Safe to Touch?

Hub National Centre for Craft and Design, Sleaford
23rd May – 2nd August 2009
Curated by Susanne Skeplek

‘Safe To Touch?’ comprises of eight contemporary artists, makers and thinkers, all actively involved in the sphere of what we can loosely label the tactile’: turning the traditional ‘do not touch’ gallery rule upside down and inviting the visitor to touch, participate, explore and reconsider their conditioned behaviour and boundaries.

The subject is introduced by a beautifully ephemeral video piece by RCA researcher, animator and touch-artist Tereza Stehlíková. The visitor enters a dark viewing space where one encounters several tactile screens, seemingly suspended in the air with Tereza’s 45 minute long film ‘Fingertips’ (2005) projected onto and through the screens, surrounded by an eerily fitting musical score by Philip Jeck.

Back in the gallery, the visitor is invited to follow the trajectory of ‘remembered’ and ‘trusting’ touch in the work of American touch artist Rosalyn Driscoll and Finnish art therapist and maker Laura Kokko. Their abstract, organically shaped structures, ask for journeys of tactile exploration into texture, shape and temperature, as much as into the exploration of the nature of one’s own skin. Carolyn Alexander’s series of small objects hidden under a latex layer will only come into existence through the visitor’s repeated touch.

Kevin Hunt’s soft toy chair ‘Are You Sitting Comfortably?’ (2004) brings out the playful and strange element of the tactile. The visitor will gain a ‘whole body experience’ of being surrounded by strangely sounding and feeling soft toys, slightly pushing the sitter out of their comfort zone.

The abject nature of Louise Atkinson’s ‘Part Objects’ (2004) goes even further in producing an in-between feeling of a simultaneous desire to touch and repulsion. Danish artist Tine Bech plays with the ambiguity of uncanny objects, directly involving, even obliging the visitors to confront their initial feeling of repulsion.

Finally, before leaving the gallery, the visitor will be invited to participate in an intellectual and tactile eqnquiry into touch by Tom Ainsworth, both asking questions about object/hand relations, and how little vision alone can be trusted. The exhibition will be launched with a private view on 22nd May between 6-8pm.

I finished setting up the Hub exhibition on Thursday. It’s been a long haul but I finally got there. The private view was yesterday and I really liked the work that had been selected. It was great to see people interacting with the art, especially as one of the technicians had brought his 4 and 6-year-old kids along. They had great fun running in and out of the eyeballs and kissing and hugging them.

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Top image: Tine Bech, Tumbleweed, 2009

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