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Sylvain Souklaye/Courtesy of Sylvain Souklaye
Sylvain Souklaye/Courtesy of Sylvain Souklaye
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Meet The Founder Of Studio Synesthesia EXP, Sylvain Souklaye

Picture of Diana Vernon
Updated: 7 January 2017
‘Can a machine be a work art with feelings?’ This is the question behind Sylvain Souklaye’s app le déserteur. A young entrepreneur, Sylvain decided to found his own studio and app in the quest to find the link between technology, art and emotions. A truly interesting character, Sylvain is a deep and sophisticated thinker who seeks to explore the intricate facets of art in order to take the cultural experience to the next level. We talked to Sylvain about his fascinating app, his projects and his inspirations.
Sylvain Souklaye / | © Rafael Spinola / Courtesy of Synesthesia EXP

Can you tell us a bit more about your studio Synesthesia EXP and your newest app le déserteur

Synesthesia EXP was a need to question our current relation to technology before becoming an idea and a studio, based today between Paris and Copenhagen. The initial question was: what remains once we believe we are ‘omniscient and omnipotent’ with a piece of tech” I think we’re left with reflexion, emotion and, still, a piece of tech.

That’s why I founded Synesthesia EXP, I wanted to explore ways to use this emotion and this reflexion to connect art, literature and people with new technologies. I created the app le déserteur as an art installation fueled by desire and responsive to emotions. le déserteur is the first native exhibition on iPad. It’s a ticket for an immersive and sensory experience.

The app displays a unique curation of 28 artists and writers from around the world (USA, Italy, Brazil, Japan, Denmark and France). The visitor has access to two consecutive exhibition rooms, ‘Anonymous bodies’ and ‘Labyrinths’. This is because le déserteur questions the role of the anonymous bodies in the cathartic act of desertion leading to the endless and protean quest for identity amid the labyrinth of life.

le déserteur -the deserter- will keep its promise. It is available 365 days on the App Store before deserting. During this year, le déserteur will also materialise IRL pop-up exhibitions.

le déserteur consists of two exhibition rooms and each room has twelve works of art. / Courtesy of Sylvain Souklaye
‘le déserteur consists of two exhibition rooms and each room has twelve works of art’ / Courtesy of Synesthesia EXP

What inspired you to launch this amazing project” and why Culture?

Mamoru Oshii’s, Ghost In The Shell was my prior inspiration, and more than that, it was a revelation. Being exposed in 1995 to hacking, virtual reality, and the relationship between conscience, body and technology through art forms, I guess all the pieces were there for ‘le déserteur’. I needed the right conditions to put them into perspective and build my own puzzle.

Most of the people of my generation wanted to have a hoverboard, I wanted to be in a position to doubt like Motoko Kusanagi. Other major influences for le déserteur were Marcel Duchamp’s Boîte-en-valise (Box in a suitcase), Scott Snibbe’s app Biophilia and Chris Ware’s fascinating ability to tell stories with melancholy.

'Choose your emotion', le déserteur app. The app studies the link between diverse emotions and works of art. / Courtesy of Sylvain Souklaye
‘Choose your emotion’, le déserteur app. The app studies the link between diverse emotions and works of art. / Courtesy of Synesthesia EXP

Then I needed the good timing, and with the standardization of the internet, the digital and visual culture, social media, the iot, notifications and other automations, I felt that all this maniacal 2.0 experience wasn’t enough and I needed some organized confusion. It was time for some serendipity. It was time for le déserteur.

Why culture” Because without culture, there is no civilization. Culture links people, not the internet.

What’s next?

In 2016, we’ll organize six pop-up exhibitions that will display physically the philosophy and DNA of le déserteur. Plus, the app le déserteur will evolve two more times to continue building an emotional experience between the idea, the artists, the platform, the object and the user. It’ll involve some form of gaming and collections.

We already know what will be le déserteur’s successor and we will put all our energy to think, build and provide a new experience that will be very different from le déserteur, as different as what le déserteur currently is from the other art apps.

What advice would you give to someone who was trying to break into the business?

Start with the basics, stick to it for a while, and then get to know the rules and break them. It’s not about being disruptive, different, on the edge of all new (already dead) trends, it’s about resisting and staying relevant to the test of time, but… my advice is no advice, I prefer observing people who are in action rather than listening to people who want to be heard. From my perspective surviving is the real business, the rest is just a bonus.

iPad (11) (1)
‘Each work of art is part of le déserteur’s journey’ / | © Rafael Spinola / Courtesy of Synesthesia EXP

Tell us something no one knows about you?

I collect user manuals, you never know…

What is your dream project?

My dream” First to create a stand-alone organic and digital work of art. And, in the long-term, to become a main player in digital art auctioning and digital literary edition.

Marcel Duchamp or Vasily Kandinsky? Marcel Duchamp

Apple or android’ Apple

Paris or Copenhagen? Paris, always

Boris Vian or Emile Zola? Emile Zola

Philip Glass or Tchaikovsky? Philip Glass

Wine or beer? Champagne

Follow Sylvain’s work at:

Click here to download le déserteur: