Surrogates For Social Touch
Surrogates For Social Touch 2018-ongoing
Faux fur, fabric, foam, found objects
Choose an object from the wall. Touch yourself.
Touch others, if they consent.
Let your skin decide what it wants.
Return the object to its place. Repeat at your pleasure.
Touch is the first sense developed in utero and the last to deteriorate with age. It is our first language; the skin is our primary organ of communication, and the largest sensory organ. We possess no off switch for our tactile perception: we constantly sense and gain knowledge of our surroundings through the skin, even while sleeping.
Psychologist Tiffany Field maintains that the growing stigmatisation of touch, due to fear of sexual abuse lawsuits, is leading to ‘touch hunger’. She suggests that our preoccupation with the disembodied digital world of experience is also causing touch deprivation. Sensory neuroscientist Francis McGlone is alarmed at the disappearance of touch from our daily lives and how we suffer physically and mentally in its absence. My work playfully addresses our essential human need for touch when it posits objects as surrogates for the caress and embrace of another.
In my studio practice I am fascinated by how allowing touch, and making works specifically to be touched, adds to the experience of installation art. My interest in touch and human sensory experience grew from lived experience of chronic illness. I have an immune system dysregulation that affects my senses. For the most part, I cannot smell; therefore, I taste very little. Often, on waking, I cannot focus my vision due to inflammation. My hearing and auditory processing is affected. I am thus acutely attuned to my senses and how their functioning, and relationship to each other, changes over time with the cyclical presentation of my condition. Touch therefore is my body’s dependable silent interface for perception and a source of deep personal comfort. Feeling the absence of touch in my life, whilst recovering from surgery in 2018, I began to explore how common household objects could be humorously reimagined as tools for touch and self-soothing.