Posted on February 6, 2018
Susan Aldworth’s father passed away several years ago, but when she closes her eyes to picture his face it’s as if she were staring at a photograph. Susan thought mental imagery was a universal ability, so she was shocked to learn that some people, known as aphantasics, don’t have a mind’s eye at all.
A London-based visual artist, Susan uses experimental printmaking and filmmaking to explore human identity through medicine, neuroscience and philosophy. She’s at upper end of mental visual spectrum, a hyperphantasic, able to create mental pictures that are rich with color and nuance. Whereas aphantasics typically score a zero on the questionnaire that assesses visual imagery (VVIQ), Susan scored at the upper limit.
“I can’t imagine a life without mental pictures,” says Susan. “Honestly, I don’t want to. In art school, we were taught to notice the world’s infinite detail. I built my studio on the fifth floor of my building, so that I would be up in the sky. All day, I notice the birds, clouds, colors, and the light at different times of the day. It thrills me.”