T o u c h (2 0 1 9)

“As soon as something is classified as art, its non-visual qualities are suppressed, and, as trained spectators, we know that the right thing to do is stand back and look at it.”
Howes & Classen 2014, p,17.

Technical detail:

    - 182.8cm(h) x 213.3cm(w) Stucco frame
    - Stretched cotton canvas
    - Rear projection / Kinect camera

Project detail:

This installation draws on a broad range of art practices that interrogate the “traditional relationship between the art object, the artist and the audience” (Bishop, 2012). These long-established and well-defined relationships comprehend the ‘art object’ as a discrete, stable, and commodifiable artefact, the ‘artist’ as auteur or master, and the ‘audience’ as an undifferentiated and passive spectator.

These classifications reveal a social and political historiography that is tied to the production, consumption, and presentation of conventional artforms. Not only influencing form, genre, and critique these classifications also contribute to a particular understanding of what art is and does. Inseparable from the etiquette of spectatorship, this history produces an emergent sensory politics that governs exhibition, engagement, and expectation.

The methodologies and assembled techno-material practices that have coalesced around performance studies and interactive/immersive digital arts have profoundly questioned this history at the level of definition and theorisation. These practices have necessitated new ways of seeing, thinking and talking about art, its meaning and relations.

Challenging a pervasive tendency to render audiences passive, attend exclusively to the sense of sight, and aestheticize forms of interpretation rather than stimulate forms of experience; the spectator here becomes actant, one equal part of a network of technological, material, and digital relations that co-produce an interactive exchange. Requiring both physical movement and tactile involvement the viewer is here recast as a necessary component of the artwork.

“When I was young, I laughed a lot at Merleau-Ponty's Phenomenology of Perception. He opens it with these words: "At the outset of the study of perception, we find in language the notion of sensation..." Isn't this an exemplary introduction? A collection of examples in the same vein, so austere and meagre, inspire the descriptions that follow. From his window the author sees some tree, always in bloom; he huddles over his desk; now and again a red blotch appears - it's a quote. What you can decipher in this book is a nice ethnology of city dwellers, who are hypertechnicalized, intellectualized, chained to their library chairs, and tragically stripped of any tangible experience. Lots of phenomenology and no sensation - everything via language.”
Serres & Latour 1995, pp. 131-132.

- Bishop, C. (2012) Artificial Hells: Participatory Art and the Politics of Spectatorship. London and New York: Verso.
- Howes, D. Classen, C. (2014) Ways of Sensing. London & NewYork: Routledge.
- Serres, M. Latour, B. (1995) Conversations on Science, Culture, and Time. Ann Arbor: The Univeristy of Michegan Press.