exaggerated example, how I am seeing the blue of the sky is different from how you are seeing the blue of the sky. I like to entertain the idea that Qualia is a defining aspect of consciousness; that without qualia, we are no different from robots.

While the existence of qualia is hotly debated in philosophy circles, I am not attempting to give my opinion on the matter. What I am truly interested in is the idea that everyone is experiencing entirely different things while physically going through the same thing; as per the example given. The problem that I have is that qualia is just what it is. We all experience something when we eat a fruit. we can label these experiences the same way; i.e. lemons taste ‘sour’. But we could be having different qualia; i.e. the sourness tastes different to us.

I thought about photoshopping an object to several different colours in different photos but that would be an oversimplification of qualia and completely uninspired.

Oh god, what have I gotten myself into.

With that in mind, I came up with potential ideas for Project 1:

  1. Since it is impossible to show that we have different qualia based on the same ‘label’ (e.g. the colour ‘blue’), I want to present it in the complete opposite manner (although slightly simplified). Different fruits with the same taste (lemons, limes, grapefruits) – sour. The taste is the same but the medium of experiencing the taste is different. Conversely, for qualia, the medium is the same but the ‘taste’ is different, i.e. the medium is a lemon but what it is like to taste the lemon is different for each individual.
  2. A series of colour-focused photographs that have the effect of changing in colour depending on the angle you see the photo – Lenticular printing. For example, a picture of the colour blue from straight on that turns to turquoise or teal when viewed from the side.

    Oooo, fancy

Clear eyes, full hearts, can’t lose.